If you’re a fan of Snoop Lion and our MTV x Caliber campaign, you’re probably familiar with the phrase “No Guns Allowed.” Inspired by the rapper’s song, the members of the Texas League of Young Voters have created their own “No Guns Allowed” campaign to decrease violence in their state.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, homicide is the number-two cause of death of 15- to 24-year-olds in America. We talked to Christina Sanders, the state director of the Texas League of Young Voters, to find out more about what her organization is doing to help increase the peace in her community.
ACT: How did you get involved with the Texas League of Young Voters?
CHRISTINA: I first got involved with the League of Young Voters in 2010 to work on a campaign to educate young Texans about the importance of the census, and how completing these forms brought needed resources and dollars to our communities. There was no Texas affiliate of the League at that time, so I worked with some close friends and the executive director of the League, Dr. Robert "Biko" Baker, and his staff to start a state affiliate in Texas. It's been fun engagement ever since.
ACT: Why is fighting gun violence an important issue in your community?
CHRISTINA: The Centers for Disease Control reported that homicide is the number-one cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old African Americans. Gun violence tears away at the core of what it means to be a community. The Children's Defense Fund released an alarming report that a child is injured from a gun every 30 minutes! Gun violence is senseless, and we need to do what we can to prevent it from happening in the first place.
In Houston's city magazine, The Atlantic, Houston was negatively portrayed because our gun/homicide rate is slightly higher than the country of Ecuador's and higher than the national average of the United States. We have got to do more. If all our kids see are individuals who use anger and violence to solve problems, then we will look at the same cycle of broken people, corrupted systems and torn families 20 years from now. This generation must work to replace acceptable acts of violence with immeasurable acts of peace.
Photo: Christina posting with the one and only Mr. President. (Texas League of Young Voters)
ACT: What can you tell us about the "No Guns Allowed" campaign?
CHRISTINA: The movement began as a reinvigorated campaign to decrease violence among young people. As an organization, we are using cultural organizing to promote peaceful conflict resolution, and to work against the forces that cause young people to pick up a gun in the first place. Already, more than 13,000 people have pledged to help stop the cycle of gun violence in their communities via the League's campaign.
We are focused on using art, music and storytelling to change the way that our communities view violence. In addition, we are working toward responsible gun ownership laws that provide a strong background-check system for gun owners. With the help of community organizers, celebrities and cultural tastemakers, we are organizing to bring an end to the cycle of violence.
ACT: How can people in Texas take action to fight gun violence? What about people across the country?
CHRISTINA: First, people in Texas need to seek additional, more amicable ways to resolve issues. Each of us has to commit to being bigger and stronger than the urges that we sometimes feel to act senseless. Resisting reactions that commit violence does not have to be taught — we just have to practice it. Peace. Nothing is so urgent that it requires violence. We can start with ourselves and encourage and engage others around us as well.
ACT: On a national level, which organizations do you think are doing great work to fight gun violence?
CHRISTINA: Right now, we're lucky to be in good company with organizations that are doing creative, innovative campaigns against gun violence — including Moms Demand Action, CeaseFire, the Brady Campaign and Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
2013 is a turning point for the movement — we have the chance to build programs that stop gun violence before it starts. We can save lives, if we all decide to stand tall and push for peace on our blocks. You can join the movement today by texting PEACE to 69866.
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.
Join more than 950 mayors and over 1.5 million grassroots supporters to demand that Congress take action to end gun violence.
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