Protecting Our Community during National Foster Care Month

Protecting Our Community during National Foster Care Month

By Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.)

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, our community was under a full-fledged attack. Crack was in our streets, it was in our schools, it was in our parks, it was in our playgrounds, and for some, it was in our homes. The epidemic wasn’t just affecting one part of the community; this impacted the entire community, leaving sons without fathers, daughters without mothers, and parents, ultimately, alone.

But the carnage didn’t stop there. Policies enacted during the crack epidemic exacerbated the destruction. Children in South Los Angeles were ripped away from their parents and shipped off into the child welfare system, some to never see their parents, or their families, again. It was at the height of the crack epidemic when the number of kids in foster care exploded and the percentage of Black youth in the system skyrocketed.

Now, the country, not just our community, faces a new epidemic. Our child welfare system is already becoming increasingly populated due to the consequences of the opioid epidemic. The current crisis is starting to devastate families and our already over-worked and under-resourced child welfare system. This time, we must apply the lessons learned from the crack epidemic: if you want successful policy, you must include the affected communities in the formulation of new policy. We cannot afford to turn our backs on those impacted again.

At the end of this month, the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth will host its 7th annual Foster Youth Shadow Day, a program that brings foster youth from all over the country to meet and shadow the very Members of Congress who represent them in Washington, D.C.

No one knows more about the pitfalls of our nation’s child welfare system than those who grew up in it. These young people are travelling thousands of miles to come to D.C. to share their stories—both their challenges with abuse, trafficking, overmedication, or homelessness—as well as their successes with mentorship, adoption, family reunification, community activism and independent living.

The result of these visits is a better understanding of how to improve the child welfare system and fight against this epidemic. The FY 2018 omnibus bill that was passed earlier this year had the single biggest increase in investment in child welfare funding history along with a large investment in funds to combat the opioid crisis. Despite this progress, there will always be more work to be done and this month, I look forward to continuing this fight. National Foster Care Month is a month to honor the successes and challenges of the more than 400,000 foster youth across the country and to acknowledge the tireless efforts of those who work to improve outcomes for children in the child welfare system.

Making sure that all children have a permanent and loving home is not a Democrat or Republican issue – it should be an American priority. Our society is judged on how we treat the most vulnerable amongst us. We must invest in life improving foster care services, praise foster families, caregivers, and relatives for their selflessness to others, and continue to provide a hand up so that foster youth can realize their full potential.

Congresswoman Karen Bass represents California’s 37th Congressional District. She is the 2nd Vice Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. Follow her on Twitter at @RepKarenBass.

OPINION: The HBCU Community Needs Bipartisan Support

OPINION: The HBCU Community Needs Bipartisan Support

By Dr. Harry L. Williams, (President and CEO, Thurgood Marshall College Fund)

Dr. Harry L. Williams, the president and CEO of TMCF, says that engagement with Republicans and the Trump Administration is working for the HBCU community.

Dr. Harry L. Williams, the president and CEO of TMCF, says that engagement with Republicans and the Trump Administration is working for the HBCU community.

A few months ago, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) was proud to welcome the presidents and chancellors from 30 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) to Washington, D.C. for the second annual HBCU Fly-In held in conjunction with the leadership of Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who are both members of the very important, bipartisan HBCU Caucus.

My experience as a former HBCU president and now leader of TMCF, working on behalf of our 47 publicly-supported HBCUs, gives me a broad perspective on the federal government’s partnership with HBCUs, as delivered through this event’s multiple listening sessions and direct engagement opportunities with members of Congress and senior leadership within the Trump Administration.

Thanks to the commitment of dozens of our HBCU presidents and chancellors who attended our inaugural convening and this year’s fly-in, we’re beginning to see major developments from several federal agencies looking to increase support for HBCUs and to create more opportunities for our scholars.

Thanks to our collective advocacy, several HBCUs that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 received total forgiveness of outstanding loans awarded for the restoration of their campuses in the hurricane’s aftermath. Southern University at New Orleans, Dillard University, Xavier University, and Tougaloo College are free of their repayment obligations on more than $300 million in federal loans, because of direct engagement with and action from this administration and congressional leadership on issues of critical importance to our HBCU’s, like this one.

Perhaps the most significant indicator of our growing partnership has been the achievement of level funding in the President’s FY’ 2019 budget proposal and within the recent Omnibus Appropriations Bills. For example, the FY’ 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill had major wins for HBCUs:

Pell Grant Maximum Award

  • FY’17 Funding Level: $5,920 (per student)
  • FY’18 Funding Level: $6,095 (+$175/increase of 2.96 percent)

Title III, Part B and F, Strengthening HBCUs Undergraduate Programs

  • FY’17 Funding Level: $244.6 million
  • FY’18 Funding Level: $279.6 million (+$34 million/increase of 14.3 percent)

Title III, Part B, Strengthening HBCUs Graduate Programs

  • FY’17 Funding Level: $63.2 million
  • FY’18 Funding Level: $72.3 million (+$9 million/increase of 14.3 percent)

Title III, Part A, Strengthening PBI Program

  • FY’17 Funding Level: $9.9 million
  • FY’18 Funding Level: $11.3 million (+$1.4 million/increase of 14.3 percent)

Title VII, Master’s Degree Program at HBCUs and PBIs

  • FY’17 Funding Level: $7.5 million
  • FY’18 Funding Level: $8.5million (+$1 million/increase of 14.3 percent)

We are cognizant that many lawmakers in the majority in Congress favor fiscal austerity to address budgetary issues, but in a legislative environment dominated by talks of budget cuts, critical HBCU funding lines were increased, which is a demonstrable return on our collective investment in bipartisan engagement.

Indeed, TMCF’s decision not to resist, but instead engage in a strategic way and bipartisan fashion on behalf of our nearly 300,000 HBCU students who need a voice in Congress and with the Trump Administration has borne fruit at many levels. I am optimistic that many of our presidents and chancellors departed the nation’s capital with a clearer sense of the propriety of this strategy given our mutual goals, and now having the benefit to witness the rewards of this advocacy effort. TMCF will not stop engaging with all of our federal partners, because bipartisan advocacy with the Congress and engagement with the Trump Administration is paying dividends for our nation’s HBCUs.

Dr. Harry L. Williams is the president & CEO of Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), the largest organization exclusively representing the Black College Community. Prior to joining TMCF, he spent eight years as president of Delaware State University. Follow him on Twitter at @DrHLWilliams.

OPINION: MLK50: Fifty Years after Kerner and King, Racism Still Matters

OPINION: MLK50: Fifty Years after Kerner and King, Racism Still Matters

By Derrick Johnson (President and CEO, National NAACP)

“Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans. What white Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”
– Report by the Kerner Commission, 1968

Fifty years ago, the nation was rocked by the brutal and public assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Eerily echoing the title of King’s final book “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?”, his murder sent a powerful shock wave through the soul of America resulting in urban rebellions springing up in over 100 cities and placing the nation at a political and social crossroads.

As cities burned with rage at King’s murder, most of America had already dismissed and forgotten the damning and prophetic report published only a month earlier by the presidential commission chaired by Illinois Governor Otto Kerner. Officially called the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, the Kerner Commission identified systemic racism and poverty as the causes of the major Black rebellions in both Newark and Detroit the previous summer. The report warned that America was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal” and offered concrete suggestions for confronting immediately this “deepening racial division.”

However, the Kerner Report’s recommendations for reconciliation and progress were never heeded; in fact, they were actively disregarded. Despite commissioning the report, President Lyndon B. Johnson went out of his way to suppress the spread of its findings. The consequences have been severe: “Whereas the Kerner Commission called for ‘massive and sustained’ investment in economic, employment and education initiatives, over the last 50 years America has pursued ‘massive and sustained’ incarceration framed as ‘law and order,’ while the ‘war on drugs’ has failed,” says a new book, “Healing Our Divided Society,” co-edited by former Sen. Fred Harris, the sole surviving member of the Kerner Commission.

Today, many of America’s Black communities bear the sustained scars of physical and economic injuries.

Even in Baltimore, the headquartered home of the NAACP, communities are still reeling from the police-custody death of Freddie Gray. The deaths of Black Americans like Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, and, most recently, Stephon Clark—shot eight times by police in his own backyard—remind us we are still not seen as full-citizens by many in our nation.

In our recent Economic Inclusion Reports on Baltimore, Charlotte and St. Louis—three cities impacted by protests and revolts linked to police violence and misconduct—the NAACP noted “similarities between the past economic realities of African Americans during Reconstruction and legalized racism and the current economic realities more than 150 years after the abolition of slavery and promise of freedom.”

Our reports expose that African Americans are “still living in highly segregated communities and school districts, comprising the lowest median household income, highest unemployment rate, highest poverty rate, and ongoing barriers to the creation of small businesses.” For example, the mid-2000 housing crisis caused by Wall Street excesses led to trillions of dollars in bailouts and the decimation of major portions of African American wealth—wrapped up in their foreclosed homes. This recession removed huge swaths of intergenerational wealth and many families have yet to recover.

As the leader of the oldest and largest civil rights organization, I recognize the temporal connection between America’s past and present identities. Our country has let the pestilent wound caused by a continuing legacy of racism fester. This chronic condition is aggravated by the often-silent progressives who still cannot grasp the stark emotional reality of what partial freedom feels like to a full human being.
In his commencement address to Oberlin College in 1965, King said, “We must face the honest fact that we still have a long, long way to go before the problem of racial injustice is solved.”

Half a century after Kerner’s report and King’s assassination, our government continues to perpetuate an unacceptable level of systemic and structural racism, which permeates our communities and fuels our protest.

As we remember King and Kerner, we will not do so in solemn reflection, but instead with resolve. We commit to making the social and political healing America has continued to defer become a reality. The progress for which NAACP members fight rings in harmony with the Kerner Commission’s unapologetic condemnation of White America’s failure to make democracy real for all of us.

Derrick Johnson is the president and CEO of the NAACP, America’s largest civil rights organization. Follow him on Twitter @DerrickNAACP.

March for Our Lives Milwaukee: The Youth are in Power

March for Our Lives Milwaukee: The Youth are in Power

By Nyesha Stone

It’s 2018 and America’s youth is showing the world how to use their voices in an impactful way. After the Parkland, FL shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, that killed 17 students and staff, students said enough is enough and decided to fight back.

March for Our Lives is a nationwide movement that was created by students that survived the shooting under the hashtag and name #neveragain. Students across the nation held their own versions of the march on March 24, to fight for stronger gun regulations to put an end to mass school shootings.

The largest march was in Washington D.C. with nearly 800,000 people in attendance, according to NBC news. Like the rest of the nation, Milwaukee had its own version with 12,000 people, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

There wasn’t an age limit or race issue when it came to this march. Everyone came together for one reason: to keep the youth safe.

March participant and Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) student Alyssa Krieg said she just wants to feel safe.

“I don’t want to feel scared [and] I won’t be silenced,” said Krieg. “You can speak out and your thoughts will be valued.”

[/media-credit] Around the country, people are fighting for stronger gun regulations. 

This was Krieg’s first march and she plans to continue participating in important matters because she understands the power of coming together, even if you’re considered a child.

The march started at the County Courthouse and ended at City Hall. There was music playing throughout the march unless a speaker was at the podium. Seventeen white bags with the names of the Parkland victims sat on the stairs of the county jail as the crowd chanted for change.

Speaker and Rufus King junior Tatiana Washington encouraged her peers to speak louder and for the adults to listen.

“What adults fail to realize, we are just getting started. Our age does not limit our power,” said Washington. “I am urging you to vote responsibly because we are scared for our lives.”

The entire march lasted around four hours with thousands of signs being lifted high in the air.

Matt Flynn, who is running for the office of Governor, said things won’t improve until legislature changes.

“As long as the Republicans are in power nothing’s going to change,” said Flynn.

There are three things that he says needs to happen before things get better: ban assault weapons, eliminate gun shows and better background checks.

Flynn isn’t the only person with power that agrees that change needs to happen when it comes to gun regulations.

Senior Vice President of the Milwaukee Bucks Alex Lasry says it’s time to stop listening to the adults and follow the youth.

“Look at what happens when we get all of the adults out the way and let the kids lead,” said Lasry. “What will the rest of us do now that we’ve been woken up?”

Some of the same students that participated in the march also attended another march four days later. Forty Wisconsin students marched 50 miles from Madison to Janesville, which is House Speak Paul Ryan’s hometown. The students called their movement 50 Miles More. It’s clear the youth are going straight to the people with power because that’s where change happens.

This isn’t the first-time youth have stood up for themselves, but this time, they won’t stop until change happens.

COMMENTARY: We need to revive King’s campaign against poverty

COMMENTARY: We need to revive King’s campaign against poverty

By Jesse Jackson

April 4 will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, shot down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

At the time, we had come to Memphis to support striking sanitation workers seeking a living wage and a union. Dr. King was focused on organizing a Poor People’s Campaign, an effort to bring people together across lines of race, religion and region to call on the country to address the grinding poverty of the day.

Fifty years later, poverty remains unfinished business. In Memphis, according to the authoritative 2017 Memphis Poverty Fact Sheet compiled by Dr. Elena Delavega of the University of Memphis, nearly 27 percent of the population – more than one in four – is in poverty. A horrifying 45 percent of children live in poverty. They suffer from inadequate food, health care, insecure housing and impoverished schools.

Poverty has been going up among all races, except for people over 65, protected a bit by the earned benefits of Social Security and Medicare. Memphis is the poorest metropolitan area with a population over 1 million in the United States.

In the last years of his life, Dr. King turned his attention to the plague of war, poverty and continued racial injustice. He understood that the war on poverty had been lost in the jungles of Vietnam. The Civil Rights Movement had successfully eliminated legal segregation and won blacks the right to vote. Now it was time to turn to this unfinished business.

We should not let the trauma of his death divorce us from the drama of his life, nor the riots that came in reaction to erase the agenda that he put forth for action.

At the center of that agenda was a call grounded in the economic bill of rights that President Franklin D. Roosevelt put forth coming out of the Great Depression and World War II.  Americans, he argued, had come to understand the need for a guarantee of basic opportunity: the right to a job at a living wage, the right to health care, to quality public education, to affordable housing, to a secure retirement.

Now, 50 years later, we should revive Dr. King’s mission, not simply honor his memory.  During those years, African-Americans have experienced much progress and many reversals.

Over the last decades, blacks have suffered the ravages of mass incarceration and a racially biased criminal justice system. In 2008, African-Americans suffered the largest loss of personal wealth in the mortgage crisis and financial collapse.

Schools have been re-segregated as neighborhoods have grown more separated by race and class. New voter repression schemes have spread across the country. Gun violence wreaks the biggest toll among our poorest neighborhoods.

Through his life, Dr. King remained committed to non-violence. He sought to build an inter-racial coalition, openly disagreeing with those who championed black separatism or flirted with violence.

He would have been overjoyed at the young men and women organizing the massive protests against gun violence, building a diverse movement, making the connection between the horror of school shootings in the suburbs and street shootings in our cities. And he would have been thrilled to see his nine-year-old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, rouse the crowd with her presence and her words: “My grandfather had a dream that his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough, and this should be a gun-free world, period.”

Now as we mark the 50th anniversary of his death, let us resurrect the mission of his life.  Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland set the tone, when he announced that the city would offer grants to the 14 living strikers from that time and establish a matching grant program to subsidize the retirement savings of active sanitation workers. He hopes to expand this to all city workers not covered by the public pension plan.

At the national level, we should act boldly. Social Security and Medicare have dramatically reduced poverty among the elderly. With a jobs-guarantee policy, a Medicare for All program, a $15 minimum wage, debt-free college and affordable child care, we could slash poverty, open up opportunity and lift hope across the country.

We have the resources; the only question is whether we have the will. That will take organizing, non-violent protests, voter registration and mobilization — a modern-day poor people’s campaign.

“We will not be silenced,” said the young leaders at the March for Our Lives. That surely is a necessary first step.

April 4 will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, shot down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. At the time, we had come to Memphis to support striking sanitation workers seeking a living wage and a union. Dr. King was focused on organizing a […]

Parents, Black Publishers Discuss Excellence in Public Education During Black Press Week

Parents, Black Publishers Discuss Excellence in Public Education During Black Press Week

Educators and education experts discussed parental engagement, equity in education and teacher diversity, during a special breakfast session for the NNPA’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Public Awareness Campaign in Washington, D.C.

The session took place during the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s (NNPA) Black Press Week, an annual celebration of the relevance and lasting legacy of Black publishers.

Panelists included Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes; DNA Educational Solutions and Support CEO Dr. Robert L. Kirton Jr.; NAACP Washington Bureau Chief Hilary O. Shelton; Prince George’s County School Board Member Curtis Valentine; and Dr. Lannette Woodruff, an ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) taskforce member for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Elizabeth Primas, the project manager for the NNPA’s ESSA Public Awareness Campaign, served as moderator for the session titled, “Striving for African American Excellence in Public Education: The Role of the Black Press” at the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 16.

“I’m pretty fired up about education,” Rolark Barnes said of the current state of education in the Black community. “As we celebrate 191 years of the Black Press in America, it’s important to remember that the education of Black people is rooted in the Black Press and the Black Church.”

Rolark Barnes also reminded the audience that one of the founders of the Black Press, Samuel Cornish, graduated from the Free African School and became a minister, before he started the Freedom’s Journal.

Shelton noted that the Black Press has been the voice of the Black community for a very long time; the NAACP Washington bureau chief also said that education is the bridge over troubled waters.

Kirton recounted a false, yet familiar adage that suggested that “The best way to hide something from Black people is to put it in a book.” Kirton used the saying to shine a light on the paucity of high-quality education options in the Black community.

“I got into the [education] fight, because I want to make a difference,” Kirton said.

Valentine advocated for increased parental engagement in our schools at every level.

“We need policies that are more welcoming for our parents to come in,” Valentine said.

Woodruff agreed.

“We want programs in our schools, so that children understand what [parental engagement] is all about,” Woodruff said.

In 2017, the NNPA received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support a three-year, multi-media public awareness campaign focusing on the unique opportunities and challenges related to the implementation of ESSA, according to a press release about the campaign.

Under the ESSA, states have more flexibility under federal regulations to design customized solutions to improve elementary and secondary education in the nation’s public schools. The law also ensures that every child, regardless of race, income, background, or where they live can obtain a high-quality education; ESSA received bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 10, 2015.

The NNPA selected Primas, a decorated and award-winning educator, as program manager and she famously refers to all her students as her children.

“‘My children’” are all of the children in schools that have been underserved, undereducated, and for all intents and purposes, forgotten about,” Primas said.

Howard Students Help to Rebuild in Puerto Rico

Howard Students Help to Rebuild in Puerto Rico

By Tatyana Hopkins
(NNPA Newswire Special Correspondent)

ARECIBO, Puerto Rico—When Howard University Student Jasmine Stevens fled New Orleans in 2005 to avoid Hurricane Katrina, she left with just enough clothes for two days. The Category 3 storm would cover her family’s neighborhood in eight-feet of water, destroy their belongings and force them to abandon their home and flee to Port Arthur, Texas, where they remained for three years.

“We lost everything,” Stevens, 20, said. “It didn’t hit me until I watched the news and saw my city underwater.”

Now, Stevens, a junior biology major, finds herself in a familiar spot, but this time hundreds of miles away in Puerto Rico, where another hurricane has wreaked havoc on the lives of millions of Americans.

Stevens is here with fellow Howard students to help the people still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which six months ago destroyed thousands of homes, wiped out the island’s already out-of-date electric grid, and limited access to clean drinking water for millions.

Most of the island now has electricity and water, but the restoration of destroyed homes, businesses and churches continues.

Stevens and six other Howard students spent Monday rebuilding La Hermosa Church in downtown Arecibo, a town of 96,000 on the island’s northern coast. Stevens, who is participating in Howard University’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program, traveled to Puerto Rico during her spring break to assist in recovery efforts.

The students in Puerto Rico and more than 700 other Howard students have given up their vacation week, the parties and trips home to help people in various distressed areas, including Haiti, Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Thomas, Flint, Mich., New Orleans, Chicago, Texas and Florida.

“I believe that, as a global citizen, it’s important to help those in need,” said Ngodoo Iye, 21, a senior on her third ASB trip.

Stevens echoed those sentiments.

“For me, this trip is a way to give back to those who helped my family when we were victims of Hurricane Katrina,” Stevens said.

Once a place of worship for a congregation of about 40 people, La Hermosa Church remains without power and running water. After the storm, the 12,000-square foot, one-story building church was submerged in at least eight-feet of water, said La Hermosa’s pastor, Miguel Asegarra.

“I was outside watching the hurricane, and it never touched my home,” Asegarra said, “but it destroyed our church.”

Asegarra has led the church for two years. He lives 15-minutes away in a residential neighborhood.

La Hermosa rests in the city’s downtown, which was flooded by the Rio Grande Arecibo, a river just blocks away.

“This is one of the oldest churches in this city and we lost everything,” Asegarra said. “But, God has blessed us, because many people have come to help us.”

The Howard students picked up restoration of the church where several other groups left off. The church, once covered in mud and debris, had been cleaned and gutted by previous groups. The ASB team was tasked with repainting the church’s walls.

The church was one of dozens of buildings—businesses, homes, schools, government offices—that were severely damaged in Arecibo, which lies about an hour and a half west of the capital city of San Juan.

Irma Sierra Cordova, owner of a downtown pharmacy, said she used her savings to re-open her business, which closed for two months.

“I lost all of my inventory,” Cordova said, “but homes should be the priority.”

Others are still repairing homes ripped apart by the fierce winds of the storm.

“I lost my whole roof, and I have a blue tarp on top of my house to prevent it from leaking [when it rains],” said Roberto Valez, 68, a Puerto Rican native who retired here after 30 years working construction in New London, Conn. “In the first month, rain would get in and damage everything.”

While Stevens’ team worked on the church, other Howard students helped restore a building in nearby Dorado. A third group visited the local Boys and Girls Club in Las Magaritas, a neighborhood in San Juan. While there, they tutored older students and danced and played hide-and-seek with the younger ones. They taught the kids the “Cha Cha Slide” and the students taught them salsa.

Pastor Humberto Pizarro of Connected Life, a ministry in San Juan, helped Howard’s ASB program connect with those most in need. Pizarro’s church organization, Shining Bright International, is a missionary and outreach ministry that has helped more than 40 teams from the United States and the Caribbean work more than 240,000 volunteer hours to restore the island.

“God has trained us for this, and we hit the ground running,” Pizarro said.

Within two days after the hurricane, his church began delivering meals, fuel and water to residents, and by the end of the week, they had flown in their first group of helpers from the U.S. mainland.

“Everyone in our church is trained to respond to these [types] of disasters,” Pizarro said. “The church is a temple to worship, but [the church’s mission] happens outside of its four walls. We focus on outreach.”

Howard student Audre’ana Ellis said she was impressed with the work Pizarro’s church had done to move recovery efforts along.

“I’m excited to help and serve,” Ellis, 18, said. “I’m surprised to see that everyone here is so strong and has come together to get through this.”

COMMENTARY: Out of the Mouth of Babes

COMMENTARY: Out of the Mouth of Babes

Regrettably, in the wake of another mass shooting in this country, the GOP has responded in its usual fashion: guarded lip service and no thought of political action. If there has been one ray of hope in the aftermath of this horrific event, it’s been the courageous response of the individuals that were directly affected: the surviving high school students.

Leon D. Young

Leon D. Young

In recent days, Emma Gonzalez, a student at the Parkland, Florida high school where 17 people were left dead after a mass shooting has become the public face and the strident voice of what potentially could become a real movement to enact commonsense gun control measures. And, what’s really telling – this response is being led by the students themselves. The young, articulate senior, in delivering remarks in the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, pulled no punches in expressing her grief and outright anger. She explicitly stated, “If all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change we need to see.”

As protests and rallies continue to crop up across the country, in support of gun control action, the Alt-right and Republicans have begun to push back with some ridiculous assertions. For instance, an aide to Florida State Representative Shawn Harrison, using state email, sent out a picture and message alleging: “Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen.”

Contributing to this lunacy, former US Congressman Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican, sent out the following tweet: O really? “Students” are planning a nationwide rally? Not left-wing gun control activists using 17yr kids in the wake of a tragedy? #Soros #Resistance #Antifa #DNC.”

Meanwhile, the asinine occupant in the White House has offered his perspective on this horrific incident. In his statement to the media following the event, Trump never mentioned the word guns during his remarks, rather he talked about mental illness as being the culprit. This clueless president is even on record for being in support of militarizing our schools – teachers and coaches having access to handguns, to combat this reoccurring threat.

Here’s the naked truth: The mass shooting mania that grips this nation is directly linked to the ready availability of assault weapons and guns that can be converted into automatic weapons. Moreover, assault weapons serve no legitimate, recreational purpose, but are intended solely to maim and kill on a mass scale.

Student activism is not a new phenomenon in this country. During the Civil Rights struggle the Freedom Riders, who were mostly college students, led “sit-ins” at segregated lunch counters throughout the South. This new call to action by students is real, wonderful to see, and hopefully will be the catalyst for meaningful gun control change.