Proper now, Aalayah Eastmond is in the midst of finals week at Trinity Washington College in Washington, D.C. The 19-year-old is a second-year scholar within the Prison Justice program, trying ahead to a future at Howard Legislation and a profession as a protection legal professional.
However, two years in the past, on Feb. 14, Eastmond was in her morning class at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Excessive College in Parkland, Florida. By the top of the day, she was on the heart of a gun-related tragedy that ended with 17 individuals killed and 17 others wounded by a former scholar.
She survived, she mourned, she graduated, and she or he turned an activist.
As a survivor, Eastmond has made it her mission to advocate for gun violence prevention. She cofounded Team ENOUGH, a youth-led gun violence prevention group that is parented by the established gun-reform advocacy group Brady United. However her better purpose is to advocate for Black lives, and, within the course of, create a extra intersectional youth motion that protects Black communities whereas additionally restructuring how People perceive gun violence, poverty, and police brutality.
Eastmond was born in Brooklyn, New York. At 4 years previous, she moved along with her mom to West Virginia, and by the point she was 8 she was enrolled in class in Florida. She stayed in South Florida’s Broward County till she left for school in Washington, D.C., 10 years later.
“We noticed a nationwide dialog come up after the capturing at my highschool, round stopping gun violence on a nationwide stage,” Eastmond stated. “However, to me, I felt like that dialog was very one-sided.”
So, solely a month after the capturing, alongside 9 of her Marjory Stoneman Douglas friends, Eastmond made her first public speaking appearance at March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., starting her journey as a public voice on gun reform. “I do not know the way I publicly spoke for the primary time in entrance of almost one million individuals,” Eastmond mirrored. “That was positively one thing I will always remember.”
In 2019, Eastmond spoke in entrance of the Senate and Home Judiciary Committee conferences in help of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which might mandate background checks for each firearm sale nationwide. And he or she’s now an administrator and member of Workforce ENOUGH’s govt council, a cofounder of Concerned Citizens D.C., and a newly employed worker at Brady United, the place she works with the group to incorporate youth voices and promote conversations about overpolicing and police violence.
“We based Workforce ENOUGH as a result of we wished to create a youth-led initiative for gun violence prevention, however one which was extra intersectional than different organizations,” Eastmond stated. “We wished to guarantee that we have been being inclusive of all youth voices.”
It is necessary to Eastmond that Workforce ENOUGH does not simply deal with the specter of mass shootings, which she says is a fault of many gun reform activists. “We’re ensuring that we’re together with these which were impacted by suicide by the hands of a gun, mass shootings, and home violence. All of those completely different intersections of gun violence that individuals generally overlook about,” she stated.
Eastmond noticed that mass shootings, just like the one she skilled, made the information over on a regular basis acts of gun violence. That bothered her. “I made a decision to talk out as a younger Black girl for the inside metropolis communities that cope with gun violence each single day,” Eastmond stated. Her personal uncle died resulting from gun violence 16 years in the past, so she looks like she’s skilled “either side” of gun violence.
“I wished to ensure people understand that police violence can be gun violence,” Eastmond defined. “As we resolve [gun violence], it is crucial that we join these two points collectively as a result of they’re one.”
As she strikes ahead in her activism, Eastmond needs to deal with connecting gun violence options with the broader purpose of eradicating racist techniques — from police brutality to prison justice reform to the reallocation of assets into Black communities. “I am actually targeted on ensuring that we’re holding individuals in positions of energy accountable… to ensure they’re inserting cash into these techniques or packages that may higher Black youth and Black communities which might be disproportionately being impacted by actually each concern that we discuss, whether or not it is gun violence, whether or not it is COVID, whether or not it is local weather change.”
Earlier this yr, Eastmond was a featured speaker on the 2020 March on Washington for racial fairness. In that speech, she made it clear that racial justice and gun violence are intrinsically linked:
Research present that persistent gun violence in poor communities of colour immediately ends in centuries of entrenched disadvantages, financial deprivation, and racist policymaking. In some ways, gun violence is the final domino to fall on the finish of a protracted line of racism, trauma, and indifference.
As she mirrored on her path to activism, Eastmond stated it is not massive occasions, public talking engagements, and media appearances that make her work worthwhile. “If I am being trustworthy, my activism does not come from me publicly talking — that is usually for the viewers — however my activism actually comes from me connecting with these that may relate to my traumas.”
She says one of the best a part of her two years in advocacy is attending to take part in on-the-ground community constructing throughout the nation, which aligns along with her intersectional, bottom-up view of each actions for racial justice and gun reform. She’s targeted on “actually connecting with inside metropolis youth and attempting my finest to uplift their voices as a lot as doable… ensuring that I am sharing my platform that I’ve gained from my tragedy to uplift the traumas that they’re experiencing, as a result of, I am being fairly frank, America does not care about what’s taking place to Black individuals.”
Here is what else she needs you to know.
1. What’s one piece of recommendation you’d give younger individuals trying to get entangled in activism?
“I really feel like quite a lot of younger individuals assume that getting concerned in activism means you must speak on a elaborate, massive stage; you must be in entrance of hundreds of individuals; or you must have a big following — or you must have quite a lot of nice tweets or nice footage — however, no, your activism does not must seem like that. I believe activism is no matter you need it to be, in case you are creating change the way in which you wish to see it…”
Eastmond says she needs younger individuals to begin of their communities, having conversations with individuals near them, like members of the family, friends, and academics. And keep in mind, “activism is available in many various types.”
2. Why are younger individuals’s voices integral within the motion for racial justice and gun violence prevention?
“We’re those which might be disproportionately impacted by the problems we discuss. Lots of people do not know, however gun violence is the main reason behind dying for black youth. It isn’t driving, it is not medication, it is actually gun violence. So why would we not wish to hear from younger individuals? Why would we not wish to hear from these which might be immediately and disproportionately impacted by these points?”
3. What are some instruments or assets that budding younger activists can use to tell and propel their activism?
“I believe social media is the instrument to make use of. Within the period of COVID and of being house, the web and social media is unquestionably the route we have seen all people going to spark change and begin their activism journey.”
Eastmond recommends younger individuals analysis area people teams and grassroots group first, and comply with their official accounts or leaders on social media, “as a result of these are the individuals on the bottom. These are the individuals which were protesting all summer time. These are the individuals which might be producing bail cash to bail individuals out for being wrongfully arrested.”
She additionally recommends watching Ava Duvernay’s documentary, 13th, as an introduction to race and prison justice in the USA, and listening to Brady United’s podcast, Red, Blue, and Brady, to be taught concerning the nation’s lengthy historical past with weapons and gun violence.
4. What would you inform somebody who feels disillusioned with politics or the present state of the world? Why is it nonetheless necessary to get entangled?
“It is sort of imply, however I do not like when individuals wait till they’re impacted by a difficulty to care about it. And I am responsible of it — I did not discuss gun violence the way in which I discuss it now till I survived the capturing at my highschool… However, I believe we see extra change when now we have individuals that are not immediately impacted by points getting into the dialog, uplifting these impacted and having true allyship in these relationships.”
Of all individuals, Eastmond is aware of how arduous it will get. “I perceive, proper now, politics just isn’t fairly. It isn’t enjoyable, and it is fairly nasty proper now with our authorities. However it’s necessary that our voices are concerned with all of those selections. We’re uninterested in having previous white males make the choices for us, as a result of we are the ones that shall be impacted.”
This interview has been edited for size and readability.