I was quietly taking notes in an eighth-grade Algebra class when I asked my deskmate if she ever thought about what she would do in a school shooting.
At first she said, “No.” Then tilted her head and said, “Sometimes.” Little did we know that a girl named Alyse sitting a few rows over would survive a shooting at her new high school.
Later that year, I met an older kid at a youth support group. He was about 16, and I wanted so badly to be friends. He was funny, joyful, and seemed so mature. He also went to the same high school as Alyse, but was fortunately sick the day of the shooting. As cliché as it is, the day of the shooting at Ingraham last November seemed pretty boring, but in third period we went into shelter-in-place because my school is several miles from Ingraham. At first I thought it was just someone who’d committed a crime near my high school , but the threat proved to be very real, as one of their students was fatally wounded. Soon students from my school began to contact their friends, siblings, cousins, girlfriends, boyfriends, and partners hoping that their loved one wasn’t dead for simply exercising their right to an education. Next to me a girl was frantically texting her sister, nervously staring at her brightly-lit screen, just hoping she was safely locked in a classroom, whatever ‘safe’ would mean.
A year later, the school district has not noticeably done more to provide more mental health resources or provide safer school environments other than maintain the usual security officers—this can arguably make schools less safe, as noted by studies here and here. Despite SPS (Seattle Public Schools) Superintendent Dr. Brent Jones saying that he and the district are implementing a “Community Action Team” and “a child well-being council” shootings at Garfield, Nova, and Rainier Beach High Schools have persisted. Lockdowns with considerable danger at Meany and Washington Middle Schools have occurred as well as Nathan Hale High School. The district has said they will take action, but their actions speak louder than their words. Especially when their inaction takes student lives. In the past year multiple shootings have occurred near and in schools across the city and it feels like no one's doing anything. People say more police, but that didn’t save the children of Robb Elementary in Uvalde. ENOUGH! PLAYS TO END GUN VIOLENCE beautifully represents how to fight this twisted and ugly issue. This project seeks to start the much needed conversations we need to solve this problem. The plays, all written by youth playwrights, actively address this issue by sharing intimate narratives about how gun violence easily slips into our lives, or by reflecting on the long-reaching effects survivors and communities feel.
Let me share another story of how gun violence has affected my everyday life. I have anxiety, and, despite never experiencing a shooting or any act of gun violence, one of the main causes is fear of being in a shooting. Last year, I was offered the opportunity to speak at an event for the Trans Day of Remembrance. The organizers said that a gun club would be doing security for the event. While the gun club states that it is anti-facist and anti-racist, their presence still scared me for several reasons. One was the fact that their guns could go off by accident—I did not know the extent of their training. The second is the implication that there was a need for gun-security because there could be a threat of violence. The third is that guns (and other weapons used by law enforcement) have been disproportionately used against Queer people and People of Color. As a member of both the queer and PoC communities, the presence of gun-based security made me feel deeply unsafe. When I asked the organizers if gun-based security could not be used, they said no. Because I didn’t feel comfortable with having gun security at the event, this meant that I could not participate and speak out for my community.
When I was growing up, I lived in a neighborhood where gun violence was present. Despite the threat of gentrification, the problem of shootings seems to persist, as seen with a recent shooting at a local daycare. I still fear that I may be in a shooting. When I walk out the door as a young teen girl, I not only have to remember to take my phone, my pink wallet, my watermelon Anthropologie lip gloss, I try to say, “I love you”, maybe for the last time. I try not to leave after an argument, so if I don’t make it home, they won’t doubt what kind of terms I left my family on. It should go without saying that ENOUGH! is not the only solution to gun violence, but it’s certainly a start. Art is arguably one of the only ways to fully tell multiple truths and acknowledge pain to begin the process to heal. The mental pain caused by guns is a deeply open wound. Art often is the first time many people can even acknowledge it. We cannot begin to address the damage guns have done to this country’s people without this vital conversation starter. We cannot begin to address the ramifications of mental health stigma and the pipeline to violence with starting a discourse. We will not be able to make long-term change without civilly discussing this issue. ENOUGH! isn’t enough, but it sure is the start this country needs.