Parkland student leaders get inspiration from Atlanta’s historyParkland and Atlanta student leaders stand in front of the wall of Freedom Riders: Left to right: Kaylyn Pipitone, Jaclyn Corin, Brendan Duff, Adrina Bradley and Kaileen Kim (Photo by Maria Saporta)
By Maria Saporta
The Power to Inspire fundraising for the Center for Civil and Human Rights Thursday night bridged the nonviolent student movement of the 1960s with the anti-gun violence student moved of today.
Three of the student leaders from Parkland, Fla. joined members of the Atlanta March for our Lives student leaders to tour the Center before the gala dinner.
For Jaclyn Corin, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the parallels between then and now were striking.
The same was true for Brendan Duff and Kaylyn Pipitone, two college students who graduated from Douglas High School two years ago and became leaders in the movement against gun violence in Parkland.
The sweeping exhibit on the 1963 March on Washington at the Center for Civil and Human Rights – which included detailed information on how to prepare for the march – really resonated with the Parkland students.
“We followed their way, and we didn’t even know it,” said Corin, who mentioned the 10 points the March on Washington used, including soliciting celebrities and sings to the cause. “It’s just the proper way to do something.”
Duff said identified with the “behind-the-scenes” preparations of the march – practices the Parkland students had to implement for their journeys to Tallahassee to get laws changed in Florida and to Washington, D.C. to get federal laws changed.
The anti-gun violence student movement was in response to a mass shooting at Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day by a former student who was armed with an AR-15 rifle and shot 17 people, most of them high school students.
Two weeks after the shooting, the Parkland students met with the Peace Warriors, a group of predominantly black high school students from Chicago, who have been fighting gun violence for 10 years.
The Peace Warriors and the Parkland students adopted the principles of nonviolence that had been central to Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement of 50 years ago.
“There are so many parallels between our movements,” Corin said. “We just have so many tools on how a movement is successful.”
“Nonviolence is a core principle,” Duff added.
During the dinner, the students sat at the table of Hank Thomas, one of the original13 Freedom Riders, who traveled on Greyhound and Trailways buses in 1961 in the south to protest racial segregation. Thomas, who went on to become one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, now serves on the board of the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
During their tour of the Center, the Parkland students posed with picture of Thomas as a young Freedom Rider when he was roughly the same age as the Parkland students.
So what’s next? The students saw another parallel between the civil rights movement and the anti-gun violence movement.
“Phase 1 was the march,” Corin said. “Phase 2 is working to have the largest turnout ever in November. This issue needs to be a priority.”
Corin, who is 17, will have her birthday two weeks before the election – which means she will be able to vote for the first time.