Written by: Martha Durkee-Neuman
I lost a loved one to a random act of gun violence when I was a young woman. In my grief and devastation, I learned about the movement against gun violence and became an advocate for gun violence prevention, and intersectionality became a touchstone of my organizing and advocacy.
This past semester I had the opportunity to co-op in Washington DC and engage with community organizing in a new and powerful way. I interned with the grassroots, women-led, peace and antiwar organizing agency, coordinating direct actions, lobby days, nonviolent civil disobedience, vigils, events, and rallies. The past several months have been a historical time to be doing political advocacy on a national stage and it has been challenging and meaningful raising my voice against the increasing tide of intolerance and bigotry. It has also been a time of rediscovering my passion and skill for gun violence prevention organizing.
In DC I had access to many community resources and connections. At the beginning of my internship I hosted an event that had logistical challenges but gave rise to very important dialogue about problems in the gun violence prevention organizing space. I wanted to capture this energy and momentum so I had the idea to organize a gun violence prevention summit to give a specific platform to conversations of intersectionality and lift up community voices. I felt confident in my ability to organize this event due to previous experience I had organizing with the Social Impact Lab and several projects I worked on in my community. I conducted outreach and formed a steering committee of advocates from different demographic and experiential backgrounds. I identified and delegated tasks, publicized the event, collected sponsorships and registration, and worked with the National Gun Violence Prevention Coalition to build partnerships.
In December, we co-produced the 2016 Strength in Synergy Summit, which brought together diverse groups working to end gun violence in their communities for a day of convening, learning, collaborating, coalition building, and healing. The event was a great success. The speakers and attendees blew me away with their courage, respect, and dedication to collective liberation. Attendees jumped into difficult conversations with humility and bravery, delving into nuance and complexity with awareness. We created a day-long community of commitment, intersectionality, and action.
We received positive press as well; C-SPAN covered the summit and my op-ed was published on multiple local news sites. After the summit, we committed to united, progressive change within the movement for gun violence prevention. I learned a great deal from my fellow organizers both about logistical management and grassroots mobilization. This was an incredible project to be a part of. The experience helped me re-define my dedication to social justice and build confidence in my skills as an organizer, lessons that I will always carry with me.