A group of Frederick High School students are using a popular children’s art device to inject their voice into the gun violence conversation.
Each night this week, students have gathered downtown at the Baker Park gazebo and local houses of worship and used chalk to write names of victims of gun violence, gun violence statistics and anti-gun-violence slogans to raise awareness.
“We chose chalk, because there’s an innocence to chalk,” said Frederick High sophomore Sydney Robinson. “Kids use chalk to play with. And we’re innocent. We can’t vote yet, but we wanted to make our voice heard.”
The students, largely empowered by student voices from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after the mass shooting that occurred there Feb. 14, got permission from local churches and police to put their artwork on church steps and sidewalks.
On Sunday night, they posted the names of the 32 victims of the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, as a reminder of the anniversary of the attack, which was Monday.
On Thursday night, they wrote the names of victims of the Columbine High School massacre, and the Parkland shooting on the steps of Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ, along with the phrase, “You can’t change the past, but you can change the future.”
Friday is the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, where two shooters killed 12 students and a teacher and injured 21 other people in 1999.
“They’re not routine, but they’re happening enough that I think a lot of people are becoming desensitized to it,” sophomore Hannah Whang said. “And we need to do something more than just mourn and pray for the victims.”
So the students, in groups as few as two and as many as 10, hope their artwork will push people to get involved in the conversation to take action to reduce gun violence.
Although the students participated in the national walkouts on March 14, they felt the conversation was starting to slow down, since the Parkland shooting more than two months ago. There were also people being left out of the conversation.
“At Frederick, we obviously have a very diverse community, and people don’t really acknowledge that black kids are 10 times more likely to die by gun violence than white kids,” Robinson said. “We want minority communities and minority voices to be a part of the conversation and have their voices heard.”
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 is the first mass shooting that most of these students remember, Robinson said. She was 9. When she got home from school, her father told her she wasn’t allowed to turn the television on until he got home to talk to her. He “watered down” the conversation but told her what had happened.
Now, the conversations Robinson has have changed.
“He’s mostly just giving me tips to stay alive,” Robinson said. “In case something like that happens.”
Whang said she fears for her mother, who is a teacher. She never used to worry about a potential shooting threat.
“Now she has all of these plans for what to do if something happens,” she added. “It’s scary it’s come to that point.”