Inspired by Parkland students, Philly youth demand change | Perspective

APTOPIX School Shooting Student Protests
Walkouts have already happened in cities like Pittsburgh, where high school students marched Feb. 21 to show support for Parkland, Fla., students. Philly’s walk out is planned for Wednesday, March 14.

For young people around the country, the prolonged trauma of mass school shootings began on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School. Approximately 200 school shootings have occurred since Columbine and gun violence happens almost every day in our city. But while mass shootings gain a lot of media attention, most gun-related incidents in the city are barely acknowledged.

Philadelphia youth are affected by gun violence daily. Philadelphia is more likely to experience 17 deaths by gun violence over one weekend than by the hands of a mass shooter.  Some of us become desensitized to these incidents because they happen so frequently; some of us feel powerless to act.

However, since the incident at Parkland, we’ve been inspired and invigorated by Parkland students who are using their voices and mobilizing to challenge their state and federal elected officials, and we are here to join the momentum to advocate for safe spaces for youth and a reduction in gun violence here in Philadelphia.

This is not the time to be complacent, it is time to take a stand and take action. This is not the time to be quiet, it is time to be louder than ever.

The Philadelphia Youth Commission (PYC) and the Millennial Advisory Committee (MAC) will not wait in silence until a mass shooting happens again, and we can no longer accept the everyday violence that occurs in our schools.

Throughout history, young people have been on the front lines of major social change.  Today, we know that we must pick up the baton of the young people that spoke up, fought, and advocated for rights and causes.  We can and must demand that our voices be heard. That is why we are partnering on this important issue and encouraging Philadelphia’s youth to demonstrate the power of our collective voice and demand change regarding gun violence.

Here’s how Philly millennials and youth can get involved:

Beginning on March 14, we encourage Philadelphia students to stand in solidarity with youth around the country for the planned student walkout.

Then, on March 22 at 4 p.m., we invite all of Philadelphia’s youth to participate in a special #PHLYouthTalks event hosted by MAC and PYC at South Philly High. This #PHLYouthTalks event will provide an opportunity to have a substantive conversation about Philadelphia’s specific issues relating to gun violence, the impact that it has on our lives, and how we can work together to combat this devastating epidemic. We encourage youth, teachers, school administrators, parents, and elected officials to join us for this important conversation.   Sign up at PHLYouthTalksGunViolence.eventbrite.com.

Finally, on March 24, we will once again stand with our peers and supporters around the nation for the National March for Our Lives March in Washington, and the sister march here in Philadelphia.

Gun violence is a national and local issue, and the lives of our peers in Philadelphia and beyond must be protected. We must work together to establish collaborative and comprehensive policy solutions that will both reduce the loss of life and the trauma that results from this continuous violence.  We hope that our #PHLYouthTalks event will help educate, connect to the work already being done, and capture the voices of Philadelphia’s youth and show that we are serious about taking substantive next steps.

Until our elected leaders in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Washington take a stand to protect us, we must continue to push, continue to show up, and continue to demand that our voices be heard.

Let our generation be the last to know of this type of trauma.

Nicole Allen White is chair of the Millennial Advisory Committee. Roy Michael Roman is chair of the Philadelphia Youth Commission.