Madeline Smith Kaufman participated in the March For Our Lives, a march protesting school shootings, in Chicago, Illinois on March 24, 2018.
When people ask, “How was the march?”, I have no idea how to respond. How do I sum up my experience at the march into the neat, short, positive sentence that people expect? For me, the march was empowering, terrifying, inspiring, unifying, validating, and fun. I could expand on each one of those words. To me, the march was much more than just saying, “It was amazing!”
I marched with a large group of friends in Chicago, Illinois. The march started in Union Park with speakers and performers. After that, the crowd slowly left the park and marched through the surrounding neighborhood. The youth who organized, led, spoke, and performed at the march ranged from seventh graders to high schoolers to college students. The performers and speakers were black, white, Latinx, gay, straight, women and men. The youth were intersectional because of who they were, but also because of the topics they spoke about. They called out the groups who are disproportionately responsible for gun violence. They acknowledged the groups who are disproportionately affected by gun violence. They highlighted that gun violence is an everyday issue for kids in Chicago, and that voices from youth of color have been silenced with regard to this issue for too long.
My favorite speakers were a group of four young women who performed their poem “Trigger Warning”. They grabbed the attention of anyone listening with their words: “Warning. We’ve experienced blank school shootings and it’s only the blank day of 2018. It’s easier to leave the day blank before the next school shooting. He didn’t leave blanks, he left kids dead and hurting. Surprise- several thoughts and prayers later, nothing has happened.” These young women spoke real, raw words about the way youth feel in this country right now. I recommend watching this performance or any of the other performances or speeches from the Chicago march on YouTube.
I was incredibly grateful for the voices of young people throughout the whole march. This issue affects young people every day. Youth across the nation are watching schools just like theirs experience school shootings, and wonder if they are next. Youth across the nation must console and support their friends when a new school experiences a shooting. Youth are hit hard and deal with the effects of school shootings for a long time, no matter if it is their school or not.
At the march, I learned a lot. I learned about intersectionality in the context of gun violence. I learned about the lives of youth in Chicago. At the march, I cheered. I cheered for the youth who shared their stories. I cheered for the youth who proposed solutions. I cheered for the youth who used their talents. At the march, I chanted. I chanted to enact change. I chanted in solidarity.
I marched for change, because I have seen the pain gun violence can cause, and it must be stopped. I marched for several of my loved ones, who are school shooting survivors. I marched for my younger siblings, who are at risk simply because they go to middle school and high school every day. I marched because I am part of the “school shooting generation” and that phrase should not have to exist. I marched because I can no longer keep quiet, no longer just read about activism, no longer let adults make decisions about an issue that affects youth like me. I marched, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so and the experience I had.
Madeline Smith Kauffman is a first year social work major, theater minor at Goshen College. She was born in Goshen and raised in Holmes County, Ohio. She is a member of Berlin Mennonite Church. Currently, Madeline is considering eventually working as a counselor, a pastor, or both. Madeline loves spending time with her family and friends, singing, theater, working towards social justice, wearing unique earrings, being involved in congregational life at her church, and running.