Chicago Group Joins Parkland Survivors To Address Gun Violence

Feb 14, 2019
Originally published on February 14, 2019 6:59 am
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We are marking one year since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A movement was born out of that tragedy, "March For Our Lives." And as it grew nationwide, it began to partner with other anti-violence groups, like the Peace Warriors from the city of Chicago. Their executive director is a 19-year-old named D'Angelo McDade. And he spoke at last year's "March For Our Lives" rally in Washington, D.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

D'ANGELO MCDADE: We are survivors of a cruel and silent nation, a nation where freedom, justice, equality and purpose is not upheld.

GREENE: D'Angelo was brought to activism after he and a family member were shot by a guy who was just walking by as they were sitting on their front porch. When I reached him by phone in Chicago, I asked D'Angelo how he wound up working with the students from Parkland, Fla.

MCDADE: Two days after the shooting happened, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called us. And he says, hey, how would you guys like to go to Parkland? I said, Parkland where? Parkland, Fla. I said, I have never heard of it. He says, my apologies. It's in Fort Lauderdale. He says, there is some work that needs to be done with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students. There's 17 individuals who were shot. And my immediate response was, let's go.

GREENE: You and the Parkland students come from very different places and very different experiences. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MCDADE: Most definitely. In the city of Chicago, gun violence happens every single day. It is as common as your doorbell ringing. In Parkland, their one school shooting, compared to the everyday shootings in Chicago, brought worldwide, international attention, while in Chicago, we've been begging for support, we've been begging for help. And seeing how the attention went straight to Parkland after this one shooting, one, it was not a form of jealousy, but it was a form of, why couldn't this happen in my community?

GREENE: Did you talk to the students in Florida about that feeling?

MCDADE: We did. We talked about it. And we've come to this thing, of, a life lost is a life lost. The value of Parkland lives versus Chicago lives are no more, no less.

GREENE: The students in Florida have become such strong advocates for gun control measures since the massacre they went through. What do you think of policy and gun control as a way to prevent gun violence?

MCDADE: I believe it plays a vital role. However, just institutionalizing gun regulation in itself would not stop gun violence within the city of Chicago. Due to the impacts of school-to-prison pipelines, due to the impact of low unemployment rates, when we notice the increase in those areas, we'll notice a decrease in the amount of gun violence occurring. Now, don't get me wrong. I am an advocate, right alongside my "March For Our Lives" partners. But we have a lot more work to do than just gun regulation.

GREENE: Do you worry that a focus on gun regulation, could that have a negative effect in terms of ignoring some of the other, deeper problems that affect communities like yours?

MCDADE: In all honesty, I believe so. The detrimental aspect is we're going to institutionalize more policies that criminalize African-American men or African-American people in general who want carry in the city of Chicago. And when we implement gun regulation, how are we going to conform that one policy to the different demographics, as well as the different communities, we're institutionalizing it in?

GREENE: And what is your message to your partners and your fellow - you know, fellow young people in Florida as they've been pushing for these policies?

MCDADE: My message has always been the same. And it is, we will win. The young people will win. But we have to understand the communities we are working with and we're serving before we try to make policies for them.

GREENE: So as this anniversary takes place, I mean, there's going to be a lot of focus on Florida again. Tell me what you're reflecting on as this anniversary happens.

MCDADE: As this anniversary happens, I'm reflecting on three things. The first - when we got to Parkland, the silence in front of the school, where you can see the parents standing and kneeling in front of their children's crosses. The second - going to the home of Emma Gonzalez, having her to openly welcome us into our home, and meeting the rest of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students. And thirdly, working to reform gun violence, and what has happened in only a year.

Just think about it. It's in correlation with the 1960 Children's March. Who knew that the young people would be the secret weapon to reforming our nation? No one ever expected it.

GREENE: You're a really impressive young man, D'Angelo. I'm really glad I had the chance to talk to you.

MCDADE: It's all in pleasure of keeping this movement moving forward.

GREENE: That was D'Angelo McDade. He is the executive director of the Peace Warriors, an anti-violence organization in Chicago. He is 19 years old. And speaking of young voices, ever since the shooting here in Broward County, Fla., in Parkland, NPR has been reaching out to high schoolers around the country to talk about their views on guns, and here are a few of their voices.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ASHLEY COURNEYA: Guns are a big part of our culture in America.

(SOUNDBITE OF BATTLE SCENE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Fire.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNS FIRING BULLETS)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Hands up. Don't shoot. Hands up. Don't shoot. Hands up.

DAN RUETHER-AFFOR: I feel like America is infatuated with guns.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SUDDEN IMPACT")

CLINT EASTWOOD: (As Harry Callahan) Go ahead. Make my day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVID HOGG: I would describe our relationship with guns as one that's unlike any other in any other country around the world.

ALEX KING: People feel like guns give them power, to give them some type of higher up.

MARIAH THOMAS: A girl in our group coined the term, lockdown generation. No other generation has had this fear. We've dealt with it our whole lives.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAM KING: I feel sort of defensive about it, that I own guns. Like, hey, like, I'm not doing this stuff. What about the, like, responsible, like, middle-of-the-road people?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

VICTORIA TIDBALL: We're the next generation that's going to kind of take over everything. Like, to listen to, like, what we think should happen next is important because that's the only way for us all to grow as, like, a country.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: Those were the voices of Ashley Courneya, Dan Ruether-Affor, David Hogg, Alex King, Mariah Thomas, Sam King and Victoria Tidball. They're among the voices in a video produced by NPR, and you can watch that video in full at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.