The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

Follow us on:
Share Youth Communication Follow Represent on Facebook Follow Represent on YouTube Follow Represent on Twitter
Follow Represent on Facebook Follow Represent on YouTube Follow Represent on Twitter
My First Protest: March for Our Lives
Carolina Ambros
headshot

On Saturday, March 24, I jumped out of bed at 3:15 in the morning feeling energetic and determined. I was off to Columbus Circle to catch a 5:30 bus to Washington, D.C. I was heading to my first protest: the March for Our Lives, a student-driven demonstration against gun violence.

Guns have become the third-leading cause of death for American kids, surpassed only by illness and accidents. Perhaps even more alarming, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that over 26,000 American children have been killed by guns since 1999—including 1,678 kids who were younger than 5 years old.

For me, the threat is personal. I’m from Guaiba, a small town in the southern part of Brazil. On the outskirts there’s a lot of gang activity and gun violence. I worry about friends and family getting shot and killed. When I was younger, my stepfather was held hostage by an armed gang during a bank robbery. It still scares me to think about that, but I am grateful he and the other hostages were saved by police.

I wanted to participate in this protest to show that no matter where we live, gun violence has to stop. We must fight for people’s safety. When I arrived at Columbus Circle, I saw a few other students carrying posters and wearing expressions of firm determination. They said they hoped this march would make a difference.

I was inspired to go to the march partly because it was organized by teens from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On February 14, Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from that school, shot and killed 14 students and three adults there.

Although Cruz had exhibited violent behaviors and even threatened to shoot up his school, he was still allowed to be part of his school’s air rifle team. In September 2016, Nikolas had a fight, and the Florida Department of Children and Families started an investigation. They determined he was at “low risk of harming himself or others.” So he was able to easily purchase a semi-automatic assault style rifle, and to kill 17 people in a little over six minutes.

The students of Parkland decided that their school wouldn’t become just another statistic, so they quickly organized the #NeverAgain movement. They marched on their state capital in Tallahassee and planned events including a March 14 school walkout for 17 minutes and the March 24 March for Our Lives demanding stronger gun control laws. Marches took place across the United States and in cities around the world, including Paris, Rome, and Tokyo. Even though there was a march in New York, I felt that I’d be making more of an impact if I went to D.C. I knew that’s where the largest group of people would be, protesting as one collective voice.

The bus was organized by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s youth leadership organization, Young Leaders of Manhattan. I felt that all of us on the bus shared the same goals: to stop this senseless killing and to prevent more people from losing their lives and dreams to gun violence.

During the four-hour ride, my friends and I made our posters. The time passed quickly, and then I saw RFK Stadium, where our bus was parking, joined by many others. There were people everywhere, spread out across the parking lot, most of them heading toward the subway to go to the march.

Everything was organized. There were a lot of police and volunteers helping us find our way to the march and making sure we were safe.

As I emerged from the dark subway station, I felt the warmth of the sun. I got even more excited about what the day would bring. On the train into the center of Washington, I heard people laughing, cheering, and talking loudly. Everyone’s emotions were all over the place. I felt the unity and determination we all had for change.

When we reached the rally, I saw people of different races, cultures, ages, and countries—all together to prevent guns from taking more victims. I heard Spanish, Arabic, French, and Chinese. Even though I don’t speak those languages, I understood that they were saying, “We have had enough,” and, “We won’t be silenced any longer.”

The feeling of belonging struck me strongly. I had never seen these people before, but I felt as if we were all a giant family, ready to support and motivate one another to keep moving forward, to keep fighting, and to never give up on what we believed in. We were all strangers, but we smiled at one another, complimented each other’s posters, and took pictures. It felt good when people stopped my friend and me to take pictures of our posters. We were proud because we had poured all of our hope for a better and safer future into them.

image by YC-Art Dept

The rally itself was inspiring, but what moved me the most was the reaction around me to the speeches. As soon as the teen speakers came onto the stage, people cheered, clapped, and shouted words of encouragement. During the speeches there was a respectful silence.

At moments, people shouted and cheered in agreement with a speech. When speakers talked about our politicians who refuse to pass gun control laws, we repeated or chanted, “Vote them out!” This march showed me how important it is for teens to keep up with what’s going on in politics because soon we will be the ones voting for our representatives in government. I will be turning 18 next year, and the first thing I will do is register to vote. To have a voice, we must have people in power who represent our interests and listen to us.

The sea of voices and posters, the bright colors colliding and the warmth of the sun made everything seem surreal, as if it were a dream. However, it was real, and that day is now a part of American history.

This march made me realize that teens are not too young to understand big issues. We have a voice and adults should listen. We are never too young to learn more about issues in our society and express ourselves. We will not be silent.


Stop Gun Violence

To get involved, check out these organizations.

Youth Organizing to Save
Our Streets (YO S.O.S.)
Contact: Heather Day
646-789-1201
crownheights.org/yosos

Everytown For Gun Safety
646-324-8250
everytown.org

Gays Against Guns
gaysagainstguns.net


Register to Vote!

If you will be 18 by November 6, 2018, you can register to vote now. Some states, including New York, allow you to register online. Then vote for candidates who support gun violence prevention at the local, state, and federal level. Vote against candidates who have accepted support—contributions, endorsements, independent spending—from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun lobby groups.

Find out more at Rock the Vote (rockthevote.org)

—Carolina Ambros

horizontal rule
(NYC-2018-05-14)