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Orange was the color of the day for National Gun Violence Awareness Day, June 2, and nearly everyone in the crowd of more than 100 at Fountain Square wore at least a touch of orange. Speakers touched on the many layers of gun violence and its ripple effect on families, friends, and communities.
The din of Thursday evening in downtown Evanston often swallowed the words of a speaker, but the message was clear: Gun violence is damaging this country and
Nina Kavin, founder of Dear Evanston, one of the co-sponsors of the rally, explained how orange came to symbolize victims of gun violence: “When Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in Chicago in 2013 at the age of 15, her friends decided to honor her life and raise awareness about gun violence by wearing orange — a color that symbolizes the value of human life. It’s the color hunters wear to make sure they are not shot. Now, what started as a way to honor one bright young woman has sparked a national movement of millions calling for change. … Orange refuses to be ignored. Orange represents the bright future that every child has – and how gun violence tragically cuts that potential short. … Events like this throughout the country today send a message to the gun lobby and our elected officials that we will not relent until meaningful action is taken to protect Americans from gun violence.”
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl introduced the speakers, including two mothers, Royce Pryor and Carolyn Murray, who lost children to gun violence.
Ms. Murray, whose son Justin was killed at 19 in 2012, said, “There are so many things I wanted to say to Justin.” Speaking of the broader issue of gun violence, she said, “I hope everyone understands this is a plague that is paralyzing us.” On a more positive note, she said, “As a community, we are able to take our community back.”
Denyse Stoneback, founder of People for a Safer Society, said there are 310 million guns in this country, and 30,000 fatal shots fired each year. The flier the group handed out by the group said guns kill twice as many children and young people as cancer and kill nearly two children every week as the result of unintentional shootings.
People for a Safer Society advocates for “common sense” state and federal legislation, such as universal background checks on prospective gun-buyers.
“We must not live under the illusion that we are untouchable,” said Ms. Stoneback.
Camille Allen, who graduated only a few weeks ago from Evanston Township High School, described how, shortly after her cohort began their freshman year at ETHS, their classmate Dajae Coleman was shot and killed. She said gun violence “is a symbol of a larger systemic situation” and it “kills black and brown people” more than others.
Christin Coronel, aka CC King, read a poem he wrote earlier this year, the last lines of which was “Thou shalt not succumb/To the powers that eliminate/the ones On The Run/who can barely hold the fragile stalemate. My words are the brush, my mind, the paint.”
Eliza Segal, Caroline Granner and Camille Allen, who graduated from ETHS this year and were members of the Bazao A Cappella Choir there, ended the rally with the U2 song, “In the Name of Love.”