OHS students bring the walkout all the way to the mayor’s office
By Iris Ard
On March 14, there was a national 17-minute walkout to honor students killed in the February school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Oakland High took part in this walkout, but as certain students began to feel that not enough people could really see the school walking out and there was not as much chanting or seriousness about the situation as they wanted, they chose to continue the march all the way to downtown Oakland.
Students Princess Paulmerie, Taliah Long, Blessing Wilson, Jeremiah Paulmerie, Jacqueline VazquezLaguna, Aracelia Gutierrez-Chay, and Esperanza Rosa, and I walked down to city hall chanting and yelling “Protect Kids Not Guns,” and “Stop The Silence, Stop Gun Violence.” We walked from Oakland High all the way to City Hall, gaining support from strangers on the street. Some honked, some waved, and other people just jumped in with the march.
As we journey reached our destination, we Oakland High students walked upstairs to the Mayor’s office and met with Mayor Libby Schaaf, telling her that we need more strict gun laws and enforcement in our schools to ever feel safe in Oakland.
As a student who was present for the 90-minute meeting with Schaaf, I can say that we got her to see our perspective as youth of color: that living in Oakland is one ball game that is often difficult to win. We shed tears in that meeting and shared our most personal stories that had to do with first-hand experiences of a gun violence victim.
Yes, school shootings are a scary thing, but for students in Oakland, the greater fear is about what happens outside of school.
In that meeting we learned things about each other we never knew and Mayor Schaaf saw our heartache and pain and fear that gun violence has caused us. We explained that yes, school shootings are a scary thing, but that for students in Oakland, the greater fear is about what happens outside of school. 354 injury shootings and homicides occurred in our city in 2017. The thought of “What’s going to happen to me after school?” lingers around in our mind and the police officers we have are more busy shooting us then trying to help us feel safe.
We brought a lot of troubling things to Schaaf’s attention, and she said she is willing to look to reform all that has troubled us. In my perspective I noticed that as citizens of Oakland we have to look to reform ourselves instead because we’re the only ones that can change what’s killing us off.
The mayor said there are many programs to try and help people who are more likely to be convicted. We, as students, had to bring up that it’s still not helping the fact that there is gun violence and that we, as students and upcoming adults of the POC community, fear for our dear lives at times.
The meeting with Schaaf helped us get our point across and let others know if something is troubling you speak up about it. Everyone has a voice; you just have to know how to use it. Some students may have felt that the walkout wasn’t really a powerful way to take action, but it was a way to be heard so we can let those of a higher position know how us as teenagers feel about the way things are going on around us.
On March 24 at Frank H Ogawa Plaza from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., there will be a rally called March For Our Lives. If you want to take a stand then you should attend to let people know that something so detrimental that has caused devastation on teens all around needs to be reformed for the better.