Early in the week when we were nervously checking the weather for God Before Guns’ 4th annual Walk & Rally, there was a 100% chance of rain for the duration of the event. By Friday, there was not a cloud in the sky. Friday, June 2, 2017. National Gun Violence Awareness Day. And the color of that day is Orange.
Why Orange? We wear Orange in honor and memory of 15 year old Hadiya Pendleton who was shot and killed on January 29, 2013 in Chicago — an unintended victim of gang-related gunfire. This happened just two weeks after she had the honor of performing with her school marching band at President Barack Obama’s 2nd inauguration. AFter her death, Hadiyah’s friends decided to wear Orange to commemorate her life. Gun violence prevention advocates continue what they started.
Why Orange? Hunters wear Orange to keep themselves safe in the woods. To call attention to themselves to say I’m not the target.
Why Orange? Because Orange demands to be seen.
Gun violence is a huge issue in our country. In the City of Cleveland where we live. We walk across the bridge every year so we will be seen. And on a Friday afternoon, we attracted the attention of hundreds of drivers heading home from the workweek. With our signs held high for all to see, drivers honked in approval and agreement. Anyone who stopped off after work for happy hour at bars and restaurants near the Rally could hear the names read of the 32 young men, women, and children who died in our county this year at the wrong end of a gun. They could hear the passion of longtime peace activist Khalid Samad who was at every single one of these funerals. They could hear the distinctive, poetic, and authentically powerful voices of Distinguished Gentlemen of Spoken Word.
If these hundreds of drivers and bystanders didn’t already know that gun violence is an issue, they do now. They saw us. In Orange. We were difficult to ignore. That is the point.
If you couldn’t make it this year. If you didn’t know about us yet. No worries. We’ll be back next year. But we won’t be idle until then. Gun violence kills more than 90 people every day in our country. There is a life and death urgency to this work. This is an every day of the year activism. You’ll recognize us because we’ll be the ones wearing Orange. We invite you to join us. We’ll even make sure you have a Orange shirt. All you have to do is ask. Follow our posts and calendar on Facebook, and join us for our next event.
Yes, there could be tears. Yes, you’ll be faced with an awareness when you might rather have your head in the sand. But you will be in the company of some very courageous people who choose to stand up and speak out, even when they are grieving the violent loss of someone dear. That will inspire you. You’ll be surrounded by ordinary people like us who have come to believe that we must be seen and heard in order for God’s will for justice and peace to be realized. That will challenge you.
Imagine that world. Then, respond. For your children and grandchildren. For the children who are more at risk than your own.
That’s where the celebration comes in. When we see each other. When we realize that we are in this together. That we can and must do this. Together and with God’s help.
Pastor. Parent. Activist.