Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program:  A Personal Essay

Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program: A Personal Essay

By Aleisia Canty, Washington Informer Summer Employee

The Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program has played a crucial role in my development as a professional in the workforce.

The program, which began years ago during Marion Barry’s first term as mayor, allows teens as young as age 14 to be employed in the summer months.

Barry’s program changed the outcome of many teenagers’ lives, allowing them to build a work history that would afford better chances of future employment. I have been able to reap many benefits from my experience as an MBSYEP worker.

I obtained my first job at age 14, working at Friendship Collegiate high school; where I was enrolled for my freshman year. Friendship Collegiate looked for incoming freshman who were MBSYEP workers to attend a form of summer school referred to as “Summer Bridge” to familiarize them with their new stomping grounds.

Throughout my summer at Friendship Collegiate, I took creative writing and theatre classes that assisted in shaping my artistic lens. I also connected with incoming classmates to make the process from middle school to high school smoother.

The following summer I was assigned to work at “Split This Rock,” a nonprofit organization that cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry centering on social issues to provoke social change.

I learned about the organization through a friend who was a member of their youth slam team. I worked closely with the DC Youth Slam Team, that utilizes poetry to teach and empower teens from the metropolitan area to speak up about social justice issues.

While participating with the Team, my writing skills improved. I also gained had the confidence to push past my fears about performing on stage.

Since I never referred to myself as a poet due to my fear of not being understood, I was initially apprehensive about performing.  Therefore, the Team helped me realize that as long as I conveyed emotion in my poetry, my message would get through.

I spent the entire summer discovering the poetry community in DC. There are poetry-based restaurants such as Busboys & Poets and Sankofa Video Books & Cafe. I pushed myself to perform at these businesses during their open mic nights.

It was during one of these open mic nights that I performed an extremely personal poem in honor of my cousin, Relisha Rudd, who went missing in March 2014.  While watching a news update of her disappearance with my grandmother, I found out that we were related. This revelation led me to write many poems about Relisha.

Split This Rock also held weekly writing workshops that I took advantage of to enhance my skills and become comfortable performing for a crowd.  My time with Split This Rock and The DC Youth Slam Team was a defining moment in my work career, as it caused me to work with a passion and larger goal for society. I enjoyed my job so much that I requested and obtained it again the next year, which has allowed me to some meet amazing poets, who have become friends, mentors and role models.

After spending two years with Split This Rock, I was assigned a job with the National Parks Service as an interpreter at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. This was my first customer service job and I worked daily, providing guests with the story of Frederick Douglass’s life.

That opportunity allowed me to learn more about Douglass’s life than I did in high school. The gist of my knowledge prior to working at the Douglass home consisted of him being born a slave, taking back his freedom, the publishing of his first book and his work as an abolitionist.

These are just milestones on a timeline that really didn’t speak to Douglass’s personality, which I learned more about over my time at his home. I became aware of dinner time theatrics, his oratorical skills; which were so profound, that many White people did not believe he was a former slave.

I learned about Douglass’s daily life, lifting barbells and walking from his home in Anacostia to his office on H Street to stay in shape, as well as his love for music with his daughter playing the piano while his grandson played the violin. My time at Douglass’s home taught me about Douglass the man; not the public figure.

My most recent summer job has been working at The Washington Informer, a Black-owned, female published newspaper, that has been covering stories across the District, Virginia and Maryland area since 1964.

Each summer job has expanded my knowledge of the uniqueness of D.C., regarding both its present and past.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as an MBSYEP participant.

This article originally appeared in The Washington Informer.

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Will We Welcome the Children?

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Will We Welcome the Children?

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. — Leviticus 19:33-34

Every third weekend of October, many thousands of people of faith come together all across America for the National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths celebrations launched by the Children’s Defense Fund to unite congregations across religious traditions to respond to the divine mandate to nurture, protect and advocate for all children.

This year, congregations will focus on faithful sustained action to end child poverty, protect children from gun violence and end the heartless separation of children from their families.

Those who talk about our nation’s cruel treatment of immigrant families will likely lift up the mandate in all great faiths to welcome and care for the foreigner and the stranger. But as people of faith across our country call for us to treat immigrants with compassion, the Trump administration is doing just the opposite. Last week the administration published a proposed change to the federal “public charge” rule that has the potential to plunge millions of children and their immigrant families into poverty, hunger and homelessness.

When individuals apply for lawful permanent residency or entry into the United States, immigration officials consider whether that person is, or is likely to become, reliant on the government — in other words, a “public charge.” The current longstanding federal policy is to consider whether an individual will rely on the government for more than half of their income by examining whether he or she receives cash assistance or will need long-term care benefits. But the unprecedented change proposed by the Trump administration would allow immigration officials to deny green cards and visas to immigrants who use public benefits from an expanded list of programs including non-emergency Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance and the Medicare Part D low income subsidy. This proposal threatens millions of children and their families.

With this change, the administration threatens to shut down legal paths to citizenship for families that use these safety net programs they depend on — and are legally entitled to — to feed their children, put a roof over their heads and keep them healthy. Even people who haven’t used these programs in the past can be denied a green card or visa if there is a suspected risk they are “likely” to use them in the future.

Nearly one in four children in America has at least one immigrant parent, and nearly 90 percent of those children are citizens. By making legal use of safety net programs a “heavily weighted” factor in determining whether an individual qualifies as a public charge, millions of immigrants will be subject to this expanded definition of public charge, which is likely to cause both immigrants and their children to forego crucial benefits such as food assistance, health coverage and safe housing for fear of the consequences.

This is profoundly unjust, immoral, un-American and downright shameful. America is a nation of immigrants (including the first lady and her parents). The words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty call on us to welcome those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But the cruel immigration policies of the Trump administration force families into the shadows, suffocating them with harsh measures meant to punish them for daring to dream of a better life for their children in America.

Foreigners to our land deserve to be treated as our neighbors. Their children deserve to breathe free. But these cruel Trump policies meant to punish adults and deter immigration end up doing huge harm to children. Is this who we are called to be as a nation? We must stand together and in a unified voice reject this radical change to the public charge rule and demand an end to the cruel immigration policies of this administration which continue to victimize children each and every day.

There are three things you can do today to take a stand against this attack on immigrant families and children. First, go to and submit a comment against the proposed change to the public charge rule. The administration is required by law to review these public comments so now is the time to make your voice heard.

Second, participate in this year’s National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths celebration. There are resources available for leading discussions with children and adults alike about welcoming immigrant families.

Third, look around your own community and take part in local efforts to support immigrant and refugee families who need your help now more than ever. Together we can resist unjust policies and deliver on our nation’s commitment to those who come here seeking a better life.

And those of us who profess Christianity as our faith should remember that baby Jesus was an immigrant in a foreign land. Let us welcome Him in our land today.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Hip-hop Icon MC Lyte Talks about her Role as National Spox for the NNPA’s Discover The Unexpected HBCU Journalism Program

Hip-hop Icon MC Lyte Talks about her Role as National Spox for the NNPA’s Discover The Unexpected HBCU Journalism Program

By Tyvan Burns, Diamond Durant, Denver Lark (#TeamOptimistic, NNPA DTU Journalism Fellowship)

Hip-hop pioneer MC Lyte is the national spokesperson for the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s (NNPA) Discover The Unexpected (DTU) Journalism Fellowship program.

Her passion about education and her desire to create opportunities for HBCU students are two of the many reasons she partnered with the NNPA and Chevrolet, the program’s sponsor.

As she continues her great acts of philanthropy, MC Lyte said that music and journalism are much alike, as they are both used to tell stories.

MC Lyte became great friends with Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA, through his work in hip-hop and civil rights.

When she got the call about the NNPA’s DTU program, she said that she was happy to help out; she said that representing the DTU program is a great fit.

When it comes to her philanthropic work that grew out of her music career, MC Lyte said that she always wanted to give back. That sense of altruism manifested early on in her music career with her hit single “I Cram to Understand U,” which included a strong anti-drug message, geared towards the Black community.

MC Lyte made it her responsibility to advocate for young people and to shed light on the deluge of heroin and crack cocaine that flooded her Brooklyn neighborhood in the 70’s and 80’s.

“I don’t think that I really do anything for me, per se,” MC Lyte said. “It’s about getting out there, [using] the MC Lyte name, to form partnerships with bigger entities and to gain access to resources and sharing those resources with the people who need them the most.”

Hip-hop pioneers like Salt-N-Pepa and Rakim inspired MC Lyte to partake in the music industry at such an early age. MC Lyte also vividly remembered how the Bronx-born, hip-hop group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five helped to shape her storytelling rap style.

MC Lyte said that “The Message,” the Furious Five classic featuring Melly Mel, painted a picture of life in the Bronx that was very different from her life in Brooklyn, where she was born and raised. “The Message” influenced MC Lyte to gravitate towards the storytelling aspect of hip-hop. MC Lyte described “Lyte as a Rock,” her first album, as “a book of poems and short stories.”

“It was easy to get into a [creative] space and just write,” MC Lyte said. “My mother made me write an essay for whatever I wanted to do.”

MC Lyte said that young artists, who are pursuing careers in the entertainment business, should educate themselves about royalties, build a trustworthy team and seek legal advice when necessary.

“Never sign anything without counsel and always sign your own checks,” MC Lyte advised.

Reminiscing about her career in the music industry, if given the opportunity to change or do anything different, MC Lyte said that she would have said “yes” more often and been more open to trying new music genres and collaborating with unexpected artists.”

Although, MC Lyte is often credited as a pioneer in hip-hop culture, her passion to ignite change on a greater scale was alive from the very beginning. She was one of the first female rappers to speak out against sexism and misogyny in the industry. Her voice shook up the male-dominated hip-hop scene and helped pave the way for female MC’s that followed in her footsteps, like Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott.

Tyvan Burns (Norfolk State University), Diamond Durant (Morgan State University) and Denver Lark (North Carolina A&T University) are 2018 Discover The Unexpected Journalism Fellows representing #TeamOptimistic. Check out more stories by #TeamOptimistic at

Texas 8th-Grader Karthik Nemmani Wins 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Texas 8th-Grader Karthik Nemmani Wins 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Karthik Nemmani of McKinney, Texas, has been declared winner of the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Although Karthik, 14, didn’t win his regional spelling bee nor his county bee, he withstood the pressure of 18 rounds of back-to-back spelling in Thursday night’s finals at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md., where he correctly spelled “koinonia” (Christian fellowship or communion, with God or, more commonly, with fellow Christians).

“I knew how to spell it the moment I heard it,” Karthik exclaimed shortly after winning the competition.

The soft-spoken Karthik, who entered the competition through a newly-instituted “wild card” program, snared the first-place $40,000 cash prize from Scripps, as well as other perks including a $2,500 prize from Merriam-Webster and a trip to New York City to appear on ABC’s “Live with Kelly and Ryan.”

Second-place honors went to Naysa Modi,12, of Dallas, who learned that just one letter made the difference in her being awarded the grand prize. Instead, she took home a $30,000 cash prize after misspelling “Bewusstseinslage” — a German-derived word meaning “a state of consciousness or a feeling devoid of sensory components” — for which she left out the second “s.”

Karthik, an 8th-grader who admitted not knowing about nine words in the finals, was complimentary of his final-round foe, calling Naysa “a really, really good speller.”

Jah'Quane Graham

[/media-credit] Jah’Quane Graham, an 11-year-old student from the U.S Virgin Islands, seen here with parents Warren and Jamina Graham, fell short of the final round of the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“She deserved the trophy as much as I did,” he said. “I got lucky.”

He added that having friends like Naysa in the competition helped.

“I guess [they] gave me a little more confidence,” Karthik said.

The field for this year’s bee, with 516 spellers ages 8 to 15 from the United States and several countries, was the largest in its 91-year history.

Washington Informer-sponsored spellers Noah Dooley, Robert Foster and Simon Kirschenbaum didn’t make it to the finals and neither were immediately available for comment.

However, as a first-time Scripps participant, 11-year-old Jah’Quane Graham from St. Croix, U.S Virgin Islands, also missed out competing in Thursday and Friday’s rounds. Yet, he smiled good-naturedly, saying he still enjoyed the participation.

“I was glad I got the chance to be in the national bee,” he said. “I practiced spelling a lot of words but didn’t get in the final rounds [Wednesday] which disqualified me from further participation. But I plan to keep entering until I can’t be in it anymore. Best of all, I got a free trip to Washington, D.C., and I can’t wait to see the White House.”

COMMENTARY: I Read to My Grandmother Because She Could Not Read

COMMENTARY: I Read to My Grandmother Because She Could Not Read

By D. Kevin McNeir – Washington Informer Editor

I cannot recall a day when I didn’t have a book under my arm, in my backpack or in my briefcase. I’ve treated books like my best friends, sometimes refusing to lend my “friends” to others because they tended to handle my books like they were pieces of paper that could be easily discarded and had little merit.

But I knew better. My parents helped me develop a passion for reading because of the ideas within the covers. Whenever I had questions or could not understand concepts and notions, they’d point me to the room in our house designated as “the library.” Yes, that’s right, even some Black folks have libraries in their homes.

I’d spend hours in silence, without the distraction of television or the radio, reading about faraway places, becoming familiar with historical figures, letting my imagination run wild. Today, young people have even more distractions with their phones and social media apps. And some seem like they have no desire to read. They don’t realize what they’re missing.

Meanwhile, my children in their younger days were, and now my two grandsons are required to read and then, to sit with me now or with my parents in years gone by and share what they’d learned. That was the way we transmitted ideas. That’s the way we passed on our stories to the next generation.

Books were special to me for another reason. My grandmother, my mother’s mother, had been abandoned on the streets of Baltimore when she was 10. She had been forced to drop out of school so that she could find a way to survive. So, her studies ended before she had completed elementary school.

Grandma never lamented over what happened to her, the obstacles placed in her life and she never sought anyone’s pity. She just kept keeping on.

Whenever we were together, she’d reserve time for just the two of us — time during which I would read to her. Sometimes, it would be the Bible. But she would also ask me to read a story that I liked or a book that I may have been reading at the time. Whenever there were words with which she was unfamiliar or concepts that were a bit too complicated, she’d ask me to explain. She would even pull out her dictionary and have me give her the definition of words she didn’t know.

These were our special moments, our treasured moments. And she only reserved them for me. I guess with my thick glasses and mountains of books that I always brought with me during our visits to her home in Williamsburg, Virginia, she wanted me to feel good about my passion for reading, my desire to learn as much as I could. She celebrated the fact that I was a smart little boy. And she loved listening to me read.

I read to my grandmother … because she could not read. And we loved every minute of our story time sessions.

What’s the last book you read? And when did you last read to someone you loved?

DeVos Gives Green Light for Schools to Blow Whistle on Immigrants

DeVos Gives Green Light for Schools to Blow Whistle on Immigrants

There is no sanctuary for children in President Donald Trump’s racist world, and now schools can be a tool for deporting children and parents.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday before the House Education and Workforce Committee that schools and local communities decide whether to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they suspect their students are undocumented.

With reports presented at the hearing of parents being arrested by ICE outside their children’s schools, DeVos gave the same blanket response to every question:

“I would just say we are both a nation of laws and we are a compassionate people,” she said. “And I think it’s important that we follow the laws of the land, and if it’s important that laws be changed I encourage this body to do so.”

But one of those laws is a ruling from 1982’s Plyer v. Doe that guarantees the right to education for all immigrant children. And ICE was discouraged from entering schools previously by Homeland Security, but there are exceptions. Some schools have protected students assuring them that without legal pressure, they will not out the children and families.

DeVos’ remarks put no support behind communities trying to provide sanctuary.

Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) President Thomas Saenz said in a statement, “Her testimony … stems either from an astounding ignorance of the law or from an insupportable unwillingness to accurately advise local school districts. Either of these indicates a severe dereliction of duty.”

Rep. Adriano Espaillat, who confronted DeVos with the issue at the hearing, released a statement saying: “Sec. Betsy DeVos is unqualified to lead the U.S. Department of Education, and her reckless statements regarding undocumented youth, not only conflict with the law, but will lead to fear and intimidation among immigrant students across the country.”

Banneker Students Finish Second in NASA Competition

Banneker Students Finish Second in NASA Competition

Banneker High School students Bria Snell, India Skinner and Mikayla Sharrieff of “S3 Trio,” finalists in the national NASA competition (Courtesy of In3)

After weeks of waiting for NASA to release the results of a youth competition, the national space agency has announced that the girls from Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in D.C. have come in at second place.

Mikayla Sharrieff, India Skinner and Bria Snell, who took part in the competition through D.C.’s recently launched Inclusive Innovation Incubator (In3) project, were the runners-up in the high school category of NASA’s Glog OPSPARC Challenge with their submission from H2NO to H2O. Their idea takes NASA technology designed for water purification and incorporates it into school water systems to remove impurities.

Banneker High School students Bria Snell, India Skinner and Mikayla Sharrieff of "S3 Trio," finalists in the national NASA competition (Courtesy of In3)Banneker High School students Bria Snell, India Skinner and Mikayla Sharrieff of “S3 Trio,” finalists in the national NASA competition (Courtesy of In3)

The eight national finalists for the youth competition were announced in April. The Banneker girls, who calls themselves “S3 Trio,” was the only all-female, all-Black team among the finalists.

But their achievement was not without controversy. Once public voting was opened, the NASA website was bombarded with racist comments against the girls after it was hacked by 4Chan, a well-known hacking group that uses negative language and tampering to assault web activity.

Nevertheless, the final decision on which team would be the winner was based on NASA’s scientific rubric. The winning team, from Cormnando High School in Henderson, Nevada, won a $4,000 stipend to visit NASA Goddard for a workshop and awards ceremony in their honor.

For its part, In3 says it respects the process and the outcome. The incubator hopes that participation of the Banneker team in the challenge has sparked interest for other non-traditional groups to enter future challenges.

The Banneker team and the In3 staff see a bright side from the results.

“We are elated that the In3 Team, India, Bria & Mikayla placed second in the NASA OPSPARC challenge,” said Aaron Saunders, CEO of In3. “As first-time participants, this is an amazing accomplishment. We salute NASA for their outreach to students interested in STEM education.”

When the hacking incident was uncovered, the work of S3 Trio received national and local attention. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that she would give the Banneker team $4,000 to continue work on their project. A GoFundMe campaign was launched to support funding a college education for the three 11th-graders.

So far, the campaign has raised nearly $25,000 of its $30,000 goal, with renowned television executive Shonda Rhimes donating $14,500.

Saunders said the team of Bria, India and Mikayla shows what In3 can do.

“Their accomplishments are the result of access, support and innovation to the community,” he said. “India, Bria and Mikayla are always winners in my eyes. Their future is written in CODE!”

EDITORIAL: Howard Students Succeed Through Civil Rights Movement Strategy

Watching students from Howard employ a strategy proven to be successful during the civil rights movement illustrated several positive things including, not definitely not limited to, the importance of Blacks knowing our history.

The students were angry, they said, after learning that money for student aid had been funneled into the accounts and hands of unscrupulous school administrators. They were frustrated because these dollars were and are essential to their being able to continue and complete their matriculation at the historically Black university. And they wanted to know why the truth had been withheld from them for so long.

And so, they took a page out of the annals of the modern-day civil rights movement, taking over the university’s administration building, holding a sit-in for over a week, carefully articulating their demands and even conferring with local attorneys in order to make sure they weren’t straying too far afield from rights that Blacks finally received through blood, sweat and tears.

What’s most impressive is they were successful in their efforts.

We couldn’t help but smile — even being tempted to utter a more contemporary form of urban vernacular by shouting, “you go, young folks!”

Certainly, Howard University’s president, trustees and other top officials have significant work to do — particularly, but not limited to, regaining the trust of their students and their families.

But for the moment, a semblance of normality has been restored on the Howard University campus. And that’s something that happened, not because of the rhetorical musings of old folks but through the courageous actions of determined Black youth who showed that they care about their futures.

Were Dr. King still alive, he would undoubtedly find a lot has happened since thousands joined him for the historic March on Washington that may evoke feelings of frustration, disappointment — even rage in some cases. But he would be pleased, too.

Why? Because Black youth, at least those who have chosen to continue their educational pursuits at schools like Howard, historically founded in order to provide greater and more equitable opportunities for youth of color, have learned their history well. And they’re making the best of that history while recasting and reshaping it for use in tackling the challenges they now face in this brave new world.

Prince George’s School Structure Remains Unchanged

Prince George’s School Structure Remains Unchanged

ANNAPOLIS — After more than three months of working on recommendations to improve the Prince George’s County public school structure, nothing will change for now.

A proposal to allow elected members of the school board to select a vice chair and create an inspector general office died in a Senate committee on Monday, the last day of the Maryland General Assembly.

The committee didn’t receive a letter of recommendation from senators who represent Prince George’s to state their position on the idea, so the current system of the county executive choosing the board’s chair and vice chair will continue.

In addition, two-thirds of the board, or exactly half its 14 members, can vote on any item contrary to the chief executive officer. The proposed change in the legislation was three-fifths, or eight of the 14 members.

The House unanimously approved both bills labeled HB 184 (inspector general) and HB 186 (school board structure).

Some blame longtime state lawmaker and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who supports a hybrid structure over an all-elected school board. Miller resides in Calvert County but represents portions of Prince George’s and backs County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.

“I think it’s sad when one or two persons can set the agenda for all the elected officials who are here, and we would be deaf to what our constituents have asked us for,” said Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26) of Accokeek, who presented legislation for an all-elected school board. “We’ve heard from hundreds from our constituents that they wanted change.”

The proposed changes stemmed from controversies such as alleged pay raises for high-ranking school staff and grade inflation among high school seniors that some officials, educators and residents have called lack of accountability.

According to a brief, historical analysis of the legislation, Prince George’s swayed through changes to the school board structure and a hybrid format with nine members in 2002.

In December 2006, the legislature changed to all nine members elected with five from a particular district and four at-large colleagues.

Based on a recommendation in 2012 from Baker, state lawmakers approved to add four appointed members and expand the board to 13. The county executive can currently appoint three members, select both chair and vice chair and the County Council approve a third member.

A high school student makes up the 14th person on the board, but she’s chosen by a regional Student Government Association and doesn’t vote on the budget, school closings and personnel matters.

The Prince George’s County Educators Association released a statement Tuesday, April 10 to express its displeasure with state officials who ignored the union’s no-confidence vote in February on the school system’s top leadership.

“Over the past few years, our educators have watched PGCPS lose $6 million in Head Start money, over 600 educators placed on administrative leave and a grading scandal that emanated from the [school system’s] central office,” said union President Theresa Mitchell Dudley. “There is no accountability to the PGCPS Board of Education.”

Belinda Queen, a member of the county’s Democratic Central Committee running for a school board seat, supports an all-elected board.

“The people wanted an all-elected school board,” Queen said in Annapolis minutes after the General Assembly’s last session ended after midnight Tuesday. “We should not be compromising on the backs of the voters. We have to learn as elected and appointed officials we have to fight for the voters. If we cannot be their voice, then we don’t need to be in office.

Young Voices Heard at ‘March for Our Lives’ Rally

Young Voices Heard at ‘March for Our Lives’ Rally

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of thousands marched in the nation’s capital and across the world to commemorate those killed by gun violence and to demand more effective gun control legislation.

Thousands of demonstrators participate in the “March for Our Lives” rally in D.C. on March 24 to demand stricter gun control. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

[/media-credit] Thousands of demonstrators participate in the “March for Our Lives” rally in D.C. on March 24 to demand stricter gun control.

The march, titled March for Our Lives, was led by teenagers and survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

To honor the 17 victims of the February shooting, one of the speakers read their names, “Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Nicholas Dworet, Jaime Guttenberg …” He saved the name of one student, Nicholas Dworet, for last because Saturday would have been his 18th birthday.

The crowd chanted “Never again,” and “Everyday shootings are everyday problems.”

People from across the nation traveled to Washington in support of the cause. One of them was Brianna Richardson, who came from Newtown, Conn., the site of the deadliest public school shooting in America. In 2012, Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children between 6 and 7 years old, as well as six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Richardson, whose father is the president of Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department, said the incident inspired her to become a nurse.

“I want to help people live happy healthy lives, so that one day we don’t have people who feel so sadly that they have to do these things,” she said. After the tragedy, Richardson began volunteering and pushing for change, as well.

Organizers estimate 800,000 people attended the march in Washington. Numerous celebrities, including Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Hudson, Arianna Grande, George Clooney, Common and Demi Lovato joined the demonstration.

Students and survivors of the Parkland shooting joined with students across the nation and celebrities to share their testimonies on the main stage. There was also a six-minute moment of silence for the time it took to kill the 17 victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

One of the speakers on the main stage was the granddaughter of civil rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I have a dream that enough is enough and that this should be a gun free world, period,” 9-year-old Yolanda Renee King said.

The crowd at the march was very emotional and many were teary-eyed at the remarks made by the speakers.

Amber Kelly, a teen mother, stood in the crowd with her son and expressed the worry she has for her son attending school.

Thousands of demonstrators participate in the “March for Our Lives” rally in D.C. on March 24 to demand stricter gun control. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

Thousands of demonstrators participate in the “March for Our Lives” rally in D.C. on March 24 to demand stricter gun control.

“I’m more so scared for my son than myself,” Kelly said. “I don’t have the money to send my child to private school or homeschool him. How can I feel comfortable sending my son to school if I know there’s a possibility he could be shot?”

Helena Ristic, 24, is originally from Serbia.  She said she decided to join the march to support the young people leading the event and to help end gun violence.

“I think this event shows that even though they’re kids, they can still make change,” Ristic said. “We all want gun violence to end.”

Lots of children were there with their parents.  Many held signs and walked alongside their families.

Zachary Hill, 8, walked with his mom and two siblings and was excited he could be a part of this movement.

“I’m really happy we’re making a change for the future,” Hill said.

Aalayah Eastmond, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, urged people not to lose focus on the fact that most gun violence happens in black and Latino neighborhoods.

“It doesn’t only happen in schools,” Eastmond said.  “It’s been happening in urban communities forever.”

Naomi Wadler, 11, also took to the main stage with a similar message, ensuring that people of color are not left out of the conversation.

“For far too long, these black girls and women have been just numbers,” said Wadler, a fifth grader who organized a walkout at her elementary school in Alexandria, Va., earlier this month.

“I urge everyone here and everyone who hears my voice to join me in telling the stories that aren’t told, to honor the girls, the women of color who are murdered at disproportionate rates in this nation.”

Shannon Douglas traveled four hours from Virginia Beach, Va., to participate in the demonstration.

“People aren’t taking this seriously,” Douglas said. “The Second Amendment was meant to protect your property and yourself. You don’t need an AK-47 or an SK to protect yourself.  A simple handgun can do that.”

Douglas named two of the types of assault rifles protestors want banned. Supporters of gun control are also pushing for the ban of Bump stocks, an accessory that allows semi-automatic weapons to fire much more rapidly.

“We call BS” was another popular chant and the topic of the signs held by the
participants above.

Leaders of the march insisted that the event was a call to action, so volunteers lined the streets to register people to vote so they can elect government officials who will support stronger gun control and remove those who do not.

“Vote them out,” an activist pleaded to the crowd.