Nine Bronx schools participated in a national school walkout to end gun violence on Wednesday, March 14, on the one-month anniversary of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people. The protest was both a sign of solidarity with the Parkland students and a call to Congress, amid lawmakers continued inaction on gun violence prevention, to pass stricter gun laws.
The walkout began at 10 a.m. local time and lasted 17 minutes, in remembrance of the 17 people killed in the shooting.
At South Bronx Community Charter High School on Washington Avenue in Melrose, students were not allowed to walk out due to the cold weather but instead took part in a ‘a step into the circle’ exercise, where students form a large circle and move into the center when different statements read aloud ring true for them. The school’s youth development director, Natalie Ferrell, oversaw the exercise, while four sophomore students helped facilitate the event: Jade Outlaw, 16, Sebastian Paulino, 15, Bentu Saho, 15, and Jesselyn Colon, 15.
In this activity, students confronted the prevalence of gun violence.
When Paulino asked if any student knew of someone affected by gun violence, at least five students stepped forward.
One question that no student agreed with: arming teachers.
“You’re putting students’ lives in their hands and that’s a lot of stress” said Saho. “So how do you know they’re capable of shooting an armed shooter if officials like security guards also freeze up when there’s an armed shooter?”
Following the exercise, Jesselyn Colon read the names of the 17 people killed at Parkland preceded with a 17 seconds moment of silence. Next, students were given the opportunity to say the names of victims of gun violence. To end the activity, Outlaw sang an a cappella version of “Shine,” a song written after the shooting by two Parkland student survivors.
The student facilitators viewed the activity as a success.
“I think it touched some people, said Outlaw. “Like next to me was a girl crying,”
The school walkout was organized by the teen arm of the women’s march movement, called Empower.