This article was written by Susan Curnow Breedlove
A majority of Patrick Henry High School (PHHS) students marched out of school on National Student Walkout 2018 on Wednesday, March 14, to protest gun violence. Staff accompanied them on their 17-minute march around the school. This was one of nearly 3,000 reported school protests nationwide. The coordinated walkouts were organized with students leaving the building at 10 a.m. and marching one minute for each victim in the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida.
Prior activities at PHHS led to the National Walkout. On February 21 junior Elliot Gunderman prepared an announcement asking students who wanted to take action around preventing gun violence in schools to meet in the lunchroom. This planning meeting resulted in a day-long sit-in at the front Henry hallway on February 28. Some 15 students rotated discussing the issue with staff and students while passing out 90-100 pamphlets of facts created by junior Sarah Forbes. The information encouraged individuals who appeared to be serious about the issues of gun violence in schools to participate in a PHHS Walk and the up-coming National Student Walkout. Councilmember Felippe Cunningham came by and provided support and encouragement, as did many staff including Family Liaison Quinton Bonds and Principal Yusuf Abdullah.
One of the organizers, freshman Delisha Taylor-Heard, said, “We wanted to get our voices out there so we could prevent what had happened in Florida. We made posters and presented facts to catch people’s eyes.” Junior Calvin Henning said he volunteered to be a leader in the sit-in and walkout in order to “show everyone we are doing something to make a change.” “We knew we were becoming part of an international event,” said freshman Eva Gunderman.
On March 2 some of the organized group opposing gun violence walked to the Victory Memorial Parkway Flagpole, receiving coverage from KARE Channel 11. Henry High became one of the thousands of schools who joined the March 14 National Student Walkout 2018. V.J. Smith of Mad Dads and Councilmember Cunningham joined the walk with staff and students. “Personally, I feel the walkout was a good thing. It was us getting our voices heard and we were speaking for youth who were afraid to speak up around the nation,” said Forbes. Elliot Gunderman, the student leader who initiated this whole process, said, “I think it’s really great that the Northside schools are being involved in activism because we are often ignored by the media in what good we can do. There’s a lot happening here at Henry and I’ve never seen this before.”
As a follow-up of the National Student Walkout, eight students, four from Henry High and four from North High, called “Northside United,” attended the March for Our Lives rally on March 24 in Washington D.C. They were accompanied by Quinton Bonds of Henry and Armise Roberson of North. They joined more than 100 other students from across Minnesota and hundreds of thousands of students from across the country, to demand that lives and safety become the priority and to end gun violence. Northside students here also attended the coinciding March for Our Lives rally at the Minnesota Capitol.
Upon returning from the national rally these Northside United students will share their experience as a group at Henry, at North and with the Northside public. Thanks to Natalie Johnson Lee and Deb Loon Stumbras for coordinating and raising funds for the trip.