Students organize rally to condemn gun violence
Student coordinators of the Brandeis #NeverAgain movement held a rally for gun control legislation at the Light of Reason on Friday.
“The date of this walkout coincides with a national school walkout to commemorate the anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999,” co-coordinator Renee Korgood ’20 told the crowd.
“We wanted to hold an event that supported the walkouts while simultaneously energizing students here.”
In an email to the Brandeis student population, Student Union President Jacob Edelman ’18 encouraged students to attend the event, writing, “Whatever your political preferences, I encourage you to engage with a political climate that is particularly receptive to hearing students’ voices.”
In an interview with the Justice, Korgood explained that the event coordinators wanted to “use this moment right before students go back to their homes to build momentum going into the summer.” Another important aspect of the event, according to Korgood, was to represent “all different perspectives of gun violence.”
Speakers at the event hailed from both inside and outside the Brandeis community. Brandeis alum Kristine Mackin Ph.D ’14, the Brandeis Slam Team Poetic Justice and several current Brandeis students and organizers of Brandeis #NeverAgain took to the podium to speak on matters relating to gun violence.
Mackin encouraged students to vote. During her time at Brandeis she participated in activism relating to gun violence, and she currently serves on the Waltham City Council.
She said, “The most important thing I want all of you to take away from today … [is] that your actions only turn into policy when you make yourselves heard at the ballot box.” Mackin observed, “We thought [Columbine] was an anomaly; surely, nothing like this could happen again, not to us — not here. We were wrong and nothing changed.”
Mackin continued to list national shootings since Columbine, repeating, “And nothing changed.” In a statement to the Justice, Mackin added that the reason she participated in Brandeis’ rally was because she hoped to “amplify the message of the students and other speakers.”
“I’m committed to the social justice mission Brandeis students exemplify,” she continued. “My public position carries with it a responsibility to help lift up the voices of people who would otherwise not be heard.”
Several Brandeis students — both those previously engaged with Brandeis #NeverAgain and those with no previous direct ties to the student coalition — also spoke at the rally.
Each student speaker brought anecdotes, official statistics and personal messages to highlight various aspects and effects of gun violence. Korgood emphasized in her interview with the Justice that it was “really important that this event focus[ed] on young people and their perspectives and their energy into making change.”
Victoria Richardson’s ’20 motivation to participate in the rally stemmed from her experiences as a woman of color. In an statement to the Justice, Richardson shared that growing up, her school and neighborhood were both over-policed, causing her “fear of the police as a Black woman.”
Richardson continued that she has “lost more people than I can count to gun violence, but I’ve lost two people who are very dear to me [by] self-inflicted gun violence.” At 11 years old, Richardson lost a close friend to gun suicide and, most recently, lost “the very person who inspired me to start writing poetry in the first place.”
For Julianna Scionti ’20, her love for her autistic younger brother motivated her to speak at the rally. In an email to the Justice, Scionti shared, “I have read and watched many people generate arguments as to why we shouldn’t arm teachers and none of the arguments … talked about my worry of deadly force being used on students of special needs.”
Jordan Mudd ’20, an organizer for Brandeis Climate Justice, explained in an email to the Justice that although he is not an active member of Brandeis #NeverAgain, he is “supportive of students taking collective action.” He added that he “believe[s] there are many opportunities for collaboration between those who oppose climate change and those who take a comprehensive stance against our system of gun violence.”
In his speech, Mudd called for “coalitions across movements” that can more “effectively fight towards the liberation of all people.”
Sagie Tvizer ’19 built on this view of gun violence in his speech, saying, “The solution to gun violence is comprehensive. It involves confronting the carceral state. Ending the war on drugs. Recognizing the structures which deprive people of their humanity, steering them towards crime.”
He continued, “I, along with others … [am] meeting and talking about how to bring together an intersectional group of student leaders in the coming weeks and months — to continue to build community, to find ways to use our activism to create lasting change.”
In an email to the Justice, speaker Susannah Miller ’19 noted that she wanted to “add to the intersectionality of the event and make sure that people interested in the movement had a chance to consider how issues of gun violence can particularly affect women.”
Additional student speakers included Josh Moll ’19, Leah Sagan-Dworsky ’21, Roland Blanding ’21, Victoria Richardson ’20, Kwesi Jones ’21 and Shaquan McDowell ’18. Activists Charlotte Lowell and Ned Notis-McConarty of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence also contributed.
Moving forward, the coalition of students who organized the rally expressed their interest in creating or collaborating on another event. In a word of encouragement and support to fellow Brandeis students, Tvizer declared, “Let us not be be guided by privilege. Let us be guided by the light of reason. Let our minds be bold, learning from our namesake Louis D. Brandeis.”
—Abby Patkin, Eliana Padwa, Jen Geller and Michelle Dang contributed reporting.
—Editor’s note: Julianna Scionti ’20 is a cartoonist for the Justice. Roland Blanding ’21 is a contributing writer for the Justice.