City student, Parkland survivor march to put spotlight on gun violence in urban communities
Youth Over Guns founder Ramon Contreras partnered with Parkland survivor Aalayah Eastmond for the march across the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday.
On Feb. 14, Aalayah Eastmond survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by using the body of a fallen classmate to shield herself.
Since then, Eastmond has spoken about her experience as part of the #Enough movement borne from that day, when 17 people were fatally shot, but this weekend, she’s partnering with Ramon Contreras, a senior at KIPP NYC College Prep, on a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to raise awareness about gun violence in urban communities.
“It’s amazing that (the Parkland students) brought this issue on the national forefront, but it’s important that we bring the momentum and spotlight back to where it’s been going on for decades,” Contreras, 19, said. “It’s important that they get the same attention so the same investment being put into Parkland is put into communities that have been doing this for a while.”
To that end, Contreras took his experiences as a former intern in the governor’s office and at a city-based hedge fund via First Workings, to found Youth Over Guns after the National School Walkout on March 14 to “give the platform to young black and brown students to voice their opinions on the solutions they think can benefit their communities,” he said.
One such platform will be Saturday’s march, which will travel from the Korean War Veterans Plaza in Brooklyn and across the Brooklyn Bridge to Foley Square in Lower Manhattan, where a rally featuring speakers from Contreras and Eastmond to March for Our Lives keynote speaker Zion Kelly and representatives from Justice League NYC, Women’s March Empower and National Action Network’s youth branch will be held. The march takes place from noon to 5 p.m.
“We want all stakeholders in this issue to invest back into communities of color where gun violence has been going on for years now,” Contreras said. “That is our call to action. We are tired of the media seeing shootings in our community as a norm. There’s no reason why, when people who look the same are killing each other, that should be ignored.
“We’re not targeting legislative action, we’re targeting community-based action through education where the roots of violence are at,” he added.