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The Day We Marched For Our Lives- OP ED

Senator+Zoe+Lofgren+speaks+to+the+crowd.+March+for+Our+Lives%2C+San+Jose+2018.+All+photos+taken+by+Mark+Shepard.+
Senator Zoe Lofgren speaks to the crowd. March for Our Lives, San Jose 2018. All photos taken by Mark Shepard.

Senator Zoe Lofgren speaks to the crowd. March for Our Lives, San Jose 2018. All photos taken by Mark Shepard.

Chris Cassell

Chris Cassell

Senator Zoe Lofgren speaks to the crowd. March for Our Lives, San Jose 2018. All photos taken by Mark Shepard.

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Chris Cassell
Attendees cheer at the front of the main stage/ Mark Sheppard

I was tired of crying. I was tired of writing emails to families of children who were shot to death in their classrooms, trying (quite impossibly) to ease their sting. I was tired of reading politician’s condolences via Twitter while I knew they sat in their office and produced no new legislation requiring significant background and mental health checks for those in the market for semi-automatic weapons. Mostly I was tired of my own complacency in the face of the haunting crisis that is school shootings in America.

My restlessness peaked on Valentine’s Day this year, when I heard that 17 more children in Parkland Florida had died as a result of our laughable gun “regulations” and severe underfunding of mental health services in our public school system. I was still angry crying and writing not-so-nice letters to my representatives when I received an email from one Mr. David Lei of Prospect High School.

David kindly explained his plan to host a march from San Jose City Hall to Arena Green Park on March 24th in conjunction with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, it was to be dubbed “March for Our Lives”. At the end of the email he asked me if I was interested in helping plan this event since I have helped coordinate all Women’s March San Jose events for the last year, of course I was in.

At our first in person meeting at Chipotle (activism and burritos, heck yes!) , David introduced me to six of the most intellectual, kind hearted, eloquent, and dedicated students I have ever have had the pleasure to meet: Novia Dattatri, Daniel Voskoboynik, Izaiah Tilton, Julie Son, Joel Rodriguez, and Hiwad Haider. I was instantly impressed to see how much of the logistics they had managed to accomplish in such a short amount of time; meetings with the city, filling out permits, setting up a Go-Fund-Me, all of the not-so-glamorous aspects that a rally requires.

We got down to work. Every night we contacted local elementary schools , middle schools, high schools, community colleges and universities urging young students to attend our event. We created shirts and sold them at farmers markets, community gatherings, even at our own schools. We became a certified non-profit organization and earned the endorsement of dozens of local politicians, including California Senator Zoe Loffergan and Assembly member Ash Karla.

We are a student lead grassroot organization through and through, that was one of the most important aspects our our movement. This is why we made sure that the majority of our speakers after the march were young students, though we also included mass shooting survivors and a few policy makers.

The day of the march began for the core team at an hellish 4:00 am in the Arena Green Park. We watched as the stage was put together, we helped set up seats for the disabled, we put up the volunteer tents; our excitement grew as we saw months work of thinking about this event become a tangible reality.

My job for the day of the event was to check in all of the volunteers and answer any questions people may have alongside one of my favorite team members, Joel. We sat in the rain waiting for people to show up, we giggled over how ridiculous we would feel if nobody showed up, thankfully thousands did.

Women, men, children of every age, race, class, and homeland began to pour onto Santa Clara Street, chants in different languages filled the air and strangers bonded over a passion for greater gun control in America. Everyone was connected with a hyper energy that seemed to scream “HEY!!! We are FINALLY doing something”.

Some conservatives did show up for an “anti protest” but that’s okay. That is what makes America so wonderful, you can have an opinion that differs from the majority as long as that opinion is given in a respectful manner.

Joel, Julie, and I lead the thousands of attendees from City Hall back to Arena Green Park, about a mile walk. Joel and I started the chants that would go on to ripple throughout the crowd, chants like “vote them out” or “the people united will never be divided” you know, the classics.

We had a seventeen second moment of silence for the victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the final straw. We took a moment to humanize them again, to remove the nasty partisan politics from their image and remember that they were children whose parents won’t see them graduate this June. They were real people whose deaths were preventable. I will find solace that that gut wrenching pain in knowing that because they died, millions of children in the generations to come will never have to face this issue, gun reform in America is finally being taken seriously.

The rest of the day was just as heartwarming as you may expect, the speeches were wonderful and the crowds were enthusiastic. We registered a few hundred people to vote and the city council people, county supervisors, and senators who attended vowed to make gun reform a reality.

So here’s my message to you:

No person is too small to fix big problems. This march allowed us as high school students to push Santa Clara County to ban the annual gun show at the Cow Palace, this will prevent hundreds of semiautomatic weapons from being sold to civilians. If there is something that bothers you go out and fix or find people already fighting that issue and join their team. Reject complacency and never stay idle in the face of a human crisis because if you don’t put effort into finding a solution, how can you expect anybody else to?

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “The Day We Marched For Our Lives- OP ED”

  1. Julia Halprin Jackson on April 19th, 2018 3:04 pm

    This is beautifully written. Thank you for your hard work and your advocacy. You are a true leader.

    [Reply]

  2. Ms. Detra on April 20th, 2018 10:37 am

    Great essay, Ms. Stange. If each young person had an ounce of your activism, voice, and arsenal of rhetorical devices, then the world would be a better place.

    [Reply]

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The Day We Marched For Our Lives- OP ED