BLOG: VOICES FROM CEDAR LANE

Youth-Led Enough is Enough Rally at the Capitol

February 22, 2018

This time last week, I was writing to you when I was in a personal state of despair while trying to process yet another mass school shooting. Today though, I have hope. It’s such a drastic difference in just a week I’ve almost got emotional whiplash. So, why all the sudden do I have hope when hope was hard to find?

Yesterday.

Yesterday over a thousand high school students from our Montgomery County high schools walked out, took the Metro down to the Capitol, and had a rally (and march to the White House.) We heard about this action, and after hearing from the organizers that adult allies were welcome, your Religious Education staff team (myself, Ashley, and Tiffany) along with Rev. Katie decided to go and support the march.

After we arrived at the designated Metro stop – Union Station – we eventually found the youth starting to congregate by an outside escalator. Each time a new group of youth would arrive via that escalator, the other youth would start cheering wildly. Their cheers would echo and the sound gave all of us chills. And train after train arrived, bringing more and more youth. There looked to be a hundred or so when we arrived, and soon there were over a thousand. All cheering when more would join. Leading chants of “enough is enough.” It gave me chills. And it still gives me chills thinking about it. If you haven’t seen photos or videos from the event, check out our Cedar Lane Facebook page – you’ll get those same chills we had.

The march and rally itself were incredible, and we ran into multiple members of our high school youth group there. In fact, we seemed to really be the only church and clergy who were there, from at least we could tell. But what will stick with me is not the march and rally – it’s that cheering. It’s how youth were collectively supporting each other in their shared expression of their collective morality, their collective anger, their collective grief.

This gives me hope. It gives me hope that is not just going to be another school shooting on the list of preventable tragedies. It gives me hope that youth are not letting themselves be silenced. It gives me hope that youth are owning their voice and speaking up for their beliefs, their values, their lives. This to me, is true youth empowerment, something we strive for in our own UU youth programs.

It’s on my mind what we can do as a faith community to be there for our youth, to show up for our youth, to let ourselves be led by our youth. We’ve already reached out to the organizers of the walkout yesterday to offer them future meeting space if they ever need it for planning future actions, and we’re looking ahead to the big March for Our Lives rally on March 24th. We expect a lot of people coming to DC for the March for our Lives on the 24th – and we’re looking to put together a team of people who would be willing to coordinate home hospitality and/or opening up our congregational space for fellow UU Youth Groups coming to the march. If you’d be willing to serve on this team to do this kind of logistical organizing, please contact me at tatkins@cedarlane.org.

- Tim Atkins, Director of Lifespan Religious Education at Cedar Lane