Protecting STL Children
October 24, 2022
Protecting STL Children
On Monday, St. Louis experienced one of the greatest fears of our time: a school shooting.
The Central Visual and Performing Arts High School community faced an active shooter situation which led to multiple deaths and injuries of students and educators and immeasurable collective trauma.
As we sit glued to our screens for clarity on yesterday's shooting, there are a few things we are clear about:
- There will be hot takes, political promises, news commentary, and tweets.
- A pattern, locally and nationally, needs to be disrupted.
- The children are not okay; therefore, none of us are okay.
- We have the resources, tools, and power to create a safer future for ALL of our children.
- The shooting is a symptom – not the root cause – and we are all complicit.
At the heart of our reflections and decisions now and in the days and weeks to come should be a single question: what are we willing to do to protect our children?
We grieve, we heal, and we organize.
(And not linearly. Not episodically. Not performatively.)
"A nation that does not stand for its children does not stand for anything and will not stand tall in the future." – Marian Wright Edelman
No configuration of words can truly articulate the grief of death, especially the death of young people. As our hearts weigh heavy, our spirits feel low, and our shock seems paralyzing–it is okay and necessary to grieve. Under these circumstances, no matter how much media culture seeks to normalize it, death is NOT normal. Our prayers and thoughts are with every young person, educator, parent and guardian, and child advocate impacted by the shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School. May everyone who has held back tears in a valiant effort to remain strong find release, pause for a moment, and do what you need to take care of yourself. Our grief is righteous, and our rage is righteous. The WEPOWER community is here in solidarity as we all mourn the tragedy of violence, death, trauma, and its vicious pattern in our lives.
Too often, our trauma is exploited and reduced. Too often, young people's trauma has no space to transform into wellness and a healed state of being. Yet, our personal and collective healing is as important as our grieving. We deserve and must choose to dig deep into the cracks and rips in our spirits and bodies, uproot our pain, and repair and reconcile the harm we hold inside and among us. We must embrace the complexity of regeneration so that we do our shared work–of transforming our region and the systems that our children operate in–from a place of abundance, possibility, and joy. Transforming our world and region must involve transforming ourselves and our relationships with one another–again and again. From our grief, we can transition to healing; from our healing, we can transform our rage and hurt into powerful action.
Protecting our children requires spaces and places for grieving and healing, but especially organizing and building the power necessary to repair the many systems that violently attack their existence daily.
No single system created the symptoms of gun violence we grieve at this moment. Nor will a single system or solution protect our children against such atrocities in the future.
This moment cannot be reduced to rhetoric about gun control reform. This moment requires bold, interconnected solutions across our education, economic, carceral, and mental health systems. We are all complicit, which means we are all responsible for the transformational work to protect our children from the violence we have allowed via our various loci of control.
We must organize our votes at the November ballot box. We must organize with our direct action and demands of current elected officials to do better and do their work differently – centering our children in ALL of their decisions at every level of government. We must organize by moving from talking to building power across all social systems in a coordinated way.
We organize, so our children are protected and safe. Protection and safety do not mean we fight violence with more violence. The kind of protection we guarantee for our children must be rooted in love, bold policy changes, and the deconstruction of our many silos. Silos that create a web of danger, trapping too many children and those who care for them. Protection looks like investing in early childhood education to guarantee our babies opportunities from birth. Protection looks like a culturally responsive, adequately funded, and accessible K12 public school system that is prepared to welcome our children and further nurture them beyond their childcare experience. Protection looks like thriving neighborhoods in every part of our city that are rich in economic opportunity and create space for children to be children as cherished members of a community of care. Protection is a health care system that addresses families' social, emotional, and physical needs and well-being.
This protection is as possible as our willingness to organize, organize, and then organize some more.
The pandemic and our leaders' reactions revealed we could act swiftly and responsively in moments of crisis when we choose. We know how to do this, we need to have the will, humility, and sustained focus to deliver on our responsibility to young people. In a few months, while we will still be grieving and healing, I am hopeful we can respond to the question: "and how are the children?" with "the children are protected and cared for."
We will follow up within the next few days with a list of resources that respond to this moment and support our grieving, healing, and organizing.
With love, hope, and commitment,
Charli and the WEPOWER team