This weekend’s March For Our Lives demonstration is taking place simultaneously in our nations capital and in hundreds of cities across the country including Detroit, Lansing, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and many more. March For Our Lives is a youth-led movement, sprung from the recent school shootings and gun-related violence. It advocates for stricter gun control laws and strengthened mental health support systems. Yesterday, I spoke to a local youth who has been inspired to participate. Her name is Rachel Cryberg, and she plans to spend her 17th birthday marching down Woodward Avenue with her peers and supporters. She is currently a Junior at Groves High School. Below is our interview.
Anna Schroen: Have things changed in the past few months?
Rachel Cryberg: Kids are a little bit more comfortable talking about this unspoken, horrible thing that happened and has continued to happen. There’s been two more school shootings since Parkland. My community has been impacted because my Freshman year there was a kid on the baseball field with a gun and we were in lockdown for almost two hours. It’s something that people have been scared to talk about, quite frankly. Empowering students to get up, get out of their classrooms and really show that they are passionate and caring and involved in what they believe in helps make them more proud of their voice and more confident in their voice. I think the biggest change that’s been made so far is that students are more confident sharing their political voice in this.
Anna: Do you feel like it’s important for this a student or youth lead effort?
Rachel: I definitely think that we need our generations above us because we haven’t made their mistakes, but our generation is making our own mistakes. As a generation, we’re trying to have a massive intervention, and that includes other generations. Administrators and teachers can’t do things like the walk out because by state law, they’re not allowed to, and also as students we need to rally with students and ally with students because we are so connected.
Anna: Why do you feel like it’s important to make public demonstrations like marching and a classroom walkout?
Rachel: Because it seems like a lot of people in politics currently have the belief that our generation is extremely apathetic and not organized and only cares about Instagram and Snapchat, so I think that having a public demonstration where we’re standing up and we’re saying we will not stand for this forces them to see that we’re not an apathetic generation.
Anna: What do you wish people knew about the world you’re growing up in?
Rachel: As much as they can tell me that this is going to be the best four years of my life and that this environment that I’m in right now is extremely special, but the experiences that I’ve had in high school, this is about the worst it can get. College is going to be rough, it’s going to be expensive, but most of the tragedies that I’ve experienced due to gun violence have been in high school. I also think that the people who are brushing this to the side a little bit could take into consideration that mental illness is not being addressed as much as it should be, if at all, in most high schools. We had a high school speaker telling us how high school was going to be the best four years of your life, but say that to any of the students in Parkland.
Anna: Has your view of the future changed in the past few months?
Rachel: It has a fair amount. Again, with the experience with gun violence that we had a few years ago, I’ve built an appreciation for the people in my school that are here to protect me, but I’ve also started to notice and acknowledge and appreciate the fact that people in my school are willing to stand up for each other. The amount of students who are acknowledging the importance of getting together and staying together where we can support each other and help each other has been incredible. We need to mesh with other generations and we need to mesh as a community, and that’s where I think this is starting to come together. As a community, we’re inviting more conversation in, forced by our younger generation who literally stood up and walked out of school. It’s forcing conversation, which I think is really good.
Anna: How can other generations help contribute to this movement?
Rachel: They can support it. As long as there’s a cross-generational support system, we have a chance to make a difference. Our lawmakers are more likely to listen to the the older generation, and I think they can use their voice to support us.
Anna: Anything else you want to say?
Rachel: We never want to have to experience that again, but we will. Statistically it’s going to happen. But, I think just being a community is a huge part of healing this. I’m the Director of Curriculum for our Student Government and we raised $52,000 just this year for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Programs like that help people get to the mental place that they want to be in, and helps them be comfortable with their community and with themselves. That’s a massive part of this issue of violence, and I think we need to do a lot of work around this.
If you would like to get involved, you can support EDOMI youth at the march in Detroit on March 24th, or attend one of your local marches. For the Detroit march, Episcopal supporters will gather at the Christ Church, Detroit (960 E. Jefferson, Detroit) Parking lot by 9:50am. We will attend the March together and then travel back to St. James, Birmingham. For more information, //CLICK HERE.