Are youth protesters ready to be the agents of change they are seeking?

I’ve been following a lot of the media coverage about the youth-led anti-gun violence protests, especially the ones in and around Chicago.  I’m especially encouraged to see Chicago Public School students reaching out to the survivors of the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It’s admirable that these kids– many of whom come from crime-ridden neighborhoods and whose stories of loss often go untold– aren’t feeling resentful or apathetic in light of the fact that their more affluent counterparts in the Sunshine State have gotten more public support in the last month than many of their South and West Side communities get in a decade.

As many of you know, an impressive crowd of peaceful demonstrators and their supporters flocked to Union Park over the weekend, carrying signs and delivering speeches calling for something more to be done about school shootings and rampant violence in general.  The Tribune reported that they acknowledged that it’s going to take more than legislation to enact real, long-lasting change.  Rally participants cited a need for better mental health services and stronger support systems.  Event organizers promised that they’re not done advocating for safer streets and schools and have vowed to “keep the movement going.”

I’m curious to see what’s up next.  Organizing a march galvanizes people to support a cause and draws more attention to it, but it’s just the beginning.

I hope these young people are willing to be the agents of the changes they want to see implemented.  I hope that they’re willing to do the hard work of rolling up their sleeves and getting into the trenches.

For some, that may mean mentoring young people in troubled neighborhoods.  Others may need to become mental health service providers themselves so they can meet the growing need for counseling and other therapeutic interventions.   Still others may find their place in the classroom, currently as students and perhaps later as teachers, reaching out to those who might be considered likely to carry out a school shooting.

With many of the demonstrators still in high school, it’s not realistic to expect them to have all the right answers or devote all their time to providing concrete remedies to the problems our society is facing, but just as it’s going to take more than legislation to reduce gun violence, it’s going to take more than rallies and speeches to “keep the movement going” and bring about practical, sustainable solutions.



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