Gun violence prevention advocacy groups are teaming up throughout the month of June to continue the push toward state-wide gun control. The month of action will include events across Michigan that aim to memorialize the victims of gun violence, educate communities about gun violence, celebrate the passage of new gun safety laws and call for more action.
The plan was announced in a virtual press conference on June 2, which is National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Organizers from Moms Demand Action, End Gun Violence Michigan and other local groups shared their plans for Gun Violence Awareness Month.
Moms Demand Action will have “Wear Orange” events in Traverse City, Detroit, Holland and other Michigan cities. The events will range from planting orange flowers to meeting with politicians to discuss gun violence.
Event participants are encouraged to wear orange, which became a symbol of gun violence prevention after friends of Hadiya Pendleton, who died from a gunshot wound in 2013, honored her by wearing orange.
According to Michigan Chapter Leader Celeste Kanpurwala, the events aim to keep focus on the issue of gun violence, which has affected many Michiganders.
“This year, we are of course celebrating the new laws, but we want folks to know there's still a lot of work to be done,” Kanpurwala said. "By coming together and building our movement, we will be able to keep winning and saving lives.”
End Gun Violence Michigan will have nine “Silence the Violence” events across the state on June 17. There will be sign making, marches, a documentary screening and more. According to the organization’s website, each event will be a call to action and “expression of how each community is grappling with the scourge of gun violence.”
Charles W. Reid Community Help Center founder Mia Reid said she has attended "Silence the Violence" and worked alongside the event’s founder, Pastor Barry Randolph. In the past, she said, the event was held at the Church of the Messiah in Detroit. This year, the church asked End Gun Violence Michigan to take it statewide.
“As Pastor Barry has often said, our community is sick and tired of burying children, so he decided to do something about it,” Reid said. “He started the march as a way to raise awareness and provide resources… This year, we will be celebrating and promoting the new gun violence laws that we all helped to pass. I am so excited about these new laws and what will be possible.”
Reid, who created the Charles W. Reid Community Help Center following the death of her son in 2011, said the events planned for this month will help honor gun violence victims like her son. The center will also host its own march on June 25.
“We have a gun violence epidemic in our communities,” Reid said. “This is very important to me and dear to my heart because my son's life mattered, and I want the world to know my son's life mattered. And even more, I want the community to know that their loved ones’ lives matter. I want (them to know) there are people that care, and... not just giving their thoughts and prayers — they're actually doing something… It is time for us to take action.”
One of the "Silence the Violence" events will be held in Oxford, the site of a mass school shooting in 2021. Lauren Jasinski, who was an Oxford High School teacher during the shooting, said the event was organized by former students who experienced the shooting.
“I'm especially proud of my own former students in Oxford who are organizing a march and rally that day,” Jasinski said. “They found their voice in a powerful way and are providing an example to other students that is so inspiring. They're finding ways to turn their pain into action.”
Michigan United and Michigan People's Campaign executive director Ken Whittaker also attended the press conference to express support for the month of action. He said events like these are what made the new gun safety laws possible, and they will continue to create change in the future.
“Today, I feel hopeful instead of hopeless, because we've shown that change is possible together,” Whittaker said. “So all across this state, we're marching and we're rallying. We're holding film screenings and community service events. We're honoring those that we've lost and honoring those that are still here. We're celebrating our accomplishments, and we're pointing the way forward towards more reforms that are going to keep our families safe.”