By Hannah O’Connor and Lily Nemirovsky
Voices @ Bedford High School
On January 13th we attended the annual Spirit of Democracy service at the First Parish Unitarian Church in Bedford. This service honors the legacy of activist minister Jack Mendelsohn, minister emeritus of First Parish. Citizens of Bedford – both members and non-members of the church – had the privilege of hearing words of encouragement and passion from senior minister John Gibbons, youth members of the church, and special guest speaker Julian Diego Lopez-Leyva.
Lopez-Leyva was the lead organizer of Boston’s March for Our Lives held last spring in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He is an experienced, dedicated and persistent advocate for social justice particularly in relation to the #Enough movement. #Enough is an offshoot of the March for Our Lives Movement and is focused on pressuring federal and state lawmakers to tighten laws on gun ownership.
Through poetic language and compelling intonation, Lopez-Leyva brought to life his own experience with gun violence and consequent passion to fight against it. Many in the audience were moved to tears and both of us felt instilled with an even greater level of passion than we thought possible. The palpable feeling felt throughout First Parish spoke to the warmth and hospitality of the church to all who walk through its doors.
We were both eager to speak with Julian face to face at the conclusion of the service. We gathered with a fellow classmate from Bedford High School and others to talk about injustices seen and heard throughout our nation, relating not only to gun violence but to issues of human rights in general. It was eye-opening to hear Julian’s personal experience with gun violence which resulted in the death of a family member. Neither of us has endured such an atrocity and the contrast between our experiences made us all the more inspired to create change. We both connected with Julian in a way that reminded us that as the next generation we hold the power to together rise up in the face of intolerable acts of hatred.
Both of us would like to thank the community and leaders of First Parish for inviting us to participate in the Spirit of Democracy service. It was truly an honor to share a day of kindness, love and hope with like-minded people who despite any differences in political affiliation recognize the need to foster justice in communities across the United States and the world.
Hannah O’Connor ~ Class of 2020
Hannah O’Connor came to Bedford as a toddler after living briefly in San Francisco and Lexington. She enjoys a passion for social justice and advocacy as well as a serious interest in writing. With college on the horizon, Hannah will likely pursue a degree in education and then intends to pursue meaningful work that will change the lives of others.
Lily Nemirovsky ~ Class of 2020
Lily Nemirovsky is a member of the Class of 2020. She has attended Bedford schools her whole life. Lily enjoys swimming and running competitively and developed an interest in civil liberties during the eighth grade at John Glenn Middle School.