First of two parts
J.J. McCorvey, of FastCompany contributed the following article which brings up to date the fatal shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. February 14.
“Cameron Kasky recalls the eerie realization that descended upon the kids huddled in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSP) High School classroom where he and his younger brother, Holden, were hiding from a 19-year-old former student with an AR-15. ‘I remember seeing a lot of people not confused anymore,’ said Kasky. After all the years of lockdown drills, it was happening to them.
“Since that February day in Parkland, Fla., when 14 students and three faculty members were killed, Kasky and fellow classmates, Emma González, David Hogg, Jaclyn Corin, and Alex Wind have dedicated themselves to preventing it from happening to anyone else. In the week after the shooting, these five teens helped form the core leadership of what quickly became the #NeverAgain movement, a grassroots effort that has inspired nationwide school walkouts and local legislative changes, and drew more than 1.2 Million people, predominantly youth, to the streets of Washington, D.C., and cities across the country for the March for Our Lives rally in March. Crucially, the students even have spurred action in the business arena, prompting retailers and banks to support stronger restrictions around gun sales. Having spoken the language of social media since they had baby teeth, they knew far better than any brand or media company how to create an effective viral phenomenon, mobilizing on Twitter and leveraging press coverage to call for gun control. Plus, said González, “as children, we’re good at being loud and demanding attention. No one is allowed to ignore this [issue] anymore.”
“The quintet—along with nearly two dozen of their classmates—has accomplished more for the cause than any other campaign that followed a mass shooting. ‘We made one of the largest marches in U.S. history in a matter of five weeks because we were able to coordinate, communicate, and get things done faster than anybody before us,’ Hogg said. The 18-year-old former news director for the school’s TV station, Hogg has become the group’s resident policy wonk and strategist, adept at pulling the levers of public opinion on social media. González, 18, who delivered her indelible ‘We call BS’ speech in the aftermath of the shooting and created an iconic moment onstage at the march in Washington, D.C. when she paused for a startling four minutes and 27 seconds of silence (to make her speech the length of the gunman’s spree), serves as a public advocate. Seventeen-year-old Kasky, though jocular and media-friendly, works mostly behind the scenes, developing the messaging that his classmates and their partner network use on social media and elsewhere. Wind, age 17, coordinates campaigns with students and organizations in other states and cities. Corin, MSD’s junior class president, is both a public speaker and planner: A week after the shooting, the 17-year-old organized a trip for 100 of her classmates to the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee to appeal for gun restrictions.
“Despite these efforts, Congress still hasn’t taken up any of the students’ basic policy asks, including universal background checks and banning sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. While in Tallahassee, the group met with State Representative Jared Moskowitz, who eventually helped push his colleagues to vote ‘yes’ on a bill to raise the firearm age requirement to 21 years and impose a three-day waiting period on purchases. He tutored the students on bill-making policy and procedure, “so they [could] take the experience here in Tallahassee and try to replicate it in other places,” Moskowitz said.
“Now, as media attention around the shooting wanes, the group is entering its most challenging, and important, phase: What happens next.
“Since the march, Corin, Hogg, González, Kasky, and Wind, have launched a flurry of initiatives to extend the movement’s momentum. They now oversee a March for Our Lives non-profit, which employs a handful of former classmates and serves as the group’s operations hub. The organization supported “Town Hall for Our Lives,” a campaign that encourages students across the country to create events to press local lawmakers for gun reform, and debuted an online toolkit to advise high schoolers who want to start their own clubs. This Summer, the five leaders will travel around the country to speak at youth events. ‘At every one, we make sure there’s a voter registration booth present,’ Wind said.”
J.J. McCorvey is a staff writer for Fast Company, where he covers business and technology.
Continued next week
First of two parts