This Saturday marked the international rally for gun control, The March for Our Lives. An estimated 850,000 people took on the streets of Washington D.C. to voice their concerns, and many others participated in sister marches around the world. I was one of the many that took to Washington on Saturday, and it was one of the most powerful experiences I've ever been a part of.
The trip began on Thursday morning when I was picked up by a friend at Florida Gulf Coast University and started the four-hour journey to UF. The ride was marked by singing along to Chance The Rapper and drinking copious amounts of Mountain Dew Kickstart to keep our energy up. Once we got to UF and picked up two of our friends, we began the eight-hour drive to North Carolina, where we would be spending the night at a friend's house. We spent eight hours seeing how many Hot Cheetos we could eat without taking a drink, and discussing what quote we would put on our signs for the March.
The next morning arrived and with it came to our four-hour drive to Washington D.C., where we would spend the night in an Airbnb and prepare for the March. This ride was more exciting, as we were getting closer to the big day. We rolled the windows down in bumper-to-bumper traffic and sang "I would walk 500 miles" at the top of our lungs. Later that night we stayed up until 3 a.m. painting posters. Mine was a Les Miz reference that read "Do you hear the children sing? Singing the song of angry men."
The next morning started at 8 a.m., where we dressed for the cold weather and checked out of our temporary home. We ate ham sandwiches at Paul and checked in with our parents for the last time because we knew we would lose cell service as soon as we started marching. Once we were sure that everything was in order and the correct safety measures were put in place, we began our march.
The March itself was something that I couldn't put into words if I tried. I registered to vote on the streets of Washington with people cheering me on as they watched me fill out the clipboard with my information. We took pictures with so many random people that I'm surprised I haven't seen a picture of myself circulating yet. We got so many stickers and pins and posters supporting our cause that my backpack and laptop are almost fully covered. I shouted so much that my voice turned hoarse.
For around five hours I was the family member of 850,000 people. All of us were there for the same cause. We cried together, we sang together, and we protested together. I would love to further explain my experience, but like I said, it's not something that can be put into words. The activism and power I felt at that moment were indescribable and gave me the strength I now possess to continue to fight.
As soon as the March concluded my four friends and I took a Metro out of the city and began our four-hour car ride back to North Carolina. This drive was spent comparing the powerful images we captured, sharing stories, and voicing our appreciation for each other. We slept briefly in North Carolina and then began the 12-hour journey home Sunday morning. This ride was quieter than the rest, though still fun. We took turns driving and sleeping and stopped in South Carolina to eat the best pizza I've ever tasted. I arrived home at around 1 a.m. and went straight to bed without even taking my clothes off.
My weekend in Washington is done, but the journey is just beginning. We still have so much further to go if we truly want to make a change.
It's on us to call our legislators and let them know how disappointed we are.
It's on us to register to vote in November and ensure that our generation is being properly represented. It's on us to continue to fight towards making a difference and not just hope that things will eventually work itself out.
I march because I saw my sister community ripped apart due to gun violence. I march because my family was worried that I wasn't going to make it home this weekend. I march because I carried multiple first aid kits around with me all weekend, afraid that I would have to use them. I march because the color of my skin and the environment I grew up in gives me the privilege to without being faced with consequences, like so many people of color did when they marched. I march for the victims of gun violence who are unable to march themselves. I march for my life and for the lives of every person affected by gun violence.
I hope that by next year things will be different and that another March on Washington won't be necessary. But if it does, I know for a fact I'll spend 36 more hours in a car and repeat history along with millions of other angry millennials. To those people who think that we'll eventually fizzle out and stop fighting, I'm proud to tell you that you're wrong. We are the generation that is going to change the world, and that's a promise.