“No more talking, just time to do/Hope leads to action, change starts with you” rapped artist FM Supreme at the second annual #Fight4AFuture Gun Violence Prevention Summit, held this past weekend in Chicago, IL. Despite hailing from 27 different states and representing 66 high schools and colleges, the summit brought together 120 young people with one common goal: to fight for a future free from gun violence.
Echoing FM Supreme’s lyrics, the summit began by exploring attendees own motivations and hopes, and gradually equipped them with the tools and resources needed to turn their hope into action. The summit kicked off Friday night with musical performances from artists OOOPS, FM Supreme, and Mike De La Rocha, all designed to inspire and motivate the audience. For Amy Chen, an 18-year-old high school senior and Gun Violence Prevention Network Regional Organizer from Philadelphia, the musical acts were her favorite part of the summit.
On Saturday, attendees developed their ability to turn words into action. Hearing from various policy experts, participants were greeted with leading data on gun violence, from the efficacy of background checks to its intersections with dating violence. For 22-year-old University of Minnesota student Annie Wood, bringing together policy experts and leading organizers was one of the most valuable aspects of the weekend.
“I think a main takeaway from the summit was that the worlds of policy and community organizing are sometimes really disconnected,” Wood said. “Being in the same room with people from both communities, with real passion and an urgency to bring about change revealed that both perspectives are really necessary, since the issue has so many deep roots and levels.”
After two full days of training and organizing sessions, it was time for attendees to synthesize all they had learned and create their own campaigns to bring back to their communities. Carlos Montez Chaverst Jr., a student at the University of Alabama, decided to create a youth task force dedicated to raising awareness about gun violence. Since the summit ended on Sunday, he’s already spoken with the Birmingham police chief about his idea and they’re meeting Friday to begin implementing it.
For Chen, the summit helped her think outside the box for the gun violence prevention summit she’s planning in Philadelphia. Having witnessed and lost close friends to gun violence, as well as having friends behind the trigger, Chen came into the weekend well aware of the realities of gun violence. But, she says, the summit equipped her with the tools to make her more prepared than ever to create change in her community.
As FM Supreme rapped: “There’s no turning back, like the 31st of December/Everything is yours, it just requires focus/Anything is possible, I get over my obstacles and laugh and laugh/No turning back, no turning back.” For 120 young people, all part of a generation disproportionately affected by gun violence, after this weekend there’s no turning back in the fight against gun violence.