Standing With the Florida Shooting Victims and Survivors

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Abraham M. Keita, VI

I am writing these words without any intent to join the bandwagon, for some kind of attention. But I set out to pen this write out because I believe, my unborn children will ask me what I did to help make the world a better place. I believe, when history holds its trial, I will stand on a pedestal to recall my journey in this space called the Earth.

And the biggest, perhaps, only question that will be posed to me will be: how did you influence and impact your world? Woefully disgraceful it would be should I respond with, “I could not do anything because I was just a single person”; or “I didn’t want to cross people’s paths or I minded my business.”

Last week, I woke up to the news of the massacre of seventeen precious lives; seventeen people that were the beacons of love, light, and joy for seventeen families; seventeen individuals whose lives were as equally important as President Donald Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan, and every other official of the Trump administration.

Yes, seventeen lives who were as American as their fellow citizens alive today. It occurred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A school and an area once regarded, as the paradise of peace, the safest place in Florida, is now an apocalyptic environment. Full of fear and fright, of sorrow and lamentation.

I am 19 years old, and I am not an American citizen nor related to one. I am from Liberia, a nation founded by freed slaves from America, but I am a global citizen. I understand the Golden Rule, I follow it not merely as a convenient invitation to be sympathetic, but one more demanding, “to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes”.

I am empathetic, without self-indulgence, to the problems that face young people like myself, all around the world. As a teenager, I believe in one and one principle alone: injury to one is an injury to all or as President Barack Obama succinctly put it in his “The Audacity of Hope”, “what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart”.

One may ask, “Abraham, what do you know about gun?” I know well the impact of gun better than most. At age 9, a gun ruined my life; a single bullet from a gun changed my story. It made me fatherless; my father was killed by rebels while driving for a humanitarian relief organization during the conflict in my country.

Guns ripped my country apart! The 14 years civil war in Liberia led to the deaths of over 250,000 people, all caused by individuals pulling the triggers of guns. I know gun well! It is a dangerous, murderous instrument some people still own. Gun violence is a global threat, but America’s share of such nightmarish experience is in cosmic proportions.

In Liberia, gun violence exists but our media gives it no attention. In 2016, the son of Liberia Defense Minister shot a man at an event organized by the shooter himself. Questions about how he came to possess a gun remain unanswered. And there is the problem of armed robbers bashing into people’s residences during the night.

Whether, you are an American or an African, whether black or white or brown, we all have one shared identity: that we were created by one God; that we are connected through one genetic strain to the earliest humans. And if we can just realize and recognize this, and embrace each other, then the world will be safe, calm, and progressive as we all want it.

On March 24, I will do the right thing as a world citizen, as someone who cares about the future of young people in America as I care about mine: I shall travel to Washington D.C. and march along with the thousands of people who will march that day. I will join the forces of good and say “never again”.

It is a generational mission, and I want to fulfill this task along with the brilliant young Americans leading the Never Again movement. Similar march for our lives will also take place in Liberia, to show that what affects America affects her sisterly nations. The urgency to legislate ‘common sense’ gun laws is now. Passing tighter regulations to prevent gun violence in America, not giving guns to teachers, will make American schools safe.

It will be an inspiration for other nations to follow. America must listen to its future leaders while serving as a model for countries with such menace.

Abraham M. Keita is a campaigner for children’s rights and justice. Twitter @VIKeita

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