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Black Stories

We Can Repair the Despair, Build Bridges, and Learn From Each Other

I have been involved with Moms Demand Action for approximately five years and I’m now more driven than ever by the hope that working together makes a difference. It is imperative that we continue to build bridges to conquer the divisions between urban, suburban, and rural communities, particularly related to the issue of gun violence. 

Everytown’s Black History Month theme of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: A Legacy of Black Gun Violence Prevention Advocacy is helpful as I consider what gives me hope about where we have been and where we are going in the gun violence prevention movement. 

Yesterday, our urban communities felt alone in the fight against gun violence. We felt like no one cared; we felt the lines of separation between various types of communities. Today, after connecting with Moms Demand Action, awareness is growing. We are seeing roads and paths that are starting to connect urban, suburban, and rural communities a little at a time. We feel the warmth from people who are opening their ears and their hearts to listen and feel our pain, which gives me hope that tomorrow, we can repair the despair, build bridges, and learn from each other while trying to set aside color, religion, gender, and economic disparities. Our goal as a whole is to protect each other from gun violence and save lives!

“Individually and collectively, we have to fight to not let the numbing effect of gun violence engulf us and prevent us from taking action.”

Thayer Barkley, volunteer with the Connecticut chapter of Moms Demand Action

I am a survivor of gun violence, but I sometimes have to remind myself that my experience as a survivor is also valid. After attending a conference in Chicago and hearing some of the heart-wrenching stories from other survivors, I felt like many survivors are suffering a lot more than me. In comparison, I haven’t lost a child or a sibling. However, I have lost several relatives and close friends. 

My cousin Ryan Keith Cox was killed in the Virginia Beach mass shooting in 2019. Ryan was hailed as a hero for saving others, and the post office there was named in his memory. Sadly, I never had the pleasure of meeting Ryan in person—but I would have at our next family reunion. In speaking with his parents at that next reunion, I saw how great of a person he really was and, unfortunately, how tragic it is that, because of this senseless act of gun violence, I will never know him personally. 

Trauma has a way of trying to convince us to make comparisons to other people’s situations, and the illusion that our own pain is not as great as someone else’s can somewhat stifle our ability to grieve our own losses and the impact of gun violence in our own circumstances. However, when we continue to experience ongoing gun-related traumas, it is challenging not to become numb. Individually and collectively, we have to fight to not let the numbing effect of gun violence engulf us and prevent us from taking action.

It is going to take everyone to get involved. Whether we differ in opinions on gun laws or in our individual circumstances, whether we are coming into this work because of a mass shooting or a single shooting event, the hurt and loss we experience if we lose a loved one to gun violence is the same. If we don’t collectively raise our voices, it will be extremely hard to be heard.

I want to recognize Deborah Sims and Harold Dimbo for their work on gun violence prevention. Deborah is also a member of the Bridgeport, CT, chapter of Moms Demand Action, and we fight side by side to help our community. She is a pillar in our community working on expanding access to food, jobs, and community building and has been diligently working against injustice for many years.

Harold is a silent powerhouse who prefers not to be in the limelight, but we lean on his many years of law enforcement expertise—both on the police force and with Project Longevity—to guide us through some tough situations.

For people who are advocating for gun violence prevention, my advice is to take it one day at a time, one person at a time, and to always take time for self-care. It is easy to become overwhelmed if we focus on the big picture. It is very important to listen without assuming we have all the answers. Sometimes, people in communities most impacted by gun violence just need you to show up and walk with us. If you are the person walking with others, remember to reach out to someone and try not to take on the stress alone. We are a support system to one another. 

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