Dexter Town Hall for Our Lives organizers (l-r) Dani Waidley, Gabi Fracassi, Evelyn Hawley, Gigi Eisele, Julia Bell, Savannah Moody, and Sabina Carty
Following March for Our Lives events last months, Parkland, Florida student activists put out a call for “Town Hall for Our Lives” events to be held across the country this past Saturday. And students across America responded, holding hundreds of these town halls where they spoke up about gun violence and the scourge of easy access to guns that is literally threatening their lives.
The city of Dexter where I live was no exception. Although it’s small — the population is only 4,420 — the students here are stepping up to the make their voices heard. They participated in the walkout on March 14th and their Social Justice Club organized the town hall held this past Saturday.
Over 60 people attended this powerful event and we heard a variety of perspectives from the young women who organized it. In addition, they heard from local state Representative Donna Lasinski (D, MI-52) along with the two Democratic candidates for the 7th Congressional District seat now occupied by Republican Tim Walberg, Gretchen Driskell and Steve Friday. Walberg was invited but declined to participate citing another event announced just the day before. In contrast, although Gretchen Driskell had previously scheduled another event, as well, she changed her plans so she could participate for the first part of the town hall.
MI-07 candidate Steve Friday and Rep. Donna Lasinski
MI-07 candidate and former state Rep. Gretchen Driskell
My wife and fellow Eclectablogger Anne Savage came away from the event with these impressions:
At the town hall, Sabina Carty asked the audience if they remember being surprised by the Columbine shooting. She then asked the same question about the Parkland shooting. After asking these questions, she pointed out that the high school students in the room didn’t raise their hands about the Columbine shooting because it happened before they were born.
“Something I want to point out is that none of the high-schoolers here today were able to raise their hand about the Columbine shooting because it happened in 1999. Me and Gabi were both born in 2000. We have never lived in a world in which school shootings were not an occurrence. We never lived in a world in which we did not do lock-down drills.”
Nineteen years and 270 school shootings later and this teen-led movement to end gun violence starts.
Why now? I’m sure there are many reasons, but here’s my hunch.
A year ago I started organizing with our local Indivisible group here in Dexter. As Chair of the group, I spent an enormous amount of time wondering if groups like these Indivisible groups were actually making a difference. I knew, at least in my group which is primarily women, that we are all registered voters and we vote. So how can groups like this bring about change when they are already voting? I eventually settled on the belief that all of these women, now stepping up to attend meetings, make calls, and learn more about issues, must be influencing others as well. Like family members and neighbors and co-workers.
What happens in a family when a mother starts attending a monthly meeting about political engagement? Her kids see her stepping up and doing more. She talks more about the issues because she is more informed. Her influence on her family and friends can’t be underestimated. And maybe, just maybe, by her doing more she has inspired her kids to do more as well.
After the town hall I went up to each of the seven girls who organized the event and asked them a couple questions. “Did you attend the women’s March and who did you go with?” was one of the questions I asked. All of them said they had attended one of the marches and all but two attended the march with their mom. One went with an aunt and the other went with a friend and her mother because her own mother was unable to attend.
What I hope is happening is harder to prove with statistics and numbers. It’s the quiet activism within families. Maybe all these mothers and grandmothers out doing more are helping to inspire their kids and grandkids to stand up and do more.
And, coming full circle, now the kids are standing up and are inspiring even more adults.
I left this event feeling reinvigorated and hopeful. I watched these smart, thoughtful, and eloquent young ladies stand up and speak about their situation, giving us adults a new perspective on an old issue. Their perspectives and passion has opened our eyes to understand that we must follow their lead and finally bring an end to gun violence in this country.
There is a powerful cycle of inspiration happening in families all over this country. It may be a quiet revolution, but I believe it will be a lasting one.
Here are some video clips from the event:
Wayne State College freshmen and Dexter High School graduates Gigi Eisele and Julia Bell talk about why they organized this event:
Spotlight speaker and Dexter High school senior Georgia Frost:
Evelyn Hawley, Dexter High School student and organizer for the Dexter Walk-out, talks about the school walk-out that happened on March 14th:
Dexter High School students Gabi Fracassi and Sabina Carty talk about their perspective on gun control and school shootings:
All photos and videos by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog