The clock strikes 9:50 a.m. as I sit in physics class. My teacher has given a momentum equation, but that is the least of my concerns. Tick...tock… The clock drags on and on leaving many of us anxious. At two minutes to 10 a.m., five students start to walk out, leaving the remaining 24 students to work on their equation. As we leave, the teacher exclaims, “Leave with a purpose, not just for fun.” We race down to the first floor, I can hear security guards speaking into their walkie-talkies, “Students have left their classes and it’s not even 10 o’clock yet.” On a late-winter Chicago morning, nearly 300 seventh- through 12th-graders packed in front of Kenwood Academy’s Door 6 exit. One day prior, a student activist club member released a statement via Twitter informing Kenwood students of the logistics of the walkout and warned us that after the 17-minute mark they would no longer be affiliated with the SAC and would face repercussions from the school administrative team. The administration had been very clear that if students extended the protest after the allotted 17 minutes they would be marked with an unexcused absence. Standing atop a platform in the courtyard, a group of young ladies from the student activist club held notes and a bullhorn. For about 10 minutes many of my peers shouted shocking statistics to the crowd. “169 children have been killed in the last four years!” “Mass shootings are almost always done by White men!” “Men, alone, make up 98 percent of mass shootings!” Although the walkout was to honor the 17 victims of the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many students made it known that more than 7,000 children have died from gun violence since Sandy Hook in 2012. And, according to
Gun Violence Archive, there have already been 48 mass shootings in 2018. Mass shootings, as defined by Gun Violence Archive, includes four or more people shot or killed at the same general time or location.
It's In Our Own Backyard
Over the course of the protest, students shifted their focus from the national issue of mass shootings in America to a local problem. They began shouting about problems in their Chicago neighborhoods. “What about Englewood?” a student shouted. Amaris Buford began to comment on the impact of gun violence on Chicago neighborhoods, the proposed public school closings in Englewood, and the gentrification happening all over the city, even right here in our beloved Hyde Park. Buford stated, “I’m walking out for Black people because if I don’t, who will?” This was powerful and true. It is up to us as young people to make a change for our nation. “Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud!” we shouted. This display of solidarity soon turned into a Black Lives Matter protest, getting students even more fired up. With a rainbow crowd of Black, Brown and White students, we were all forced to consider the real issues at hand. Gun violence is a reality for us. Many of us have lost friends and family because of it. We are dealing with trauma and are expected to come to school, get an education, and act as if everything is OK. But, clearly, we are not OK. Most would believe every student in Chicago, a city known for violence, would fear for their safety. However, as a transfer student from a private school, I certainly feel safer here at Kenwood, due to the increased number of security personnel. Students, faculty and staff are also required to wear identification to ensure everyone belongs. At Kenwood, we also have lockdown drills each year. But despite how safe I feel on a day-to-day, there is never a way to fully be prepared for a mass shooting. Although we don’t want to take away the right to bear arms, there does need to be some change to gun laws. We all have a part to play in order to create a safer world. After Tuesday’s walkout, teens all over the nation are getting ready to lead the way.
Jada Hoffman is a senior at Kenwood Academy in Chicago. She intends to pursue journalism as a career as she enjoys investigating local issues as well as covering politics. Eventually, she plans to center her work around covering and advocating for mental health in the Black community. Jada has been running track since sixth grade and is currently a member of National Honor Society.