While in college, you meet a diverse amount of people. However, some of these people you will get to know better and be in awe of their accomplishments and involvement. That is how Taylor would describe her relationship and background with Alyssa Ackbar. Alyssa is a sophomore at Florida State University studying International Affairs. She is involved in many things on campus, including the Honors Student Association and FSU’s chapter of March for Our Lives (MFOL), which she founded!
Her Campus (HC): So, you are significantly involved with MFOL at Florida State and the state level. What positions do you currently hold within these organizations?
Alyssa Ackbar (AA): I have been the State Director for MFOL in Florida for a little over a year. Within this role, I help to manage and direct our Florida-based chapters. At FSU, I have been trying to establish the chapter here in Tallahassee and establish the link between Florida State as a university and gun violence within the local Tallahassee community. It is new, and, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still trying to adapt to how our organization will work virtually.
HC: Obviously, to want to bring a chapter to FSU and be State Director, you must have a strong belief in the cause and the organization, so what initially made you passionate about gun violence advocacy and MFOL?
AA: For a lot of us within MFOL, the Parkland Shooting in 2018 was a sort of catalyst for involvement, but it was not the first time that we experienced or saw gun violence within our communities. For me, it was the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016. It was the largest mass shooting in American history, and it predominately affected queer people of color. The Pulse shooting was the first time that I looked at the news and wondered why nobody was doing anything about this problem, specifically why are our legislators not enacting legislation that keeps us safe?
HC: It is clear that you are passionate about MFOL and other issues within our society, which is fantastic, but how important do you think activism is to your identity?
AA: It is a huge part of who I am. If the Parkland Shooting had never occurred and MFOL had never been created, I know that I would have ended up getting involved in some movement!
HC: How would you recommend people get involved with issues and movements within our society that interest them?
AA: I say people should reach out to organizations that are already doing the work. I have seen a tendency in young people to start their own organization, but if you look in your community, there is most likely an organization that is already doing some or all of the work that you want to do, so reach out and ask how you can help! They are always looking for new leaders and new talent, so don’t be afraid to ask!
HC: Along the same lines as the last question, how would you recommend for FSU students to get involved with MFOL on campus?
AA: As I mentioned before, we are still adapting to the new restrictions and realities of COVID-19. I would recommend that someone interested should follow our Instagram account (@mfolfsu) to keep up with us.
HC: We are politically at a crucial time, with elections coming up in November. Are there any specific things people should be aware of before going to the polls regarding MFOL or in general?
AA: In general, we want people to go out and vote. No, voting is not the end all be all of the gun violence or these systemic issues that we are talking about, but voting is a tool in our toolbox. Imagine the difference we could make if we put more people in positions of power that were more prone to listening to us. So, go out and vote and not just for the presidential election! There are tons of people at the local level who will affect how you live and how issues you care about are addressed locally. I would also recommend looking into Tallahassee or your local commission meetings or city council meetings. These are the people voting on issues like whether or not money will be going towards our community or the police force. The Tallahassee Community Action Committee is also another great resource in Tallahassee.
HC: That was my last question, but is there anything else that you would like to say to those reading and the Tallahassee community?
AA: I would like to remind people that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. We have an obligation to our FSU community and the Tallahassee community to be responsible. Tallahassee is not just a place where people go to school. This city is one of the poorest zip codes in Florida and only has two hospitals treating COVID. So, wear a d*mn mask. Wash your hands. Don’t go out to unsafe and unnecessary social gatherings, because ultimately it is not going to affect only you or your fellow privileged college students, but also the Tallahassee community at large.