Sharing the Platform with Congressman John Lewis

Story by Jerell King. Photos by Michael Williams and James Alexander.

APRIL 27, 2018: On Tuesday April 10th 2018, I took part in a major gathering to bring attention to a serious issue that is plaguing many communities. A group of students, including myself, were invited to the Friendship Armstrong campus to participate in an interview session and panel discussion with none-other-than Congressman John Lewis. Congressman Lewis met with our group of scholars in order to discuss gun violence in our communities, and how we, as youth can put a stop to it.

The panel discussion was a very impactful and inspiring experience. The students, including myself asked for Congressman Lewis’s guidance on how to raise awareness about gun-control. Lewis responded with wise words of advice and encouragement. He discussed the importance of not giving up even when there are those higher up who oppose your side. He spoke about how he believes that there isn’t a need for guns to be used by civilians, especially assault weapons like an AR-15. We shared how we as youth are taking actions today by participating in nationwide walkouts, organizing marches, and getting our voices heard by means of social media, radio interviews, and in my case, showing up at the White House to participate in a listening session with the President himself. We also noted that even though all of our individual efforts are great, we all need to come together to keep our schools and our communities safe.

Then Congressman Lewis, myself, and a few other scholars, two of whom were survivors of the recent Stoneman Douglas school shooting, discussed how we as youth can build platforms in order to act against gun violence within school communities.  Next there was a Q&A session between everyone who was on the panel. An alumni of Stoneman Douglas who was on the panel spoke on how we as youth can use the technology and resources of social media to get our cries for justice heard. The survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting spoke to the students about creating a sense of unity between all students, no matter their race or background, in order to send a strong message of peace.

This event for me was very empowering and I’m honored to have participated in this forum on this very important issue. Sharing the stage with Congressman Lewis, who was at the forefront during the march from Selma, and was the youngest speaker to take the podium at the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech”, was just a breathtaking experience. And, I will continue my efforts as an active participant in the fight to keep our schools safe, while making it known to my fellow scholars that involvement is crucial. We, as youth ARE the movement and it is our time to take a stand for what is right for all people.

Out of the many inspiring words from Congressman Lewis, one of his phrases stuck in my mind. That one phrase is “good trouble” which simply means standing up for what’s right, no matter how much backlash you may receive from it, in order to do something for the greater good. Congressman Lewis got into lots of “good trouble”, and because of that, he and his colleagues passed legislation in order to develop a non-violent peaceful world where we all can live together. We have come too far to let all of that progress be for nothing.

We as youth need to stand together and get ourselves into “good trouble”. We all need to participate in the marches, the peaceful protests, and come together to really get our voices heard. We are the future of this world, so it is time to stop being patient and compliant and it is time to act so we don’t ever have to see a child get shot at a school again.

As I have stated before, school is our second home, and it is our duty to protect it so in our future we will not have to worry about another school shooting. To repeat the slogan for the event, “Enough is enough”!

Jerell King is a 10th grade scholar at Friendship Tech Prep Academy. Michael Williams and James Alexander are juniors at Friendship Collegiate Academy.