Our theme this year is “We the Future” and one of the speakers on our final panel is the perfect embodiment of this sentiment—David Hogg. David, co-founder of The March for Our Lives movement, joined Mass General physician and activist Chana Sacks, MD and Boston Public School junior and community engagement fellow on the BPS street team Ritchy Rinchet in a conversation moderated by Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, pastor New Work AME, on how today’s youth population is uniting to end gun violence.
The talk opened with a video showing behind the scenes of the March for our Lives movement, with the students stressing that teenagers are the demographic best suited to drive change. As one of David’s colleagues said, “You can’t twist a teenager’s world upset down and expect them to do nothing about it.”
Rev. White-Hammond asked why the panelists got involved in advocating for change, rather than internalizing their pain.
David said he never realized he could feel someone else’s pain to the extent that he did on the day of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school. He said, “February 14, 2018 is the day I became an adult, along with thousands of other kids. And we shouldn’t have had to.” His sister, a freshman at the time, lost four friends that day and he felt compelled to speak out for her and others who couldn’t at the time.
As he put it, “When politicians say, ‘now is not the time’ to talk about gun violence, they’re right—it was yesterday.”
Chana Sacks talked about her personal experience with gun violence—her seven-year-old cousin was a victim of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The more she learned about the prevalence of guns in our communities, the more she felt that it was a solvable problem. She also brought up health conditions related to gun violence—for example, PTSD in children who have accidently shot and killed a sibling after finding a weapon in their home.
Ritchy talked about police shootings and the impact on the community. Saying “over time you get used to” being stopped and questioned by the police, he suggested that more needs to be done to educate law enforcement working in young, urban, minority communities to reverse the rise in unjustified gun violence. He also emphasized the need for more resources to address gun violence in schools. He said, “My friends and I are trying to have hope, but we become numb because it doesn’t seem like things are changing.”
When asked what adults can do to help, Ritchy said to look for more ways to enable students to get their voices out. “Adults have many opportunities to say what they think but we get far fewer chances.”
The panelists acknowledged that it’s a very politically charged issue, but they believe that common sense gun control legislation can be achieved if voters mobilize and take part in “the fight of our generation.”