Student Perspective on the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC
by Deborah Onakomaiya & Mehreen Arif
In the early hours of March 24th more than 30 students from the College of Global Public Health made the journey to Washington, DC to march for their lives against gun violence. Armed with scientific facts and statistics (#Save96) students marched on foot from the NYU DC campus to Capitol Hill on Pennsylvania Avenue, to peacefully protest the ongoing slaughter of everyday Americans including children. It was important for us as public health students to forego our Saturday and stand up for this cause because this march galvanized the public health community to take a stance and highlight that gun violence is indeed a public health issue and needs to be addressed immediately.
The march soon turned into a rally, as 500,000 people took to the streets. When the speeches for the day began, students as young as 11 years old summoned up the courage to share heart-wrenching experiences of how gun violence affected their lives and those of loved ones. As we stood together in support, thousands of people around us were either chanting slogans like #VoteThemOut on the top of their voices, listening to the speakers in utmost awe and empathy, or shedding tears as the speeches progressed. Some focused on school shootings and their aftereffects, while others highlighted ineffective policing at schools and neighborhoods. They were also corroborated with scientific facts and a call to action to ban assault rifles and pass legislation in favor of preventing further shootings. As students at that rally, we felt as though we were part of a revolution. It felt like every step we take after the rally will be extremely important in the fight against gun violence.
We closed our day with an interview by Rob Nelson, a reporter from Eyewitness News WABC-TV New York, who asked questions about the march. We shared the importance of why gun violence is a public health issue and why sharing facts associated with gun violence are important to better inform the public of the sheer magnitude and impact gun violence has had on Americans.
Moreover, as NYU GPH students in the lead this issue is extremely important to us -- as it should be to you, too. Ninety-six Americans are killed because of guns every day; that’s about 35,040 preventable lives lost per year. Think about it. America is also a country with the highest rate of mass incarceration. Issues like incarceration, crime and mental health illnesses are propagated by open access to arms and weapons. As the youth of today, we want to create a world with stricter gun control legislature so that our children and their future generations do not have to go through trauma and grief- stricken days after mass shootings in high schools or colleges. It is our duty as public health advocates and citizens to stand up against gun violence and work toward a better America. Every step counts! And this rally was a huge step in the right direction for change and accountability.