Voice of the Youth
Sarah Chadwick, junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and survivor of the Parkland school shooting.
One of the founding members of the March For Our Lives campaign. Known for calling out President Trump via Twitter angered by his inaction to the gun control issue. She and her peers have worked day and night to organize a march, speak to their local representatives, and start a non profit dedicated to voter education. She urged that the work she and her fellow students have done was their work alone, this is a movement by the kids for the safety of everyone.
Sarah also uses her voice to bring attention to gun violence that has been happening in Chicago but has little media coverage because of it's minority residents.
I sat down with her and asked her about the March, plans for the future, and personal inspiration when it comes to activism. Here is what she had to say below.
Many people around the country have been impressed by the way Sarah and her fellow classmates have been speaking out against their representatives. Surprised by the fact that people their age actually are eloquent and have handled their criticisms well.
After the shooting she and fellow members of the March for our Lives movement quickly rose to action. Working day and night, with little sleep, to put together the march. Something Sarah made very clear was this movement was made by kids. "We are all students and this is a grassroots movement, we started this from the ground up. As much as this seems adults may be behind this, they're not. It's completely us and it's really stressful but worth it to show that students can make a change.".
"Students can make a change."
While discussing the march, Sarah began to mention the many locations that were going to host the march. " It obviously shows that what we are preaching is going out to the entire world, even though many of these countries might not have gun issues like we do, they recognize we do and they want to march to show their solidarity that they understand and that they are sorry for us." More than 800,000 people showed up to the march in D.C. alone and millions around the world. The impact Sarah and her classmates have made is unbelievable.
Along with many of Sarah's followers I was really interested to know more about her personally. Like what her future plans are and her current activist inspirations. "It's actually kinda funny" Sarahs jokingly says when I asked about her plans for the future. "Before this happened I was going to major in Business but now I am completely leaning towards political science or international business." But for now she has to juggle high school and activism.
"Everyone has a voice it just depends on how loud you scream and who is listening."
Sarah has received thousands of direct messages on twitter from people who support her and the movement. Sarah's messages have reached full capacity but she still tries her best to go through and read each message. Some from students who told her they organized a walk out for their school and others thanking her for her action. " It empowers us to known we are giving people who never thought they could had a voice a platform and that they are now speaking out. Everyone has a voice it just depends on how loud you scream and who is listening."
Sarah was one of the first students to bring awareness to the gun violence that has been occurring in Chicago. The Parkland students have been under heat as of recently because of their praise for speaking out has gotten so much national attention when other movements like Black Lives Matter have been doing the same as them but get no coverage. March for Our Lives and Parkland survivors have acknowledged this and have used their new platform to amplify the messages of those who have been fighting for years with no progress.
Emma González hosted students from inner city Chicago to listen to their stories. We also saw them speak in D.C. at the march and give inspirational speeches. By meeting with them Sarah learned that these kids are affected by gun violence every single day and the media has not been covering this issue.
"Their moms, dads, uncles, and cousins killed daily by gun violence and it is so unfortunate. We knew about the gun violence in Chicago but we really wanted to hear their personal stories. We had to suffer through gun violence for one day and it was horrible and people lost their lives but people in Chicago have to suffer through it every single day. We know the majority of us are white and the media likes to pay attention to us so we realized if we could use this privilege that we have, white privilege, to amplify the voices of minorities then we are going to do it because they suffer through this as much as we do, even more or so, and make sure their voices are heard." She then added "It is not fair that people are only listening to us when so many others have so much more to say.
The Parkland student have recognized that there is gun violence in other parts of America like Compton, Chicago, & Harlem. They want to make sure their voices are heard just as much as theirs are.
If you follow Sarah on social media you have seen her journey that started out with calling out Donald Trump to going to Tallahassee (Florida's capitol) to discussion panels to interviews and finally a speaker at the March she helped make possible.
In just one month Sarah went from a normal teenager in high school to a world wide known activist for gun control. But before the tragic event happened, Sarah admits she has been speaking out against injustices on social media, but now she just has a larger platform and an audience that will listen.
"Before this I was really in focus with feminism, black lives matter, DACA movement, and Dreamers. It's always had a close part of my heart" She now has over 300k followers on twitter who will listen to what she has to say. She is happy to use her new platform to speak out against these issues and make a change.
"We are educating each other and look where it got us, the head of a movement. "
I was also intrigued to learn who inspired her as far as activism goes. When asked Sarah claimed there were so many to choose from. She is now an activist herself and I wanted to know what she has drawn from her inspirations and used as apart of her own activism.
"One of my favorite activist is actually an actress, Rowan Blanchard. She is an amazing person, feminist, and activist. She has advocated for the LGBTQ+." Sarah Met with her idol Rowan in New York City where they were both speakers at Diane von Furstenberg's International Women's Day celebration panel. After the panel they have become friends which Sarah added " It is amazing to be friends with someone who has taught you so much and looked up to even though she is younger than me, she is so well spoken and has a powerful voice."
Another activist that has taught and inspired Sarah is Lauren Jauregui from Fifth Harmony. " She stands up for dreamers, she stands up for feminism, LGBTQ+, gun control and I have always looked up to her. Jaurengui has followed Sarah since she first spoke out against Trump and they shared a few brief words through Twitter.
"I learned all my activism through other teenagers online, obviously not through adults or textbooks because they don't teach you that. " It was all about learning through twitter, instagram, reading articles if someone posted about it. We are educating each other and look where it got us, the head of a movement. "
"We are your future, we are your voters."
I finished up the interview with one last question. How do you think this movement will be different from others? Sarah again mentioned how this movement is made by students who had first hand experience with gun violence.
"What mostly happens after shootings is people say this isn't the time to talk about gun control, this is the time to pray and mourn. We were out there for hours demanding this is the time we talk about guns. I think it's important to recognize that we are spear heading this movement and we were in that building and we believed it is time to talk about guns hours after it happened."
Many students involved in the movement are 16 - 18 years old and found they are going to vote in order to make a change. Once they realized how much impact that would have Sarah and others in the movement decided they want to educate others on how to vote and who to vote for.
"We are staring a movement that is going to educate voters. We are your future, we are your voters and we will be voting as soon as mid terms. So that is scaring politicians because they are looking at this and seeing the young people in this movement are voting soon.... Sarah jokingly adds "and they don't like us?!".
Sarah and her friends are starting a non profit that focuses on voter education. The idea behind it is " You can either agree with us or get voted out. We have the voice, the chance, and the platform and we are going to make sure it keeps moving up and up and up.".
It was an educational and inspiring experience to be able to sit down with Sarah and discuss gun control, her inspirations and future plans, and her helping hand in a movement that has caught the attention of the whole world. Sarah and her friends have made history and I cannot wait to see what they all have in store for the future because they are our future leaders. I believe it is important to discuss and fight for social injustices. But I also believe it is more important for the youth to have a voice because they have been silenced for so long. Well not anymore, change is here.