“Democracy takes patience and commitment. I hope people are inspired for change and are able to see what happens when you organize, contact your representative, and vote. I hope that people find encouragement,” Josue Alejandro Lemus said while making a poster at the Institute for Race, Justice and Community Engagement at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus. It was March 23, the day before the March for Our Lives, and about 20 Montgomery College students were putting their thoughts into posters to bring to Washington, DC, the next day.
US Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) came in to speak with them. The students asked him about gun laws, how to get involved, how to address and fix gerrymandering, and how to talk to people they disagree with. “Young people have been at the center of every successful movement we have had for social change: the civil rights movement and the peace movement. Nonviolence has always been central to it; we need another movement against violence,” Raskin said.
He praised them for supporting high school students on the issue.
Lemus takes a class with Dr. Vincent Intondi, who runs the Institute, hosted the poster-making rally and invited Raskin. “Sometimes you see things happening and you don’t know what do to, but [Intondi] provided a great space for us to put our thoughts together and put our thoughts into actions,” Lemus said.
Democracy takes patience and commitment.
Malika Ali was there too. She is the vice president of Fourth Wave, a feminist club at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus. A few days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, on Feb. 14, they started organizing students to join the march in Washington, D.C.
“This was my first march in support of gun control. I wanted to become involved because gun violence is more than just a news headline. It is real life and it does not discriminate. Although there are urban communities who, sadly, are no strangers to daily gun violence, no one is immune. I found myself days after the Parkland shooting sitting in class wondering: ‘What would I do if someone walked in with a gun?’”
The 19-year-old thinks that alongside gun control, schools should always be prepared and hold ongoing emergency training. The club she helps lead devoted a meeting to reviewing the College’s emergency procedures.
Both students see this as movement and say it is important to stay engaged in the long term. “People go to marches; they feel empowered and tweet about it. But the hashtag is not going to do anything unless you insist for months on,” she said.
Intondi said many of his students are getting involved politically for the first time. “I am constantly preaching that democracy is not a spectator sport, they have to be actively involved in this process. I am incredibly proud of them seeing how they become active, especially on an issue that affects them directly,” he said.
Turning the march’s momentum into a long-term movement is one of Ali’s goals. The Fourth Wave is spreading the word about upcoming events that support the March for Our Lives platform and plans to help students register to vote before the November elections: “We want our students to be educated about who they can vote for.”