The other pandemic: gun violence and COVID-19
Ebony Brickhouse, Field Manager, Amnesty International USA
Gun violence is not only a public health crisis, it is a human rights crisis that has been heightened by COVID-19. The communities who live with this realization daily, and on a disproportionate level, are also the homes of the organizations put in place to stop these abuses. Unfortunately, most of these organizations are currently at risk, due to a lack of funding and support. Now more than ever, those organizations are imperative.
In many cases, these organizations do far more than fight to end gun violence. They are the first responders, the de-escalation specialists, the mental health supporters, the mentors. They are the gatekeepers of their communities.
Amnesty International holds human rights at its core. These communities are dealing with a human rights crisis. Gun violence violates the right to life and the right to be free from discrimination, among other human rights. Firearm homicide was the leading cause of death for black men and boys aged 15–34 in 2018, and the third-leading cause of death for Latino men and boys in the same age range.
The facts surrounding the causes and effects of gun violence have always been personal for me as a black woman. Though, 18 months ago, I began to feel its dark, heavy shadow in a new way; 18 months ago I brought my own son into the world, and with him, a new fear in me was born. How will I protect him in a world, in a country, that seems to figuratively, and literally target him?
These are unprecedented times for us. However, we are stronger when we take a stand together. Even if we have to do so while staying physically distant. Amnesty International recently launched our RightsNow! campaign, and we are calling on Congress to end the gun violence crisis right now! The summer is upon us, and it will be the summer of action!
Will you join us? Let’s start with these 5 actions.
- June 1st we will have a powerful live discussion with Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, Hadiya Pendleton’s mother and advocate. Hadiya was shot and killed while in the park with her friends after school, one week after performing at President Obama’s inauguration. Her murder sparked the #WearOrange movement, now an annual national event. Amnesty experts will join Ms. Pendleton as we discuss how to build a human rights movement to end gun violence.
Register here to receive information on how to access this virtual platform.
- June 2nd we ask that you call your Representative and ask them to support the Break the Cycle of Violence Act! This Act will commit at least $150 million annually for 10 years to community gun violence prevention programs and help create a national strategy to address the disproportionate impact on communities of color.
Click here to be connected to your Representatives’ office.
- June 3rd, we’ll flood the Dropbox with Orange! Orange is the color that Hadiya Pendleton’s friends wore in her honor. This is the color we wear to raise awareness about gun violence.
Take a photo of you and/or your loved ones wearing orange or supporting #EndGunViolence and drop it here in the Dropbox.
Images will be used for a big social media push on Friday, June 5th.
- June 4th, write to your members of Congress asking them to support the Break the Cycle of Violence Act. Click here to find your Senators’ and Representative’s addresses.
But don’t stop there! Once you submit your own email or letter, please recruit people you know to send letters to their Congressional leaders.
Letter Writing Tip: Click here for a sample letter and make sure you include why you care about this issue, and share how this affects you personally, your community, your state, your country.
- June 5th, this is the day to show your orange! Get creative and decorate your front door, your car, your bicycle, design your own poster, a piece of art, chalk your sidewalk orange — show solidarity and be creative.
Take a photo of how you show orange, upload it to Dropbox and share your photo on social media. Don’t forget to tag @amnestyusa and your members of Congress. Use #WearOrange, #EndGunViolence and #RightsNow.
Four photos will be selected to win a $50.00 gift card!
This is just the beginning. I would love to say that after we do these things, take these actions, we can take a break, breathe easy; but that’s not how it works when you’re fighting for the rights of yourself and others. This is ongoing work for us all. Will this be the last action you take to end human rights abuses? As a mother, a sister, a daughter, a partner, I say to you, I hope it is not.