On February 14th, 17 people were murdered in a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. A sentence such as the preceding has become routine to Americans. People are used to hearing news about mass shootings. People debate the availability of and ease at which guns are acquired in this country after each shooting, and then move on. Cyclical anger, apathy, and inaction have become embedded in our culture.
Queer folks have a way of shaking things up across many movements and spaces. One such figure is Emma Gonzalez. Front and center in the national conversation about guns, Emma is a bisexual Latinx student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She and fellow students are are breathing new life into the movement to reform guns in the United States, just as queer folks fought for rights after Stonewall. Like how they helped to bring about the second and third waves of feminism, and just as they organized Black Lives Matter.
Justice, equality, and progress is achieved when the people needing it most take matters into their own hands, for themselves, and for others suffering as well. Gonzalez is the president of her school’s gay straight alliance and is no stranger to advocating for change. Her voice as a woman, as a student, as a Latinx, as a young person, and as a bisexual person is critically needed in the fight for gun control reform. She represents a crucial fact in the American story of gun violence: people of all sexualities, races, genders, ages, occupations, and ethnicities are under attack from the threat of gun violence. Gonzalez is taking up, or rather putting down, arms to fight those in power who’ve done nothing.
Already surpassing the NRA by number of followers on Twitter, Gonzalez’s use of social media to organize and spread information is part of the reason why this shooting is breaking the cycle of anger-then-inaction. Her passion and dedication being the rest. She is direct as to why she is angry, why she is engaging in action:
“This started with, has been about, will always be for, all of us. And who are we? We are the people who died in the freshman building on Valentine’s Day at Douglas High, and the people who died in every mass shooting in U.S. history. We are everyone who has been shot at, grazed or pierced by bullets, terrorized by the presence of guns and gun violence in America. We are kids, we are parents, we are students, we are teachers. We are tired of practicing school shooter drills and feeling scared of something we should never have to think about. We are tired of being ignored. So we are speaking up for those who don’t have anyone listening to them, for those who can’t talk about it just yet, and for those who will never speak again.”
Gonzalez and her classmates have organized the March for Our Lives on Washington to take place on March 24th, with dozens of celebrities, politicians, and activists pledging their support and presence among the marchers.
Gonzalez reminds us that no matter how mighty the task, people rise to shine and to make change. Emma, her friends, and her classmates, have our full support.
Victory Institute President of Development Seth Schermer is a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He and other MSD alumni organized a fundraiser on February 27 and raised $15,000 support to the victims’ families.