I have been a member of Moms Demand Action since 2019. Gun violence has significantly impacted the Northeast Oklahoma City community where I grew up and continue to reside—a high school classmate was killed by gun violence less than a year after our graduation.
But what continues to drive me is the moment in 2020 when I found myself running and seeking shelter from the gunfire at a Juneteenth celebration held blocks from my childhood home. That incident was a personal reminder that there is so much work to do to end gun violence.
When I talk with others in the gun violence prevention movement, I make sure to tell people to listen first as they approach the work. Even as a Black person in the Black community, we do not have all the answers to every issue, and listening is the first step to finding impactful, community-based solutions. It ensures the buy-in of the Black community and provides perspective.
During Black History Month, I want to recognize the efforts of Joshua Harris-Till, who has selflessly shared his stories and experiences with gun violence across the country. I admire his tenacity to take up the challenge and speak the truth about how gun violence daily affects the Black community. Harris-Till made gun violence prevention a part of his platform in his 2022 campaign for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, even knowing it would not be a popular topic with all district votes.
Although there is much work to be done, I have hope because—much like the Civil Rights Movement—the gun violence prevention movement is a grassroots movement that has relentless individuals working together for change. As Moms Demand Action continues to evolve, the impact of the daily gun violence in Black and brown communities has become a larger part of the conversations in the movement. I believe that this impact will continue to be centered in the conversation moving forward as we work to end gun violence.
I am appreciative of spaces that elevate and highlight the work of the Black community in creating effective change. It is not only for ourselves that we do the work, but for everyone. For those doing the work to prevent gun violence, it is hard and can be heavy, and it is okay to step away. If you are not healthy, that can change the impact of the work you are doing to create change. Take care of yourself and step away if needed, but please come back after your break—because we need you and your voice.
JeKia Harrison (she/her)
JeKia Harrison is a volunteer with the Oklahoma chapter of Moms Demand Action.