By Helen Pulizzi

On Sunday, April 8 I had the opportunity to attend a forum on gun violence prevention at Temple Emunah in Lexington and to hear from a diverse panel of leaders from all around the state. After being involved in planning the walkout at Bedford High School earlier in the spring I continued to look for ways to stay involved in efforts that had a goal and message that I was passionate about promoting.

Author Helen Pulizzi (l) with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey flanked by Hannah O’Connor and Lily Nemirovsky at a forum at Temple Emunah in Lexington – Courtesy image (c) 2018 all rights reserved

The panelists discussed the need for gun control and gun violence prevention in light of the recent school shootings and drew on their own experiences so that the audience could understand where they were coming from as they were speaking and expressing their opinions. All had either been personally impacted by gun violence or feared they might be in the future if nothing is done now.

On the panel were:

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey
  • Clementina Chery, President and Founder of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Dorchester (more info http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/content/our-story)
  • My’Kel McMillen, Founder of Mack’s Soles non-profit (this new nonprofit is raising money here: https://www.gofundme.com/mackssoles)
  • Lexington High School sophomore and one of the founders of #LexingtonSaysEnough as well as a passionate activist, Emily Weinberg.

As a high school student, I found it easiest to relate to the experiences of Weinberg who as a student activist faces similar challenges and questions. We have a desire to make a difference yet not being old enough to vote it often seems that there is little we can do that will actually make a change. Though we may not be old enough to vote yet, when we work together in groups we make it hard for adults to ignore us.

I was moved by the stories of Chery and McMillen who have lost loved ones to gun violence. Chery lost her 15-year-old son in 1993 when he was shot to death in the street walking to a gang prevention meeting. Through her tragic loss, she was moved to found the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Boston. Today her son would be in his twenties and Chery remains committed to making every effort she can to assure that her reality does not become that of any other parent.

McMillen lost a close friend to a shooting in 2008, something that he says stays with him. He described the cycle of gun violence in some inner-city neighborhoods. This is something that I had not thought deeply about before attending this forum. Gun violence is the everyday reality on some street corners in the inner-city but does not always make the news. Whether it is a mass shooting in a public place or a stray bullet hitting a person on the street, prevention needs to be more widespread to stop future shootings.

After the official remarks had been made, there was a question and answer period with the panelists and many students and adults asked questions. At the conclusion of the program, all students who were in attendance and had worked on issues of gun violence were invited to meet Attorney General Healey in the front of the room for a photo.

Though the walkout and voter registration period is over at Bedford High School, there are still ways to stay involved and continue to make a difference. One suggestion is the annual Mother’s Day Walk for Peace. This event has been running for 22 years and benefits the Louis D.  Brown Peace Institute. More information can be found at https://www.mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.

Thank you to Temple Emunah and Follen Community Church for sponsoring this event.

Editor’s Note: Click this link to learn more about ‘The Bedford Citizen is Proud to Introduce and read One Student’s Thought on the March 15 Walkbout by Lily Nemirovsky

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