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TOMS: End Gun Violence Together Rally

TOMS is a popular nonprofit company founded in 2006. The brand began with shoes and has expanded tremendously having a variety of shoe styles and other clothing products. Founder Blake Mycoskie, a Texas native, bases the company from Playa Del Ray, California. Upon the companies initial founding, the standard quote was “One for One." The idea behind this was, for each pair of TOMS purchased, a pair would then be given to someone in need. Since this initial foundation that still stands, Mycoskie has gotten involved with the issue of gun violence in America.

As a part of the tour that TOMS has taken to raise awareness throughout the country, they hosted a rally at Union Market in Washington D.C. on Feb. 11. Opening up the program, Blake described the phone call that made him want to take serious action on the growing issue of gun violence occurring in the United States. He explained how in early November, he got a phone call from his wife discussing the Thousand Oaks shooting that just occurred in close proximity to the family’s residence. She was nervous and not able to take their young son to school that day due to the fear she had and the state of alarm the area was in at this time. After that phone call, Blake promoted his company to take this issue seriously. The company began this endeavor by donating millions of dollars to other organizations already in support of this issue and then by advocating for universal background checks. By taking initiative on the calling of greater background check, it made it easier for them to get involved due to this not being a strict politics only issue.

The event was free to the public, held on a first come first serve basis until the venue hit capacity. It included speakers of all ages such as; MLK the 3rd, his daughter, poet Cleo Wade, actor Taye Diggs and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. Other congressional officials, young activists and families spoke out of the experience of this happening to them and there was a featured performance by activist/rapper Vic Mensa. The diverse choice of speakers, various methods of speech, musical and artistic influence made this experience insanely special. It was a positive, inspirational and extremely heartfelt experience. Following this impactful rally, the next day the work did not stop. On the morning of Feb. 12, TOMS hosted a volunteer breakfast and training to advocate for legislation on Capitol Hill. The event lasted from 9:00 a.m. until noon including food, welcoming and meetings with a number of representatives.

Seeing an extremely successful corporate company take this initiative on such a widespread issue keeps me hopeful. In such a grey area of politics, things seem so negative all around but seeing data that included the number of people per state supporting TOMS, other organizations on this issue as well as writing postcards to representatives was super encouraging. I cannot wait to see where TOMS goes on their journey and I cannot wait to see the change that is being made slowly every single day.

Photo was taken by the author, Aja Moore.

Aja is a Junior at VCU studying Political Science. She loves going to brunch, working out, healthy eating and is overly obessed with the Kardashians & her three dogs (Cooper, Bentley and Lulu). You can follow her on Instagram @ajaerinmo!
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