by Minerva M, BFS Class of 2019
On May 9th, 2018, Brooklyn private schools Packer, Saint Ann’s, Berkeley Carroll, Mary McDowell Friends and Brooklyn Friends came together at 116 Lawrence Street to hold an event called Brooklyn in Solidarity: A Movement for Safety and Justice in all Communities. In a productive and inclusive learning environment, the event sought to engage participants in taking action around gun control from an intersectional lens, in particular recognizing the complexities of the issue and elevating the voices of low-income communities of color who have been most intensely impacted by gun violence. A combination of students and faculty from all five schools organized the event through a few months of meetings and connections to potential partner organizations. Community partners who attended the event included Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YOSOS), Theater of the Oppressed NYC, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the New York Civil Liberties Union Listening Room, NYC Says Enough, and The Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women.
The event featured a performance by high schoolers in Theater of the Oppressed NYC, which was an interactive play that highlighted actions that individuals can take in their everyday lives to combat gun violence, among other community issues.
We also heard a song that high school students in YOSOS created about the issue and watched a mini documentary that they shared.
These pieces were carefully thought-out and it was empowering to see youth so committed to an issue of such importance to them. There were also interactive stations for creating protest posters and writing letters to representatives for stricter gun control laws, as well as a panel featuring several students, all young black women from local public and private schools who spoke powerfully about their experiences with advocacy and gun control.
The evening left many of us with new insights and a sense of unity. 9th grader Kayla reflected that “The discussions that took place were great and it was very nice to hear people share their feelings and ideas around gun violence and keeping people safe.” As 8th grader Lily B. commented, some participants pointed out the difference between“allyship” vs. “accompliceship.” That is, the difference between showcasing support for a struggle from afar rather than involving oneself in action against the issue to the same extent that they would had the struggle impacted them personally. An emphasis was placed on the responsibility of everyone – including those not directly affected by a particular issue – to resist oppression.
One of our partners, Alyssa Postman Putzel, at NYC Moms Demand Action shared the following:
“It was our pleasure to come to your event and support the students. We are honored to be partners with them, and with you, in this movement. Last night, I heard one of our volunteers, who is also a survivor of gun violence, describe the gun violence prevention movement right now as a wave that is cresting. The students are the force who will bring that wave crashing down, and we are just happy to be able to do our part to provide a foundation for them to do so.”
In order to continue the impactful work that went into the evening of May 9th, a message was sent to Brooklyn in Solidarity participants after the event, which included details about ongoing opportunities for action. The content of that message is included below.
A core mission of our coming together was to take collective action and share resources to continue to address gun violence and work towards safe and just communities. Please check out the upcoming events and awesome initiatives by our community partners:
- Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets is a project of the Crown Heights Mediation Center. There are lots of amazing events coming up throughout May and June – check them out here. Youth especially, check out their Arts to End Violence Opening Night Show on May 24th and the Increase the Peace Community Youth Symposium on June 16th.
- NYC Says Enough is a coalition of youth activists working to support common sense gun laws. Get involved by checking out the NYC Says Enough Website.
- The Theatre of the Oppressed NYC has workshops and events all throughout the Spring in Brooklyn and beyond. Get involved in a workshop or attend an event to learn and take action on important community issues.
- Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America encourages all of us to continue contacting legislators to support an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) Bill, or “Red-Flag Law,” in New York State. This bill has passed the New York State Assembly and will be voted on next in the Senate. Feel free to use these sentence starters when emailing or writing a postcard to your senator! A contact list for NY State Senators can be found here.
- The Listening Room campaign of the New York Civil Liberties Union is a series of free neighborhood pop-ups that facilitate conversations about policing in our communities. Listening Rooms appear across the five boroughs, inviting New Yorkers to share their stories, listen to each other, and to imagine the kind of policing we want. Click here for a set of Conversation Cards designed to guide you and a partner or group through difficult conversations about policing in NYC. Upcoming Listening Rooms will also take place at the following times if you want to bring friends or family members to participate:
- May 15th @ 9:00 am-5:00 pm – Carl Schurz Park – East 86th Street & East End Ave, New York, NY
- May 31st @ 12:00 pm-8:00 pm – Union Square Park – North Plaza, New York, NY
- June 11th @ 11:00 am-5:00 pm – Washington Square Park – Garibauldi Plaza, New York, NY
We are grateful to the amazing group of student leaders from our five schools and the incredible community partners. We appreciate everyone engaging in such a powerful evening of building community, learning about the ways that young people are taking agency to end violence in their communities, and coming together in solidarity to take accountable action.
Berkeley Carroll School – Bella O., Tamiya F. (Advisor: Matt Budd)
Brooklyn Friends School – Minerva M., Sarah Y., Kayla N., Serena G., Logan H., Kayla N., Joelle V. (Advisor: Natania Kremer)
Mary McDowell Friends School – Sarah R., Scott R., Emma B. (Advisor: Candace Holmes)
Packer Collegiate Institute – Dakota C. and Drew M. (Advisor: Tené Howard)
Saint Ann’s School – Kaia B.P, Toby B., Lucy S., Gabby C. (Advisor: Diane Gnagnarelli)