March For Our Lives Boston

“I’m not into politics” is one of the most privileged sentences a person can say and it used to be one of my favorites. It means I’m lucky that I’ve grown up so sheltered, and comfortable that I felt none of the issues in our world affected me enough to get involved. Plus, speaking out for a cause felt freaking scary – you can’t even voice an opinion about one of Justin Bieber’s tattoos without being bombarded by hate tweets from either side.

But the current gun violence movement finally broke me.

I’m an Irish-Australian student spending an exchange semester in Boston. I love America and I love going to college here. To put it simply, it’s the best experience I’ve ever had, but a lot of friends back home are worried about me. It’s not unusual for me to get messages asking if I feel safe, if I’m worried there’ll be an incident at my school, if I know what to do if 'something’ happens. Their concern wasn’t something I could easily brush off.

And then there was the very public bravery of the Parkland students. Despite their grief and trauma, these children (yep, they’re not even 18 yet) were willing to fight, without question and without backing down to personal attacks from grown men and women in positions of power. The students of Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School kept speaking out and the massacre of 14 students and three teachers on Valentine’s Day didn’t fade to the back pages of newspapers. It wasn’t treated as an unfortunate incident, something that just happens sometimes even though it happens so frequently in the US. The outrage of the world, the calls of "enough is enough" and "never again" made me realise it wasn’t just OK to speak up – it was necessary.

But I still wasn’t sure if it was something I, a non-American who can’t vote in this country, should be so public about. Sure, I’d made some donations and signed petitions, but I still wandered into Boston on Saturday March 24, the day March For Our Lives protests were held around the world, more curious than intent on getting involved. Honestly, I was worried ‘something’ would happen at the march.

                                                                                                              Courtesy of Yazmine Lomax

What I saw nearly brought me to tears immediately. Bostonians of all ages had gathered in the city to demand their very own safety; there were outraged high school and college students who’ll be old enough to vote in the next election, tiny children who already have to do active shooter drills at their schools, and the older generation standing proudly with the next. Like their chants, some of the signs were funny while others spoke the startling facts, voiced indignation, or put a powerful human face to the statistics we see on the news.

I was still nervous, still finding my feet, but I ended up marching a small portion of the way. I’ll forever be inspired by the bravery and activism I saw that day, and those who stayed up late the night before crafting signs, marched for hours, and gathered in their thousands at the Commons.

The footage I saw of the D.C. march also touched me. I’ll never forget crying in my apartment while watching the crowd sing along with Miley Cyrus’s "The Climb," the ambient support from the crowd during Emma Gonzalez’s six minute and twenty second speech (the length of the Parkland shooting) and the significance of Martin Luther King Jr’s granddaughter delivering a variation of his message today.  

                                                                                                                     Courtesy of Yazmine Lomax

The day wasn’t about me. Not even close. But it changed me. It taught me that I can’t close my eyes to any of the problems in our world and I need to start using my voice.

The day felt big. It felt important. It felt like change.