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.

Trauma: The latest addition in school-to-prison problem

Trauma: The latest addition in school-to-prison problem

Tiffani Knowles Special to The Miami Times

It was 3 a.m. when an 11-year-old broke into a Miami home while a family was sleeping. He was arrested and sent to juvenile detention for processing.

The day before, he had stolen a car and was caught in a high-speed chase with the police before jumping out of it at 40 miles per hour.

When staffers at the Miami-Dade County Juvenile Services Department advised Director Morris Copeland acutely, “This one, we can’t let this one out, Mr. Copeland,” he took off his jacket and tie and looked the boy square in the eyes, searching for regret — or at least fear.

“I told him, ‘Don’t you know you could have died during one of those incidents? He said … ‘Mr. Copeland, I don’t care nothing ‘bout that … I don’t want to live,’” Copeland recounted.

Looking at a case like this one, Copeland said youth like him have been exposed to traumatic events that leave them hopeless. Copeland avows he refuses to lock up youth under the age of 12 and instead negotiates with the state attorney for an alternative to detention.

“These are not evil men. These are hurting boys. They have been victims over and over again, traumatized to the point that they don’t care anymore,” he said.

Copeland was one of several community leaders who spoke to an audience of students, parents, educators and health practitioners at the Afrocentric Talking Circle “Ubuntu ‘I Am Because We Are’” presented by the School to Prison and Education committees of Miami-Dade’s NAACP.

Following an April 9 shooting in Liberty City that left two boys dead, leaders met on April 14 at Jessie Trice Health System, in Miami to determine how post-traumatic stress disorder may be the cause of what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline.


“There are more children experiencing PTSD in the inner city than all of the soldiers who came out of the Afghanistan War … but these soldiers can get out; the kids can’t,” said Cornelia “Corky” Dozier, Performing and Visual Arts Center co-founder and one of the event’s talk-back leaders.

Freddie Young, the chairperson of the school-to-prison pipeline committee, gathered experts like Copeland to share research and anecdotal evidence to prove some problematic students aren’t just menaces bound for prison but are children “acting out” – the effects of trauma that was first done to them.

“This notion of expecting kids to bounce back from gun violence and go to school the next day is not a realistic expectation,” said Dr. Roderick King, a pediatrician and assistant dean of public health education at University of Miami medical school.

He echoes the research of Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician who developed methods to screen and treat children suffering health problems attributable to toxic stress and recently published her findings in the book “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity.”

On MRIs of children who experienced trauma, Burke’s team observed a shrinking of the hippocampus, a brain area important for memory and emotional regulation, and an increase in the size of the amygdala —the brain’s fear center.

When a child witnesses gun violence, they experience short-term effects like disruptions in sleep cycles and trouble maintaining social relationships. But the long-term effects are more troubling, King said.

After witnessing multiple, frequent incidents, children may exhibit aggression, out-of-place sexual behavior, self-harm and abuse of drugs or alcohol, all of which can result in potential incarceration.

“So, by the time they’re 16, and they’re dealing with tough life issues, they don’t know how to bounce back because of the cumulative effects of PTSD,” he said.

District 2 School Board Member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall said there is no easy way to recover from this kind of violence.


“Our students handle trauma differently, and what we as educators must do is to give our children the best education and opportunities to learn and grow,” she said. “Miami-Dade County Public Schools is always ready to provide counseling and support for our students affected by gun violence.”

Copeland also claims that the deeper the kids go into the criminal justice system, “the darker they are,” and he believes it’s his duty and the duty of others in the community to disrupt this cycle by treating children like they’re children.

He reported that in Miami-Dade County, they have made more strides than other metropolitan cities in the U.S., declining from 22,000 juvenile arrests when he started in 1978 to just over 3,000 arrests in 2017.

Further credit goes to the work of people like Edwin Lopez, deputy chief of Miami-Dade School Police Department, who was also invited to speak at the Ubuntu Talking Circle. Lopez, a former Miami-Dade teacher, entered the police force to give students alternatives and, since he’s been there, the school arrest rate has decreased by 50 percent.

“We’ve had a huge culture change in the way we view Hispanic and Black males, who had the highest rate of arrests,” he said.

He cites the civil citation program for misdemeanors, officers now issuing warning and dismissals and re-framing nonviolent felonies as factors for the culture shift and decline in arrests.

“For example, stealing an iPhone is a felony because it’s worth more than $300,” said Lopez. “But when a 9, 10 or 11-year-old steals an iPhone, maybe jail is not the best option for them.”

Lopez said these new policies keep the criminal justice system from being a revolving door, which can produce toxic stress in a student.

“This can make a child more sensitive to threats or challenges and the pleasure and reward center of the brain —the part that is stimulated by cocaine, heroin, tobacco, sex, high-sugar and high-fat foods — can be affected,” said Burke.


But, even when children resist high-risk behavior, there are still damaging effects due to toxic stress. Young asked adults to take the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) assessment, first published in 1998, to fully understand how severe or prolonged levels of childhood adversity affected their own lives.

In the talk-back circle, some attendees shared their scores on questions like “Did a household member go to prison?” and “Did a parent push, grab, slap or throw something at you?”

The scoresheet explained that with an ACE score of 4 or more, the likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease, asthma, depression and suicide goes up exponentially.

Burke says the reason for the onset of illness is because a child’s stress hormones have to work overtime when placed in dangerous environments.

“Our biological stress response is designed to save our lives from something threatening, and that’s healthy. The problem is that when the stress response is activated repeatedly, it can become overactive and affect our brain development, our immune systems and even how our DNA is read and transcribed,” said Burke.

The research offers some explanation for why trauma victims may commit violent crimes like the ones in Liberty City or even in Parkland. But, the problem, Copeland said, is that oftentimes the residents in urban areas normalize violence, and “it becomes part of our everyday routine.”

Young, Dozier and others working with the NAACP are hoping to give Black communities the voice to express their trauma instead of normalizing it.

“You look at all those kids from Parkland, and they were trained communicators. For us, the arts becomes the voice for the voiceless right now,” said Dozier. “But now we need to teach them to be trained communicators even more so than the way they’re expressing themselves in the music or in the film.”

Leadership and business coach Daphne Valcin said she believes that reaching out for a community of support can help in overcoming childhood trauma like the type she experienced.

Valcin grew up in North Miami Beach witnessing multiple fights by rival gangs and attending a middle school that had a reputation for gun violence.

When she was away in college, she received word that close friends were shot and killed.

Now, at 34, she mentors young people and coaches business professionals on how to redefine their past in order to achieve present success.

“I choose to see people through a lens of hope,” she said.

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.

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.