Gun violence is a growing problem in our country, but for some people, the problem isn't just national, it’s personal. Melanie David’s brother was shot and killed in 2010. When she found out about Girl Be Heard, a theatre company that brings social justice issues to the forefront, she knew she had to get on stage and share her story.
David, 25, was a company member for Girl Be Heard’s highly-acclaimed "9mm America" show. At the performances, young women stepped into the spotlight to share their stories of how gun violence has personally affected their lives. Although she had to relieve the pain of losing her brother, David was supported throughout the entire experience by her mentor, Jessica Greer Morris, the executive director of Girl Be Heard, and legendary activist Eve Ensler.
Photo: From left to right, Melanie with fellow Girl Be Heard members Bre and Betsy. (Girl Be Heard)
To find out more about the performances and what David is doing now to Increase the Peace, check out our interview below.
ACT: How did you get involved with Girl Be Heard?
MELANIE: I got a casting notice back in September last year and saw that they were seeking young woman with personal stories about numerous issues and one of them happened to be gun violence. I was too afraid at the time to share my story, so I didn't attend the audition. When I got the same casting in January I said, "OK, I am going to go and see what happens." So with all my reservations and fears intact I attended the audition, I sang and shared my story and had no idea that Girl Be Heard was going to change my life for the better. I encourage every girl who wants to be heard to audition.
Photo: The brave and beautiful cast of "9mm America." (Girl Be Heard)
ACT: Why is it important to you to speak out against gun violence?
MELANIE: It is important for me to speak out against gun violence because my brother was murdered in 2010. Losing a loved one that way is an unimaginable pain that no human being should have to endure. People die every day, but no one should be allowed to decide another’s fate, and unfortunately guns give others the power to play God.
ACT: What was it like performing as part of "9mm America?"
MELANIE: "9mm America" was the greatest and most difficult experience of my life. Having to relive the pain of losing my brother night after night was beyond difficult. I really exposed some deep issues that followed his murder like how I suffered from panic attacks to having to see his cold lifeless body in a casket. However, I got so much support from my mentor, Jessica Greer Morris (who is the executive director of Girl Be Heard), who taught me how to bring myself back as a performer and how to focus my energy. Eve Ensler (from "The Vagina Monologues") came to our show and has been an angel to me personally and to Girl Be Heard. She provided great advice on self-care after having to go to such a dark place when performing. So ultimately as hard as it was, it truly made me a better performer and helped me heal my pain by sharing my story.
ACT: Now that the shows are over, how will you continue to protest against gun violence in our country?
MELANIE: I continue to perform my song "One," every opportunity I get, which is a plea to end gun violence. I also have a non-profit in the works in honor of my brother to mentor and help educate the youth on gun violence. Girl Be Heard is also constantly asked to perform our show "9mm America," and we are always hard at work to create new platforms to voice our message. Today, we are working to bring the show to The White House and Capitol Hill so we can inspire legislators to change gun laws.
ACT: For our readers, how can they get involved in speaking out against gun violence?
MELANIE: There are so many ways to help! Readers can look up organizations in their area and volunteer time. If there are none they can always support by giving to organizations like Girl Be Heard, that give back to the community by educating the youth and providing an outlet for them. Today we are working to raise funds to bring the show into public schools, specifically those in neighborhoods where gun violence is a daily threat. And we would love for every reader to join our movement to stop gun violence by “liking” Girl Be Heard’s FB page or following us on twitter.
ACT: What is your hope for Girl Be Heard?
MELANIE: My hope is that we can take Girl Be Heard around the world! I think it’s so important for people to express themselves through powerful mediums like music, acting, dance and spoken word. Gun violence is just one issue but globally we face so many challenges and with organizations like Girl Be Heard we can unite the world and shed light on important issues while making the world a bit more colorful and a better place to live.
Increase The Peace is an ongoing series dedicated to celebrating young people who are coming up with creative ways to fight gun violence. For more on the series, visit Increase The Peace.
Girl Be Heard
Girl Be Heard uses theater to empower young women to become brave, confident, socially conscious leaders. What's not to love about that?
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