My Experience at a Youth Organizing Summit in D.C.

Veterans Day weekend 2019 goes down in the books as one of the most enriching weekends of my life. Now, I understand that’s a bold statement. However, I was invited to attend a youth organizing summit in Washington D.C that centered around the topic of gun violence prevention.

This summit, hosted by an organization called Not My Generation, brought gun violence prevention activists from across the United States to find ways to tackle this epidemic. The summit delved into topics like diversity and inclusion, intersectionality, coalition building and more.  

I wanted to share how I got started with the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement, my experience at the summit, and what steps I am going to take moving forward.

Getting Started

Politics was never something I cared for or understood before February 14, 2018. On that tragic day, a school twenty minutes from my house went on to become a nationally-known name for the events that occurred on Valentine’s Day. Although many people have heard the name Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, what happened that day hit close to home, both physically and emotionally.

The Parkland community rose up and formed a movement that shook the entire country. This was personal to me and something I knew I needed to get involved in. It wasn’t a matter of looking good for the media, it was a matter of life and death, of actively working to ensure this did not happen to other people.

Once known as the safest city in Florida, I was appalled that a tragedy like this could hit Parkland. I grew to realize that gun violence affects every community, whether it's direct or indirect. It was something that needed to end.

Attending the Summit

The passion that I have to end gun violence led me to organizations like March For Our Lives, NextGen Florida, and Not My Generation (NMG). When I first heard about Not My Generation, I had doubts that I would be chosen to attend their summit in the nation’s capital. However, I took a leap and sent in my application to attend. I got in.

I flew to Washington D.C and was taken to the summit shortly after arriving at the hotel. On Friday, my first day there, I met many of the other young adults looking to end this epidemic. They came from different states and had different stories, but the main reason they were there remained the same: to learn from others and combat gun violence.

The entire summit was full of workshops, coalition-building events and guest speakers. I attended workshops that spoke on the relationship between gun violence and mental health, how to effectively use social media to spread the message of gun violence prevention, and how to better understand the intersectionality of the movement.

I also had the best opportunity to build a coalition with those in my state (Christopher and Mae were fantastic to work with), those in the Southeast and others from around the United States (the Madison, Wisconsin team has my heart).

The Rest is History

Every single lesson I learned from the summit will be taken with me. In fact, some of the other activists and I have begun writing an op-ed to be published in local newspapers across the country; we are planning statewide summits and visits to state capitals and forming deeper connections and partnerships in our communities.

However, the movement continues. Change is constant and it is important to evolve with new ways of ending gun violence and creating long-lasting change.

I hope that with this article, you could gain some inspiration to make your community just a bit better than it was yesterday. You don’t have to attend a gun violence prevention summit in D.C to do that. Instead, you can make small changes in the community that will impact many people and form a safer world to live in.

Images: All images provided by the author.