Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not represent the views of Babble.
As thousands of students walked out of their classrooms yesterday, those protesting in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York experienced something very special.
Just before 10 AM, parent activist Michael Elliot watched on as hundreds of high school kids from the John Jay Educational Campus took to the streets holding signs as part of the National School Walkout. Just then, Elliot caught something on his camera that completely took his breath away. As nearly 500 students peacefully protested, one older student noticed the fifth-graders from neighboring school PS 321 marching with signs across the street.
What began as thoughtful observation turned into spontaneous cheers and applause from hundreds of high school students.
“As I recount it here, it again makes me tear up because there was something wonderful in the connection and the acknowledgement the older students had for the younger ones,” Elliot tells Babble.
The experience was so moving that the dad took to Facebook to share it. And as you can imagine, the video immediately went viral with more than 11K likes and 13K shares.
Witnessing older students supporting their younger peers was powerful and helped remind Elliot of why these walkouts were so important. And the experience was especially meaningful for the father, since his own children were marching at a neighboring school.
“From tragedy and suffering can come great beauty and change,” Elliot says. “Which story do I choose — the one where kids and teachers are murdered and nothing changes, or the one where their memory and their lives spark a revolutionary moment in our society? For me, that’s an easy answer.”
Elliot was especially impressed by how peacefully the students conducted themselves.
“[They] were carrying their signs, chanting and very much aware of the power of their voices in this issue,” he shares. “There were a lot of cameras around, [and] news media was covering them. They were orderly, friendly, and it was really a powerful moment.”
These incredible students joined the thousands of others across the country yesterday who nonviolently protested gun violence as part of the National School Walkout, a movement designed to honor the students and teachers killed in Parkland and demand gun control legislation. And timing of yesterday’s walkout was purposeful. Scheduled 10 days before a march on Washington, the effects of yesterday’s call for action may lead to hundreds of thousands of students marching on our nation’s capital.
Elliot personally believes that the students in Parkland, along with the teens of color in the Black Lives Matter Movement, have sparked a radical change in how the nation reacts to gun violence.
“The shift has been brought about directly as a result of their engagement and empowerment,” Elliot tells Babble.
The teenagers at the John Jay Educational Campus are just one more reason why we collectively need to listen to children. The immediacy of their love and support could teach the rest of this country what it truly means to be united. And after so much senseless violence, it feels more important than ever to follow their meaningful example.
“The kids were amazing today,” Elliot says. “They are our future.”