Jenevia Blanks: All You Have To Do Is Show Up
By: Jenevia Blanks (she/her/hers) 2.1.2023
Black Resilience in the Gun Violence Prevention Movement
As an overcomer of all forms of abuse, I used my hurt, anger, and pain to help make a difference in the lives of others by improving their quality of life—never forgetting my struggles and where I came from help me show up consistently in my work to end gun violence.
I got involved with the gun violence prevention movement in 2016 after attending a Stop the Violence rally in Milwaukee hosted by former Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd. Michelle Cloud, a Moms Demand Action volunteer, hosted a Moms Demand Action tabling event, where I signed her sheet acknowledging that I am a gun violence survivor.
Soon after, I started attending Moms Demand Action meetings to learn more about the movement. And two or three years later, I became a volunteer leader. I love Moms Demand Action because it’s a movement that loves all people and values all lives. I do this work tirelessly because I care!
There are so many people I look up to (past and present). Representative John Lewis was known for “getting into good trouble;” Rosa Parks; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Liz Miller; Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts; Everytown employees like Erin Dando, Stephanie Stone, and Valerie Simutis; Jennifer Hoffman-Jonas; my pastor Elder Lincoln R. Russell Sr.; and Commissioner Hattie Daniels-Rush, founder of A-LEGO—all of these people day in and day out show up (present) or showed up (past) to help save lives and improve the quality of life of others. Lastly, but certainly not the least, is my rock—my husband of 30 years—Eric Blanks Sr. He provides for me and our family and continually makes sacrifices so we can live comfortably.
Black history and Black History Month means being empowered to affect change, help, and demonstrate love for all mankind. And participating in the Moms Demand Action Black Caucus gives us a platform to speak freely and address the issues that affect Black and Brown communities of color and come up with ways to engage the community and others to get involved. For me, there is solace in voicing my opinion as a Black person and showing up and supporting one another without anyone judging us or being fearful of backlash.
Black History Month also means acknowledging our resiliency, and resiliency means never backing down or being afraid to fight for what you believe in despite all opposition. I do this in the gun violence prevention movement by showing up: Showing up for Stop the Violence rallies, showing up in my red Moms Demand Action t-shirt at high school walkouts like the one at Rufus King in Milwaukee in 2021, showing up for survivors of gun violence, showing up to host or organize the Milwaukee Metro Moms Demand Action Wear Orange Drive-Thru Memorial every June since 2021, showing up for conferences to speak and raise awareness about gun violence (including firearm suicide), showing up for March For our Lives marches, showing up to urge our legislators to pass gun sense legislation such as H.R. 8 (background checks on all gun sales) and Extreme Risk Protection Orders just to name a few, and showing up for and supporting our community partners—Office of Violence Prevention, 414LIFE, WAVE, Stop the Violence 53206, Donovan Hines Foundation of Exuberance Co, and more.
If you want to get involved with your local Moms Demand Action chapters, all you have to do is show up. Any help is a great help, whether it is leading or inviting others to a meeting, supporting those leading, learning what Moms Demand Action does, handing out information, or working behind the scenes. You can make a difference in the gun violence prevention movement.
Black History Month
This Black History Month, we hold space for the Black survivors of gun violence and recognize the gun safety advocates leading the charge at all levels to keep our communities safe. We know that we still have a long way to go to end gun violence—particularly its impact on the Black community, and we’re holding space for survivors of gun violence and Black advocates to continue to effect positive change. We are continuously working to stop gun violence through both grassroots and national channels, as we focus on and elevate the work and successes of the many Black voices who have helped progress the gun violence prevention movement and keep their communities—and the country—safe.
Jenevia Blanks (she/her/hers)
Milwaukee Metro Moms Demand Action, Interfaith/Local Group Lead