There’s little doubt at this point that the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are making some big changes. They’re meeting with the president, they’re debating with lawmakers across the country, and the fierce resolve of their resistance to more school shootings can be felt around the world.
When I was a Douglas student more than 10 years ago, Parkland felt like a bubble. It was an upper-middle-class community popular with equestrians and had virtually no crime. Several of my friends lived on properties with horses and rode often. It wasn’t uncommon to drive down the street next to someone mounted on a horse walking beside your car.
It was an idyllic way to grow up. To my knowledge, I didn’t know anyone with a gun, and I certainly never saw one while in high school at MSD.
The shooting at Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 14 rocked the nation, and as someone who walked those halls and had connections to many of those teachers, it’s difficult to digest the massacre in my hometown.
MSD alumni worldwide, dating from 1992 to the most recent graduates, have mobilized in a big way. They’re organizing and assisting in a variety of fundraising events benefiting the victims of the shooting. The profits from the sale of various kinds of merchandise bearing the MSD logo are being donated to the Broward Education Foundation. There are even talks of a documentary about the students and their work to get legislation passed in Florida.
The most immediate and perhaps pressing event on the alumni radar is the March for Our Lives, a movement dedicated to student-led activism to end gun violence and the epidemic of mass shootings in schools.
On Saturday, March 24, people in cities around the world will march to remember the 14 students and three adults killed at Stoneman Douglas last month and to demand that safety become a priority at schools. March organizers emphasize no political or special-interest agenda except to make schools safe.
The march will take place everywhere from Munich to Philadelphia to Brussels, including Atlanta and every other major U.S. city. There are 578 events worldwide and counting, but the main march will take place in Washington on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The D.C. march is expected to have a large Stoneman Douglas student and alumni presence, but those in Atlanta who can’t make it to the nation’s capital are organizing to have our presence known at the local march. Atlanta has about 150 MSD alumni, if not more, and many of us will be marching while wearing our school T-shirts and holding signs or banners.
The Atlanta march will begin at 11 a.m. in front of the Center for Civil and Human Rights and end at the state Capitol. The event is hosted by March for Our Lives-Atlanta and the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice and is receiving support from a host of other organizations.
Everytown for Gun Safety is a movement fighting for common-sense gun reform and has pledged to pay for all security needed at the Atlanta march and a handful of other marches. Giffords, a gun control organization founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, also is lending financial support, pledging to cover travel expenses for many of the kids attending the D.C. march. There are even rumors that Delta has plans to charter several planes for Stoneman Douglas students and teachers wanting to attend the march in Washington.
A strong Stoneman Douglas presence is likely to be felt at the D.C. and Atlanta marches, and both are shaping up to be quite large. The Washington numbers are expected to hit 100,000, and the Atlanta march’s Facebook group is nearing 15,000.
Those interested in marching locally can join the Atlanta Facebook group (www.facebook.com/groups/588197671521060) for up-to-date information as we approach March 24. D.C. marchers can visit www.facebook.com/events/157161255003456.