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We Call BS: Parkland students join relay race for liberation

Published April 5, 2018 by the St. Louis American
Jamala Rogers

“So my bet is on the young people who are in motion based upon the latest mass shooting. The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have lit a prairie fire.”

This was part of the opening paragraph in my March 5 column, ”Guns, youth and this bettin’ woman.” And the young people didn’t disappoint. The March for our Lives was the convergence of one of the largest marches on record in Washington, D.C. The youth-led march of nearly 800,000 was larger than Trump’s inaugural ceremony as the 45th U.S. president.

The youth from Douglas High in Parkland, Florida did not start anything. Theirs is a cry for justice that is blended with many cries for justice over time. They should understand the soil of this country is soaked with the blood, sweat and tears of many before them, fighting for their own righteous causes.

In the relay race for human liberation, these students have accepted the justice baton for this next leg. Their voices and actions have intensified the public conversation on gun violence.  They have helped to accelerate a change in the hard-core narrative around gun control. The unapologetic stand of youth has loosened up the chokehold of the National Rifle Association (NRA) on the gun control debate.

There have been visible and measurable signs of change regarding gun attitudes, policies and laws since the Valentine Day massacre in Parkland.

In the days after the shooting, Citigroup, Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kroger, LL Bean and REI announced changes in their policies, from ending the sales of guns and ammunition to raising the age of gun sales to terminating relationships with those in the gun business. Delta and United Airlines, along with Hertz, Alamo, Enterprise, National and Avis-Budget, all ended their discount programs for NRA members. The same for MetLife, Paramount RX, Starkey Hearing Technologies, Symantec. No more insurance plans from Lockton Affinity and Chubb Ltd. No more NRA credit cards from Republic Bank or the First Bank of Omaha. Neither Allied Van Line nor North American Van Lines will be moving NRA folks any time, any more.

The Florida Legislature passed a comprehensive school safety bill. The bill must still be signed into law by Republican Governor Rick Scott. Seven other states have tightened up existing gun laws or passed new legislation aimed at improving school safety. We can’t count Trump’s ban on the bump stock because he’s such a two-faced liar.

These results are a good start, but it’s hardly a chink in the armor of the nearly 150-year-old NRA that boasts of 5 million members. With a half-billion-dollar budget, the NRA has the political teeth to eat politicians up and spit ‘em out. It has influenced legislation and launched lawsuits to protects its self-interests, ran candidates and defeated candidates.

The new activists who mobilized the March for Our Lives don’t have a full strategy figured out yet, but I can tell they have been paying attention to the moments around them, like Black Lives Matter. They must be open to constructive criticism about how to move their agenda forward and build an inclusive leadership for their budding crusade.

The chant to call out BS must be fortified with strategic actions. The NRA will not be brought to its knees with chants. These young fighters will need the guidance and support of experienced soldiers in the  relentless battle for justice, racial equity and peace.


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