I was puttering around in my gardening this morning when the call came through. It was Cynde at Youth OUTright. “Tina, we had a last-minute cancellation. Could you speak at our rally today?”
“The Pulse Nightclub shooting.”
“Ummm …. OK.”
This, I am learning, is how activism works. You open yourself to the pain and possibility in the world around you. When it calls, you just say “yes”.
Here is the speech I patched together and shared an hour later …
Hello! I am Tina White, Executive Director of Blue Ridge Pride. I got a call from YouthOutright this morning. “We need you at the park!”
So here I am.
A few weeks ago, I went to Washington to join in the March For Our Lives. I marched with members of the Human Rights Campaign. Our group was led by survivors and family members of the Pulse Nightclub massacre.
Before we marched, several of them spoke to us. One of them was, Brandon Wolf. Although Brandon had survived the massacre, one of his dearest friends, Drew Leinonen, had perished with 48 others. “In one minute,” Brandon recalled, “a legally purchased assault weapon fired 30 rounds. 13 of them murdered my friends.”
There is a little park in our neighborhood here in Asheville. It is less than a quarter block in size. A sign warns all who would enter …
No skateboarding. No motorized vehicles. … No littering. No loud or unusual noises. … No drugs. No smoking. No alcohol. … Animals must be on leash.
Until recently, the sign had a piece of aluminum tape covering another prohibition: No firearms. I noticed recently that the sign has been replaced. The new one seeks to make this erasure permanent.
The message is pretty clear: Children, do not bring your skateboards and loud noises into this park. It isn’t here for you. The gun lobby owns it now. Your pets must remained leashed; The NRA’s guns are free to roam.
We have erased childhood from our parks. Must we do the same with our schools? Please … don’t let the gun lobby erase you.
We don’t allow people to drive any type of car anywhere they like. Nor do we prohibit the ownership and use of cars. We enact common sense laws that balance the interests of car owners, neighborhoods — and children.
Freedom of speech does not protect speech that recklessly endangers. Freedom of religion does not sanction beliefs that burden or deprive others their rights. Do we cherish guns above speech and religion? Our current laws and lawmakers say that we do.
Brandon Wolf pointed out in a recent tweet that, between 2010 and 2014, firearms were used or threatened to be used in 43,000 hate crimes. “Commonsense gun safety laws matter”, he said. “I never want anyone to experience the kind of pain we’ve experienced.”
Brandon closed his pre-march speech to us with this: “The last thing Drew said to me before he died: ‘We never tell each other enough that we love each other.’”
I love all of you – and all that you stand for here today. You are amazing! You inspire me and fill me with hope. I hope that you will always love one another. I hope that you will always fight to protect what you cherish. I hope that what you cherish most is people, not guns.