Prince William Centennials ‘Make Waves’ Via Political Advocacy

| March 28, 2018 | 0 Comments | Community

Sadgi Gill and Gavin Brown protest at the March 25, March for Our Lives. (Photo by Natalie Raunch, courtesy of Gavin Brown.)

From school walkouts to participating in The March for Our Lives, teens from Prince William County have found their voices. The shooting in Parkland was a bellwether moment for many local students, especially Patriot seniors who believed there was an active shooter on campus in October of 2014.

The event had mobilized and energized young people to become more involved in politics, primarily the gun debate but also issues of school safety and mental health.

In Prince William County, politically passionate teens and parents banded together and chartered two buses to D.C. for the march on March 25th.

That Saturday, 106 residents of Prince William County filled two buses that departed from Haymarket, heading to Washington, D.C. They were going to participate in the March for Our Lives anti-gun violence protest.

Patriot senior Gavin Brown was one of the walk organizers along with Megan Black and Olivia Mumma, and he was one of the teens to organize the bus ride.

Brown had a connection to Marjory Stoneman Douglas. He spent the summer attending a student Medicine and Health Forum at John Hopkins University in Baltimore with Alex Barbosa. She is a student Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. Gavin and Alex quickly became a good friend.

When Brown heard the news of the shooting, he worried about Alex, and he realized that gun violence affects more people than he had thought.

Brown’s father is a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army, so he has been around military-style weapons his whole life. But rather than making him pro-gun, it had the opposed effect. Brown said he was in tune with the damage guns can do.

Brown decided to stand up because he wants to stop other tragedies like that which happened in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14. “I don’t want to see a 19-year-old being able to buy a semi-automatic weapon.”

He is not asking people to relinquish their guns. He asks policymakers to ban bump stocks. He would also like to see longer waiting periods and other safeguards so that the government knows that people who purchase guns are of “sound mind.”

Teach Your Parents Well. Photo by Adelle Settle.

Having this conviction, attending the D.C. march was thrilling for him. “[Everyone there was] so supportive of the causes.” He said it made him hopeful for the future.

“I’m actually proud of our generation and what we are doing right now.” He said it is time for Centennials to “stand up for what they believe in.”

The most powerful emotion for him was seeing a speaker get sick on stage, saying she was literally “sickened with emotion.”

He’s also hopeful when he sees students excited to sign up to vote. “I’m seeing our generation starting to step up for what we believe in. I’m sad that it took a traumatic event like Parkland to ignite that flame within us.”

Brown thanked his parents for their support, saying they raised him to think for himself. He recommends students do their own research and come to their own conclusions about political issues. He believes high school students are old enough to form their own opinions.

Kristi Black, a Bristow mom, helped her 17-year-old daughter Megan organize the trip as a way for local teenagers and their parents to attend the march. Soon other adults and their children were able to sign up as well.

Black, who is an applicant for interim Prince William School Board Chairman, helped her daughter stand up for her beliefs even when it meant going up against the school division.

Black is very proud of her daughter and continues to stand in awe of what the students in Parkland were able to accomplish in a little more than a month’s time, which serves as an inspiration to Megan and others.

“I thought it was amazing and inspiring, and it gives me so much hope for our futures.”

She noted her daughter’s generation has gotten so much undue criticism.

“People have tended to think of them as eating Tide Pods, always on their phones, don’t care about each other, don’t care about what’s going on around them. We have raised strong determined, smart kids who do really want to make things better for themselves and the generations coming up behind them.”

“I’m so inspired by them,” she said. Like Brown, she acknowledged how sad it is that a national tragedy was necessary to prompt such a reaction, but she is glad that teens have responded and realized that they can make a difference.

Signs accumulate at the March displaying messages of the protesters. (Photo by Adelle Settle.)

For instance, at the march, some of the students received buttons with the number of year on it for which they will be able to vote. The teens were delighted, she said. Those that were too young to vote in the next few elections were visibly disappointed. No one expected that kind of political involvement from this generation.

“They have found a tangible thing that impacts them directly, and inspire other students to get involved; it’s so amazing.”

Black was up close enough to the stage to hear everything perfectly from the screens and audio systems. She was moved by Emma Gonzale’s speech and minutes of silence, signifying the time it took for the shooter to fire and exit the school, but equally as impressed by how the Parkland students used their platform to shed light on those communities frequently ravaged by gun violence.

“They brought in students from all over the country and really addressed the fact that we have a gun issue and we have students who live in areas where shootings are an everyday occurrence, and they don’t get the media attention in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit; they live with this daily and it affects them just as much.”

“King’s granddaughter (Yolanda Renee King) was amazing,” Black said as well, and 11-year-old Naomi Welder almost brought her to tears.

Black’s message to adults is to not count out teens because they are young. The education they are receiving is excellent and allows them to make an informed decision. Her daughter has already taken five college-level history/social studies classes. She believes the younger generation is more informed than most adults realize.

“I’m hoping that these people who are putting our kids down will start to realize: either stand with them or step aside because they are ready to fix what we were unable to fix, or what we thought we couldn’t fix.”

Her children have differing opinions about gun rights, but she respects both of them. She said will not disregard their opinions because they are young or idealistic.

R-L: Olivia Mumma, Megan Black and Gavin Brown, lead organizers of the Patriot High School walkout stand with other participants. (Photo from SOS-Nova Twitter account.)

“[Some young people] they have this view of what the world should be like. In reality, their view of the world is probably the world we want them to have. Maybe we could have the world that they envision if we would demand it,” she said.

She’s happy her daughter is not waiting her turn to get out there and make a difference. “I was taught not to make waves. I’m really glad I raised a child who said ‘I’m going to make waves.”

Bristow Beat is currently interviewing students who support the 2nd amendment in the gun debate, and we will be bringing you that story next week.


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