By Mary McPhail Gray
NVW Board Chair
“Instead of working on our homework, we were sitting in our math class planning where we would duck and hide if the warning suddenly came.”
— a Taos High School student at the March 14th rally on the plaza.
“I am frightened to leave the classroom and go to the bathroom.”
— a student in the discussion at St. James after the march from the plaza.
“The high school is not safe.”
“We do not feel safe.”
“Anyone can walk in and out all day”
— comments heard at the St. James gathering.
“I became a teacher to develop, mentor and grow young people. To ask us to hold guns is not in our nature.”
— Pasqual Maestes
The iron in our bodies becomes stars when we are killed.
Respect the stardust in our blood instead of killing it.
— The poet Micalle Lewis, a 2017 graduate of Taos High
Ted Wiard, director of Golden Willow Retreat, stated that this community and the nation need to act through FEAR—Face Everything and Recover.
Can we face the obvious observation that the youth have taken over the narrative the adults should be creating? Most adults over 40 did not experience the challenges our young people do today. Can we do what Wiard said was needed—honor their anger by agreeing that something must change? And protect them by holding space for action?
It is complicated and daunting. We have decades of history with access to military style weapons and a group of citizens that believe any restriction on the sale of such weapons is an escalator to denying civil rights.
But we have examples of youth reaching out — becoming activists. The Parkland students admit that a number of them had to get rapid tutoring on how to effectively use social media—because they knew it was their community’s preferred communication tool and they wanted to respond to youth and politicians around the country. Now a number of them have hundreds of thousands of followers.
Our Taos youth, alarmed by 4 youth suicides in the summer of 2016, created the app “See Something. Say Something” to give other youth the tools to be supported, informed about resources, and provided with a lifeline.
Yet when the New York Metropolitan Transit System initiated a highly funded campaign by the same name—they found that people (mainly adults?) reported suspicious activity mainly by persons of different skin color, religion, and language.
The Parkland students deliberately scheduled presentations/dialogues with multi-ethnic schools in the greater DC area to say, “This isn’t just about the Florida incident—it is about all the fears that reside in the hearts and minds of all minorities in our country.”
So can we give youth a chance? Hold the space for them. Show up when needed. Volunteer to coach, teach, be a mentor, be a club sponsor, befriend the neighborhood youth and ask them how they are feeling about the violence.
We need to encourage adult conversations about how we can move forward—express our political values—support therapeutic services for youth—acknowledge that we have not created safe common ground. And start the conversation about why almost all of the mass shooters have been male. We have much reflection to do—and then to act.
Nonviolence Works has the largest behavioral health staff in northern New Mexico. We can be reached at www/nonviolenceworks.us or 575-758-4297.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of NVW and can be reached at McPhailconsulting@gmail.com or 575-779-3126.