On October 12, 2021, I was at my high school in Little Rock, Arkansas when I thought I heard something outside as I was walking between buildings on campus. At first, I ignored it. Three minutes later, I made it back to my class on the third floor when everyone started getting texts from people near the scene. We didn’t know the details at the time, but there was a shooting outside of the school and gunshots had hit the building.
As we were called into a school-wide lockdown, my teacher continued her lesson through the chaos. She started assigning more work and got upset with the class for calling our parents. I began to freak out when nobody I texted was responding. My two closest homeboys couldn’t be contacted. None of the administration would tell the students anything, which didn’t help with the chaos, rumors, and confusion.
We eventually were notified that we were being sent home. Once I made it to my bus after they “secured the scene” and declared it “safe,” I finally located my homeboys walking about on campus, completely baffled at what had just happened.
Since that shooting in 2021 and another near the school in January of this year, very little has been done to improve school safety. What my school really needs to do is properly train the teachers to handle these situations based on their location on campus, to reconsider active shooter drills, and so much more.
As a Students Demand Action volunteer, I am most proud of our proper recognition of the mental health effects that gun violence and school shootings have on students and for our fight for better protocols for active shooter drills in schools.
I first became involved in the gun violence prevention movement in my 10th-grade year when Arkansas’ legislature enacted a Stand Your Ground law that allows people to shoot to kill in public even when they can safely walk away from the danger. Now as an 18-year-old senior in high school, I’ve been affected by gun violence twice and continue to advocate for a safer future for my unborn niece, five-year-old nephew, my future children, and for a better, safer future for everyone.
For me, the best way to deal with and overcome trauma has been to openly acknowledge its presence. Gun violence prevention is all about saving lives and securing beautiful futures. The Black community is affected by gun violence in so many ways. Guns have traumatized the Black community as a whole for longer than it has affected almost any other racial community.
Elevating Black voices in this movement can simply be understood as critical. To me personally, Black History Month means acknowledging, illuminating, appreciating, embracing, and uplifting all things Black—from both the known and the not-yet-recognized accomplishments, influences, and contributions made by the African Diaspora.
Join me in advocating for a safer future.
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Ta’Kirah Jeffries (she/her)
Students Demand Action volunteer in Arkansas