Born to March for Our Lives: An open letter
I was born in Denver, Colorado, and raised in Aurora (and later Atlanta, Georgia). While Colorado has a specific place in history of gun violence, it also has a place in my personal history and experience of gun violence. The state also has its own tragic experiences with gun violence.
I graduated from Range View High School in spring 1994.
On December 15, 1993, I came to school one day to hear that there had been a shooting the night before at the Chuckie Cheese in our neighborhood. My little sister's 3rd birthday party had just been there two months prior, and I didn’t really know what to think of it.
I remember I just felt… odd.
I came home that afternoon — we didn’t have cell phones back then — and that’s when I saw on the news that my friend from elementary school and bible study, Colleen O’Connor, was among the four people killed. Colleen went to a nearby school called Eagle Crest, along with many of my childhood friends. My oldest friend who I met in the second-grade, Shana Armstrong, attended Eagle Crest, too. She had just quit Chuckie Cheese before the shooting took place.
I'd recently moved back from Atlanta to complete my senior year at Range View High School, and reconnecting with my childhood friends, Shana brought Colleen to visit me. Colleen was still funny and vibrant and talkative.
And then she was gone.
It hurt in a way I couldn’t process. Back then, the worst thing that happened was someone dying in a car accident. This execution-style shooting was something I couldn’t process.
Fast forward six years, April 20, 1999, the day of the Columbine High School shooting was also the day I signed my record deal — it would govern my life for the next 17 years. I watched the news of the shooting on the television in my mom's downtown Atlanta sewing room.
Of course, at first I was shocked, and then I thought I can see totally how this was able to happen — just knowing the culture of the schools and how much freedom we had. I don't know what schools are like now, but back then this was VERY. RARE.
So I could see how Columbine could happen but I never could understand why Columbine happened.
Fast forward, again, 14 years to summer 2013, I was doing the Essence Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana, when the television that I was ignoring set to CNN started playing a documentary about a mother seeking gun legislation after her daughter had been murdered. That woman was Colleen's mom.
Seeing her senior year picture on CNN made my heart race for a second. It had been 20 years since Colleen was taken too soon. She was only 17. All of my Rangeview and Eagle Crest friends: Shana, Allison, Courtney, my brother, and his friends — all of us had matured so much in 20 years and Colleen was just gone.
The movie theatre shooting in Aurora — that was our theatre. The weekend hang spot when I was a late teen. I didn’t have the words to express to anyone how close to home that shooting felt.
After all of the shootings since Columbine, I’m shocked every time. And I wonder every time, why? And how will we stop this?
Watching the people of all ages and races participate in the March for Our Lives on Saturday gave me chills. It keeps giving me chills. My arms literally hurt from constant chills.
I am especially inspired by this young generation of human beings. They remind me that each generation carries their own burdens and their own MAGIC!
And these kids who are just ages 11-18 are now the ones we’ve been waiting for. The cycles of life are real and we are all here for a reason. As one generation builds on the one before it, humanity evolves.
Historically speaking, the United States of America is very young. And this young country can learn a lot from its youngest generation!
God bless Generation Z and bless us to support them in any way we can, in any way they need. As Stevie Wonder prophetically said:
"Heaven help the boy who won't reach 21. Heaven help the man who gave that boy a gun. Heaven help the people with their backs against the wall. Lord, heaven help us all."
Love to ALL.
Strength, courage and wisdom.