Du Bois Middle Schoolers: 'No More Silence, End Gun Violence'
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Seventh- and eighth-grade students at W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School should be awaiting final grades for the school year and planning for summer. Instead, they have spent the last couple of weeks organizing to take a stand against gun violence.
Two weeks ago, the students walked out of the school in response to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two teachers. On Friday, they stood outside of the school with signs reading "Abolish the NRA," "Protect kids NOT guns," and "Our futures are more important than your guns."
Disgusted by the senseless violence, they are calling for gun law reform.
"This is my last full week of middle school this week and I should be just kind of like getting ready for the summer," student Mirabelle Meyers said. "But instead, I've spent it organizing a protest to stop the violence that is killing my peers across the nation and I think that it is horrible and that it's disgusting."
Fellow classmate Sadie Honig-Briggs has mixed feelings about organizing on such a serious subject at the age of 14.
"It’s just sort of infuriating because we know that we've seen over the course of not that many years of living in this country that if we don't say anything, then nobody's actually going to do anything," she explained.
"So it's very empowering to be able to do something like this but at the same time, it's scary because you know that even if you put in all this work and even if you get this many people we don't have the amount of power that the people in government have and so we need to show them, even if it's through just small-town actions, that we need change."
Around 50 students attended the Friday protest, which was sanctioned by the school, to hear from peers and show solidarity for the cause. More than 450 rallies were expected to be held around the nation this weekend as part of the March for Our Lives Movement spearheaded by survivors of the 2018 Parkland, Fla., high school shooting. Thousands of protesters descended Saturday on Washington, D.C., where Congress has been trying to pass more stringent firearms regulations over Republican opposition.
The names of those killed at Robb Elementary School last month were read followed by a moment of silence. It was pointed out that these are just a few of the many people who have died at the end of a gun in America this year.
"In the year 2022 alone, there have been 27 school shootings. Every day, around 110 Americans are killed with guns. In 2022, so far, 155 children have been killed, and 563 teenagers have been killed," one student read.
"The United States has a frighteningly high gun suicide rate: in 2022, there have been 10,560 gun-related suicides. The amount of U.S. mass shootings in 2022 is 252. Altogether, so far this year, the total amount of gun violence-related deaths is 19,079."
Others spoke of the impact that gun violence has on whole families, expressing fears of siblings seeing a similar fate at school and witnessing parents being afraid to send their children to school.
"I should not have to wake up to hear my mom crying, how she's scared that I'm going to school because she's scared that one day somebody may come into our school and end my life," Genia Baker said.
"That is not OK. And that's why I think I am here and a whole bunch of others are here right now. To stop this. This is not OK. It's really, really not OK. There's so many people that are dying nowadays and what? Because you want to have guns? That's not fair."
Student Keely Demary urged classmates to think of how they would feel if a friend or family member was a victim of gun violence to make a personal connection to the issue.
The school staff was proud of the students for taking a stand and angry that circumstances forced them to do so.
"I'm sad that you have to be scared and I'm sad that this continues to happen. Adults do work to try and make things better, but it is not enough," Principal Benjamin Doren said.
"So I am sad that you as students have to come out to remind us of what our responsibility is. I'm also proud of you for stepping out and speaking out today. And I'm proud of you as future leaders who maybe can come up with a solution that really works, so I'm hopeful for you."
Science teacher Dave Edson said it is important to find ways to channel anger to create change.
"I do want you to know from a teacher's point of view, something that we do not take for granted is that on a pretty much a daily basis, in addition to thinking about your safety and your growth, we don't take for granted that we are in front of a group of smart, passionate kids who are four years away from voting and that is the best way to channel your rage," he said.
"And I know and I hear from you directly that even when you're voting you can only do so much and until you're of voting age you feel all the more helpless but this does give me some hope to see what you're doing."
The protest ended with chants of "No more silence, end gun violence" and "hey hey, ho ho, gun violence has got to go."
Tags: gun violence, protests,