Finding Our Voice In the April 20th National Walk Out
By Harrison Picallo
As a teenager and person of faith growing up with the reality of gun violence, I have lived with the threat of violence for so long that I felt stripped of the language to even articulate a vision of a world where we can be safe. The most impactful part about the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. was when Emma Gonzalez stood up for 6 minutes and 20 seconds in silence. In our culture of constant stimulation and noise, the idea of raw, unfiltered silence is, well, unheard of. Yet in the uncomfortable silence many found a voice, a way to articulate what is inarticulable. The new anti-gun violence movement that so many of us have joined has given us the courage say “enough” and given us a voice capable of describing a world free of gun violence.
Our voice will cry out again on the April 20th National Walkout in commemoration of the Columbine shooting that happened nineteen years ago.
I have never known a world without lockdown drills and each mass shooting was followed by a week of hearts and prayers that faded into the abyss that is the 24/hour news cycle. The students of today won’t stop at hearts and prayers, and we are making our voices heard for more than just a moment. But the most important change is the use of our platform to bring in more voices. As our movement grows we are listening again to the voices of others, including Columbine survivor Amalia Fernand and Pulse survivor Christopher Hansen. Once ignored voices are joining together, calling for action that will change the world.
In collaborating with those affected in Columbine and other mass shootings, student activists are fighting for specific outcomes we believe will make a difference including greater background checks, funding restorative justice programs, and the demilitarization of police. We have used the voices of the past to create a greater future, and this future begins on April 20th when the National Walkout begins. On this day students will walk out of their schools all around the country, and student activists and guest speakers will bring their unique pulpit to the people and show the NRA that they can’t hold us down any longer.
As a student organizer that helped my school walkout on March 14th and is helping to plan the walkout on April 20th, I have great respect for the efforts from the students from Parkland in their ability to take a traumatic event and use it as a force for good. Their ability to unite many voices is inspiring, and in NYC we are working to also include the voices of those who have been working to stop gun violence in the city for longer than many of us have been alive, such as Chris Lane from “Guns Down, Life Up” or those who are affected by gun violence in much more direct ways then we are. We are using our platform to amplify their voices, so that the world can hear that we are still here and we will continue to fight until the good fight has been fought. Only when we have created the language to describe our unique oppression can we “fight the good fight”, and with this new wave of student protests coming up it looks like that is beginning to happen.
Harrison Picallo is a 10th grader at Brooklyn Technical High School and on the Debate Team. He is an organizer of NYC Says Enough student movement against gun violence, and he is the youth liaison for the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church Board.