By Beth Gutierrez, Owner, Joy Culture Events
I’m a crier. Always have been. I’m a serious empathizer, easily moved. So, it should not have surprised me in the least that the March for Our Lives was a rollercoaster of emotions considering the matter at hand. And yet.
I was wide-eyed and misty as we stood next to former Santana High School students wearing their letterman jackets from the early aughts. As a native San Diegan also in high school at the time, I distinctly remember when, in March 2001, a student killed two and wounded 13 others in a school shooting right here in this city. It infuriates me that nothing has changed since that incident and so many others like it over the last 17 years.
I got choked up when the student organizers asked us thousands of marchers to take a knee and a moment of silence for those lost in the Parkland school shooting and the countless others lost to gun violence. An incredibly diverse group in age, ethnicity, and walks of life – students, teachers, concerned citizens – all bowed down and wondered: How many more?
Later, the tears fell freely as I watched Emma Gonzalez’s moving six minute and 20-second speech, and as I scrolled through images of people marching around the world. Unlike the women’s marches to advance the rights of women globally, this is a uniquely American issue, so it moved me all the more to see people on almost every continent express grief and demand change from our leaders.
Those last ones were tears of hope, though. These marches were led by our nation’s youth, coming of age in a time when speaking up for your beliefs is becoming the rule, not the exception. They expect more from the people in charge. They are either old enough to vote or will be soon, and they know the power they wield by using their voices and their vote. They are not here for your excuses.
As small business owners, we also wield the power to affect change in our communities. More than ever, it’s important that our businesses reflect our values, and that we don’t shy away from stating them as loudly and as often as necessary. As involved citizens, we must stand up for our beliefs even if doing so will be met with opposition – perhaps especially if it will be met with opposition. Change can be hard for people to accept, but we shouldn’t shy away from having the hard conversations.
Showing that San Diego small businesses are a voice for progress in our community will normalize change, turning the tide in favor of policies that are good for all.
In my search for next steps related to the issue of gun violence in particular, I found this article helpful, with some excellent resources worth checking out. To paraphrase:
- Learn about the facts, misconceptions and propaganda surrounding gun ownership and gun violence in the US. Though sound research, data and straight up truths are being disputed daily, facts are powerful tools. Don’t forget that.
- Organize by joining local groups and committees pushing for gun legislation. Find a candidate with a strong stance on the issue and volunteer for her/his campaign.
- Donate to organizations already working to enforce stricter gun laws, both nationally and locally.
- Vote in every, single, election. Become acquainted with your local candidates’ stances on issues, and demand more from them.
Afterward, lather, rinse, repeat for any issue that needs change with a big ass capital C. We can, and we must.