By Ashley Jones
2014-2015 NFTY-CAR Social Action Vice President and 2015-2016 NFTY-CAR President
On January 21st, 2013, Hadiya Pendleton – a majorette and high school student from the south side of Chicago – marched in President Obama’s Second Inaugural Parade. One week later, after finishing final exams, Hadiya was shot and killed in a park near her school. Soon after this tragedy, Hadiya’s childhood friends asked their classmates to commemorate Hadiya’s life by wearing orange. They explained, “Orange is used because hunters wear the color to warn other hunters not to shoot. By wearing orange, we are showing others that we are human and wish not be gunned down.” This June 2nd, on what would have been Hadiya’s 18th birthday, a broad coalition will ask people nationwide to honor her life, her friends’ call to action, and the 88 Americans¹ stolen by gun violence every day.
Gun violence is not just a south-side issue, and not just a Chicago issue – it is an issue that affects the day-to-day life of every American whether they choose to recognize it or not. Before I joined NFTY, I had never been exposed to the topic of gun violence prevention or gun control. Living in the north-shore suburbs, we were taught that guns are bad – end of story. Yet just a 35 minute drive south, teenagers are shot and killed every day. Living in such a sheltered community, I was never able to learn the real issues behind gun violence. Then, just one week before my first NFTY event, there was a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. How could a nice, sheltered town just like mine have this happen to them? Everyone became scared, yet we didn’t talk about it out of the fear of the unknown.
Becoming a NFTYite has made me so much more attuned to gun violence, and an advocate for its prevention. At my first regional event, we addressed Sandy Hook and gun violence head-on. But just talking about Sandy Hook through programming was not enough. The next year at Winter Kallah, during a full program on gun violence prevention in a broader context, we learned that in the year since Sandy Hook, more than 11,000 people had died as a result of gun violence. That day a resolution in NFTY-CAR stating that the subject and actions we take toward gun violence prevention will stretch beyond a single event and into our lives was unanimously passed by the region.
Unfortunately, gun violence enters our lives when we least expect it. As a movement based off the principle of tzedek, or justice, it is not enough for us to only recognize what is happening. It is our duty as NFTYites, as Jews, and as people to ensure gun violence is no longer part of our culture. There are many measures we can take towards raising awareness to gun violence prevention, but we need your help to make it happen.
Pledge: With just one click, raise your hand and pledge to Wear Orange on National Gun Violence Awareness Day at wearorange.org.
Spread: Help raise the voices of everyday Americans by making posts on social media with #wearingorange (Ex: “I’m #wearingorange because I love my city – and we deserve better.”).
Wear: Put on a t-shirt, pin, tie or head-to-toe blaze orange regalia on June 2nd. We hope to get as many Americans – from all walks of life and every corner of the country – to wear something orange, take an orange selfie and share it online with the hashtag #wearingorange
Of course just wearing orange for one day won’t end gun violence in America. However, it is the first step we can take toward bringing awareness to the issue, showing our friends, the media, and our representatives that it doesn’t take another shooting for us to get angry, and that we won’t stand idly by as another life is cut short by gun violence.