This is an opinion piece by Waed Alhayek, student and executive director of StudentMarch.org.
Dear America, I love you but do you love me back? As an immigrant, you have given me so much hope and opportunity but I don’t feel safe anymore. History has its eyes on us, and we’re all tired of staying silent.
It’s hard to imagine the face of violence until it’s in front of you -- until it locks the doors of your local convenience store and points a gun at you and makes you remember every prayer your mother has recited to you. That’s what happened to me, seven years young and going to grab some snacks for movie night with a friend when suddenly, the store went dark. I experienced something that no child -- no human being -- should ever go through.
Thinking about never graduating from high school or college crushed my soul because even at a young age I had so many dreams. I made it out alive, but there are so many who don’t. I waited my whole life for someone to start the conversation. Tragedy after tragedy, I waited for laws to change. But that change never came. The Parkland students waited for no one, and I was inspired. Every part of myself that loved history and politics was fired up and ready to fight for a cause I was passionate about. I reached out to the local March For Our Lives chapter and got involved with like-minded students, and we came together quickly and intentionally to make change.
This committee was my new chosen family, and we moved forward from one battle to the next. This wasn’t just about school shootings, but rather the problem our country faces in talking about a systematic issue in which we value a money-making business over the lives of our citizens, including children.
Check out more videos from VICE:
97 percent of American voters support universal background checks, yet there is no legislation that supports this. Our committee formed a non-profit organization called StudentsMarch.org, an organization that focuses on so many issues our country faces daily, starting with gun violence. We want to give students a platform—one which they were told they didn’t deserve. People tell us how we know nothing about this issue, but they don’t realize we are the experts on this subject. We are the post-Columbine generation faced with the normalization of violence and hatred that has spread through our country, where gun violence in urban communities is ignored because it’s easy to do.
We work together to partner with local and national organizations because unity speaks volumes. We tell people to reach out to their local politicians through our website because it is time we hold them accountable for their actions.
It’s time we let them know that they either start protecting and serving us, or we will find someone else who will. We will no longer tweet our thoughts and prayers, but rather create effective policy change.
Our next effort takes place in Dallas, Texas this weekend as we come together again with friends and allies from all across the country to declare enough is enough. The Rally4Reform is a show of solidarity with all those who have been affected by gun violence and those we have loved and lost to that violence and hatred. We won’t hope and wish for change any more—we stand and demand it, together.