Beyond the March: A Youth-Led Town Hall on Gun Violence

On Tuesday, May 8th, black students from across Miami-Dade County hosted, “Beyond the March,” a youth-led town hall on violence at Little Haiti Cultural Center to discuss the violence that they face daily and ways to implement solutions. A packed room filled with students, parents, law enforcement and elected officials joined the first of a four part townhall series, brainstorming on collective ways to combat violence in inner city communities.

Community activist, Valencia Gunder and local organizations including NewFM, Power U Center for Social Change, the NAACP and others, helped organize the town hall, encouraging youth to lead and own the discussion.

“The Stoneman Douglas shooting sparked a national outcry to demand solutions surrounding gun violence, but it’s focused on school shootings,” said Gunder.

“In our urban communities, we are dealing with gun violence every day. We must expand the narrative to include all of our youth.”

On February 14th 2018, 17 kids and adults were shot and killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The shooting sparked a national conversation that launched students like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg into media headlines. Last night’s discussion centered the untold stories of Black youth like Jonathan Janvier, a 16-year-old junior at Miami Edison Senior High School.

“I want to have a real conversation and find real solutions about violence overall because with panels like this, people share their stories and leave and no one does anything about it,” said Janvier.

“I want there to be a call to action, where everyone here listens to these stories and makes the decision that this is something worth fighting for.”

The conversation began with a panel of 6 youth, all of which were asked one simple question: “when was the last time you felt safe?” Most of the youth said never, a few stated that they haven’t felt safe since they were in elementary or middle school.

“When I was in middle school and my friends started dying, that’s when I realized that I wasn’t safe,” said Janvier.

Jeremiah Johnson a 16-year-old student at Miami Norland High School stated that he’s sometimes scared to go outside.

“My reality consists of friends and family members dying and afraid to go outside,” said Johnson. “My cousin got shot and now he rarely goes outside anymore. Gun violence changed my reality and his. It changed my perspective on life.”

The town hall was the first of a four-part series. Parts two through four will call on parents, law enforcement and elected officials to lead the discussion, all pledging their commitment to creating solutions to combat violence in inner city communities. Dates and times are TBD.

Jamesha Corker a 16-year-old student at Miami North Western Senior High School encouraged attendees to take action against violence now.

“Nobody is exempt from gun violence. Don’t wait til it hits your home to feel sympathy for us, because it can happen anywhere to anyone.”