The Solution to Violence is Social Justice and Human Connection: A National Call to Action from Youth Organizers
As youth organizers rooted in working class and low-income communities of color, we are well acquainted with the pain that is felt when loved ones are lost to violence. Our hearts and solidarity are with the community members of Parkland, FL. We are also excited and inspired by the young people from Marjory Stoneman High School who have chosen to channel their grief and anger into a fight for change. Many of us became activists in direct response to injustices perpetrated against us, our families, and our communities. We too are dissatisfied with the status quo we inherited. We too feel the call to change this society we live in.
Unfortunately violence in America comes in many shapes and forms. Everyday in our communities we see both individual acts of interpersonal harm as well as state violence enacted by police, courts, immigration agents, and even our schools. Regardless of how it is expressed, one thing we know from personal experience is that violence causes pain. It takes people away from us, whether through death, incarceration, or deportation. It destroys families and it traumatizes young people. As we try to make sense of yet another mass shooting, we invite the rest of the country to join us in analyzing root causes and demanding transformative solutions.
We unite with the Parkland youth who have called on the entire country to move beyond thoughts and prayers and move into meaningful action. And we urge those concerned with making progress to think beyond the narrow debate of gun control vs. gun rights. Yes, we do have a gun problem in this country. There are too many of them and they are way too easy to access. We also have a systemic racism problem in this country. Historically, in the aftermath of tragic shootings such as the one in Parkland, the result has been laws that subject us - youth of color- to even more violence. Bringing more police into our schools, putting guns into the hands of our teachers, creating more reasons to lock up black and brown people, these are false solutions that increase the level of harm experienced in our day to day lives. If we truly want to make our society safe for everyone, we need solutions that address systemic injustice, invest in our communities, and rebuild social institutions that center human connection and supportive relationships.
This is why we are calling on policy makers at all levels of government to do the following:
- INCREASE INVESTMENTS in social, emotional, and mental health supports for all young people.
- DIVEST from the systems of incarceration and deportation and INVEST in quality public education for all, robust community programs, and universal healthcare.
- DIVEST from school police and absolutely DO NOT put guns into the hands of our teachers or other school staff.
- DO NOT feed the jail system by increasing the penalties for illegal gun possession.
To the activists around the country standing up for tighter gun laws, we wish for our movements to be in solidarity with each other. Therefore we ask the following of you:
- SUPPORT our vision of a safer society that is grounded in expanded democracy, racial justice, and a just economy.
- DO NOT fight for gun control laws that will bring further harm to communities of color.
- STAND WITH US to fight back against right wing control of our politics.
Finally, to the world of philanthropy and motivated individual donors, help us resource the movements we need by doing the following:
- PRIORITIZE GRASSROOTS organizing groups who have a track record of activating youth of color around these issues. We encourage you to support organizations directly and through collective funds such as the Youth For Safety and Justice Fund.
- Make LONG-TERM INVESTMENTS in our organizations so that we can sustainably do the time intensive work of growing and deepening our bases while also forging the broadest progressive alliances possible.
This crisis has opened up an important opportunity for us to unite across race and class to demand safe schools and communities for all people. The forces aligned to prevent meaningful changes to our gun laws are the same ones committed to keeping our communities under resourced and overpoliced. Fortunately for us, we who desire a society based on safety and inclusion outnumber those who would keep us separated and afraid. It is now up to us to build our collective power and win the change we desire, the change we deserve.
Oakland Kids First (CA)
Youth United For Change (PA)
Center for Neighborhood Leadership (AZ)
Californians for Justice (CA)
Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!) (NC)
Ohio Student Association (OH)
Padres & Jóvenes Unidos (CO)
InnerCity Struggle (CA)
Alliance for Educational Justice (National)
March for our Lives ABQ (NM)
Learning Alliance New Mexico (NM)
SouthWest Organizing Project (NM)
Community Food Advocates (NY)
United We Dream (National)
Seven Wild Dreams (PA)
Center for Latino Progress-CPRF (CT)
Future Leaders of America (CA)
Youth for Equity
YA-YA Network (NY)
Action et Humanisme (Cote d'Ivoire)
Youth Advocacy Corps (NY)
Juntos: Our Air, Our Water (NM)
Philadelphia Student Union (PA)
Rockaway Youth Task Force (NY)
Youth Organizing Institute (NC)
Communities United (IL)
Power U Center for Social Change (FL)
Compassionate California (CA)
Alliance for Youth Action (National)
Tequio Youth Group of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project (CA)
Students Against Gun Violence (MA, National)
Hearing Youth Voices (CT)
Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GA)
Khmer Girls in Action (CA)
Orange County Immigrant Youth United (CA)
Youth Voices in Action (NM)
Atlixco Productions (NM)
Global Kids (DC)
Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth (CA)
Youth Together (CA)
The Memphis Youth Union (TN)
HOMEY - Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth (CA)
SPR - Social Policy Research Associates (CA)
Deep Center (GA)
Jetpac, Inc. (MA)
CAUSE - Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CA)
Youth Activism Project (International)
Gender and Sexuality CHANGE (TN)
March for Our Lives, Memphis Chapter (TN)
Lausanne Collegiate School (TN)
Moms Demand Action (National)
Changing Lives Through Literature (WI)
Memphis Against Sexual Harrassment and Assault - MASHA (TN)
The Memphis Youth Union (TN)