Reflections of a Chicago Boy who took students to the March For Our Lives: DC Edition

8:04am

I am currently sitting in a Starbucks in Crestwood, IL., 2 hours removed from our bus returning to Chicago. Let me start by saying that I feel amazingly fortunate to have traveled to Washington D.C. for the March For Our Lives.

Better yet, I was able to travel there with a bus full of youth from the Chicagoland area, ranging in ages from 14-18, coming from both the south side of the city, as well as surrounding suburbs.

While we caravaned with St. Sabina Church, we participated in the march as representatives of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence . Many thanks to Father Pfleger and the St. Sabina community for allowing us to follow you down, and thank you to Robert Disney and the Brady Campaign for receiving us in Washington D.C. when best laid plans fell apart, as they often do. As a war veteran, I can wholeheartedly attest to that.

The whole excursion started with a beautiful blessing and well wishes from Cardinal Blase Cupich. I messaged my coworkers,

"I hate to tell you fellas, you missed the blessing from Cardinal Cupich. Felt like a digital bath."

Next thing I knew, I was introducing a group of students from Hubbard High School to Senator Jacqueline Collins.

How cool is that? I live for moments like that as an educator!

Unfortunately, shortly after leaving Chicago, the first monkey wrench went I got the works that reverberated throughout the rest of the trip. Unfortunately, as I've come to learn, a huge accident occurred on the Indiana tollway resulting in 1 dead and 2 injured. This resulted in our caravan being stranded at a truck stop for 3 hours. That put us crazily off schedule. From there, drop off plans became tenuous and a slightly aged bus driver with a feather foot further complicated things. Upon arrival to DC, we were separated from St. Sabina and never made our connection to get our press area credentials. Fortunately our tour coordinator John has strong ties to the Brady Campaign and they took care of us.

As we proceeded to the National Mall, we were greeted by the rhymes of Common over the loudspeakers as he performed "Stand for Something" with Andra Day.

The kids were pleasantly surprised to literally be greeted by a fellow Chicagoan. We jockeyed through the crowd, and eventually found a beautiful spot in front of the Newseum.

So, my thoughts concerning the event:

The speakers were all amazing! All of them. No caveats. The fact that the oldest speaker was 19 made the day even more extraordinary.

I felt that Tre Bosley's speech was my mind plowing through someone else's mouth.

I will co-sign every last word that. Words that so many adults in this town wouldn't have the gonads (women have gonads too) to say. It's not politically prudent in this town to criticize.

It's so refreshing that the youth don't feel the weight of those chains. They're not looking for political allies, or wondering who will be sending the "big checks" when they run for office. They're looking for justice. They're not trying to navigate the "what is," they're knocking down all the barriers in their way to the "what oughta be."

That's why they can so easily cry, "Vote them out!" If you don't care about us, we'll replace you.

I love it.

It's my heart beating in someone else's chest.

And as I said, I co-sign everything that Tre said:

"Everyday shootings, are everyday problems."

"When you have a city that thinks it's more important to help pay for a college's sports complex than fund schools in impoverished communities, you have gun violence."

"When you have a city that feels we need more Divvy bikes for tourists than more funding for work force programs that get guys off the streets real jobs, you have gun violence."

"When you have an IL state Governor, Bruce Rauner, who feels that funding anti-violence programs is, and I quote, "non-essential spending," you have gun violence."

"When you have elected officials who feel that getting a few extra dollars from the NRA is more important than their actual constituents, you have gun violence."

"And when you have a president that would rather talk about and belittle Chicago's violence rather than send funds and resources, you have gun violence."

"It's time for the nation to realize gun violence is more than a Chicago problem or a Parkland problem, but is an American problem."

Gun violence is an American problem.

Gun violence is an American problem.

Gun violence is an American problem.

The only thing I would have wished of Tre's speech is rather than quote MLK to close it, to instead quote fellow Chicagoan and youth activist Fred Hampton:

"I am a revolutionary."

Allow me to emphasize this point:

Every day there is a shooting in Chicago.

Here in Chicago, we've had a shooting or homicide every day since Feb. 28, 2015.

Every day.

This is a message also espoused by the MSD students, which I absolutely appreciate.

Many people feel some kind of way about the fact that all of this attention stems from a shooting at an upper crust white school in Florida.

Let me say this clearly:

I don't give a f**k.

I think Emma Gonzalez is amazing. I think Cameron Kasky is amazing. I think Delaney Tarr, Sarah Chadwick, David Hogg, Jaclyn Corin, Ryan Deitsch, Aalayah Eastmond And Samantha Fuentes are all amazing.

Most importantly, as a group they recognize the privileges they enjoy in this world, and that they are newcomers to a long standing problem. Why things feel dynamically different now...we'll never fully know or understand. But now, we are all connected together, by common problem, shared experiences, and common enemies. We stand as brothers and sisters.

The next speaker who seriously touched my heart was Naomi Wilder, an 11-year-old from Alexandria.

What poise. What strength.

With a "hi" and a giggle, she captivated a nation. She stood as a representative for all the African American girls whose names and faces have been lost to time due to gun violence. I teared up listening to Naomi live. I tear up watching her on video. She stood strong and as she said, she has 7 short years before she can vote.

The most heart warming moment of the rally was when Yolanda Renee King, 9 year-old granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King came out to accompany MSD shooting survivor Jaclyn Corin.

Yolanda started by recalling that her grandfather had a dream that his children would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. She immediately proceeded with,

I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun free world. Period."

She went on to energize the crowd with an amazing chant:

"Spread the word!

Have you heard?!

All across the nation!

We...are going to be...a great generation!"

It was an extremely magical moment. Watching her giggle and embrace Jaclyn at the end solidified the symbolism that this coalition isn't simply paying lip-service to diversity.

Finally, the most emotional speech of the day was easily Emma Gonzalez. With slightly over a minute of actual words, and a moment of silence...

...that moment. It was uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that the crowd began chanting several times. So uncomfortable that shortly before it ended, someone came up and whispered in Emma's ear.

With the sound of a timer alarm, Emma broke the tension, broke hearts, and broke the proverbial shackles of a town in shambles with the simple words,

"Since the time that I came out here, it has been 6 minutes and 20 seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting, and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your lives, before it's someone else's job."

There were tears, so many tears. I don't think people knew what to expect. If Emma had simply screamed a guttural scream of pai, anger and infinite sadness, no one would have been shocked. However, I think few could adequately comprehend that in the span of that silence, that 6 minutes and 20'seconds was actually one of perhaps unimaginable chaoas, with gunshots and screams, in which 17 lives were taken, moreninjured, thousands of lives irreparably damaged, and a nation shaken to it's core.

Takeaways:

  • This wasn't just a march. This was something wholly new and different.
  • There was a tinge or shame, at least for me, in the air. We as adults have failed these kids. Waiting for Superman is done. These kids are saving themselves.
  • In conjunction with the March and rally, there was a huge voter drive. That needs to continue. These new voters are coming for the Ted Cruz's, Marco Rubio's and Dan Lipinski's across the nation. This isn't a partisan or political issue, it's a moral one, and far too many politicians are morally bankrupt.
  • Relationships with the NRA moving forward will be politically lethal. They have proven themselves corrosive to the very fabric of democracy.
  • Everyone showed mad love to Chicago at the rally. I was stopped several times because of my "Chicago Strong" shirt. People recognize the burdens we've carried for so long.
  • A huge shout out to all the artists who stepped up to bless this event with song. A special shout out to the Chicago artists who performed, Common, Vic Mensa, and Jennifer Hudson.

And one final sidenote:

Amazing things are already happening here in Chicago and surrounding areas. While St. Sabina has long stood as the Chicago banner waver for gun violence prevention in Chicago, please don't sleep on the amazing work coming out from a multitude of parties, like Morrill Elementary School, Henderson Elementary School, Hubbard High School, Whitney Young High School, and Oak Park/River Forest High School.

The future is bright for our city and nation.

What a time to be alive!

P.S. I will add more photos tomorrow when I get to my computer.

I apologize for such a long post, but I wanted to pay the respect that the topic deserved. Now, first and foremost, if you liked what you read here, SHARE IT WITH OTHERS!!! Also, be sure to know every time I post a new entry by subscribing! Let me know your thoughts on the post by commenting below. Also, you can check out Reflections of a Chicago Life on Facebook. I post a lot of articles and we can have some wicked discussions on there. Be sure to click "Like". You can also check me out on Twitter, and see all the things I see around the city on Instagram. Finally, you can check out my vlog Off The Beaten Path on Youtube, and it still bears repeating...it's important to have STANDARDS!!

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