17-year-old Mei Ling Ho-Shing, like many of her classmates, became an activist after she survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida that left 17 of her classmates and teachers dead. But in the wake of the tragedy, and on the heels of nationwide school walk-outs and the March for Our Lives, Ho-Shing is calling for more than gun law reform alone. She’s demanding an intersectional approach to the #NeverAgain movement.
Ho-Shing recently urged the attendees at the Feminist Campus National Young Feminist Leadership Conference to recognize the role that wealth and whiteness played in the national response to Parkland—including an unprecedented youth-led movement to end gun violence that has challenged politicians beholden to the NRA and demanded lawmakers do better by students to improve safety in schools. And as students from Parkland take the nation by storm, Ho-Shing is demanding that lawmakers hear every voice from her community as they chart a path forward—including hers.
We talked to Ho-Shing about the March for Our Lives, what’s next and how young people can grab their seats at the table.
Let’s start with your story. I’m sure many students who went through what you and your classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas have gone through wouldn’t have immediately stood back up and decided to fight back. What drove you to become an activist in the wake of this tragedy?
On February 14th, 2018, my school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School came face to face with the devastating reality of gun violence. I will never forget the look in my Algebra II teacher’s eyes as she stood courageously in her fear to watch and protect us bundled and terrified in the corner. I can still hear the walls cracking from the spent bullets, the screams of the students and teachers from the floor above and below, and the silent prayer I held with God.
In the days that followed the shooting, I saw the faces of students who rose up against this tragedy: Alfonso Calderon, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and Cameron Kasky, just to name a few. And I started to see the cadence of the nation as they galvanized around this movement: #NeverAgain.
I stood at the intersection of my reality as African-American of Jamaican-Chinese descent, female, re-assigned student and non-Parkland resident, in a predominantly White school who know these truths: Women of color experience higher rates of homicide when compared to whites. The statistics are alarming. Men of color are 13 times more likely than white men to be shot and killed with guns.
Now that gun violence knocked on the doors of one of American’s most affluent and jeweled communities, #NeverAgain began. America can be a beautiful tapestry of uniquely inter-woven threads or it can be a mangled knot of our prejudice, privileges, anger and fear. As I began to unravel the knot of my experience, the questions began. In the wake of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, we said, “never again”—yet there have been 239 school shootings since, with 438 people shot and 138 murdered. Why wasn’t it #NeverAgain? Now 17 Eagles? When Trayvon Martin was gunned down innocently, why wasn’t it #NeverAgain? Or the Charleston Church shooting or the Pulse Night Club Massacre, why wasn’t it #NeverAgain?
For me, the resounding sound from these few classmates and joined by the nation, was #OurLivesMatterMore. I reached out to Broward School Board Member, Rosalind Osgood, to let her know that my experience was not being reflected in the media or at roundtable discussions within the community. She brought me to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz’s Gun Violence Remediation Task Force, where true action was taking place.
The pen is stronger than the knife—or, in this case, a gun.
What advice would you give to other young activists inspired by what they’re seeing students like you do right now?
Listen more! Read more! Convene more! Decrease all personal intentions and aspirations. Let your EGO GO! My schoolmate David Hogg recently made this statement—“we have to use our white privilege now, so that all of the voices and all of the people who have died or have not been covered can be heard”—referencing low socio-economic and Black communities as an example [of voices unheard]. Although not motivated by ill-intention, Hogg excluded 40 percent of the MSD student body, who are from a rich mix of diverse cultures.
“We?” We, who? We don’t need another Great White Hope. We need intersectionality and collective change. Listen more! Read more! Convene more!
How can young people get active and claim their seats at the table? Speak up and speak out. Ask for a seat at the table. Or better yet, bring your own chair and sit down at these tables. We don’t mind sitting on the floor, either.
The March for Our Lives events this weekend brought people together across the country to end gun violence—and, in many ways, to stand in solidarity with your community and your peers. How did it feel to watch that unfold?
It feels great to be active, aligned and take a unified stance. It feels great to be recognized, treated with sympathy and care. It feels great to gather the support of many as we embark on this national journey to dismantle dysfunctional gun laws and challenge the NRA, gun manufacturers and the elected officials that lavish in their blood money. It feels great to become empowered by the pulse of youth and to charge forward as we re-write these laws.
What’s next? After the walkouts, the marches—what’s next on the horizon for this movement, and for your community?
The filing of the Ammunition Background Check Act of 2018. And then looking at each of our state and federal gun laws with an eagles eye and close every dangerous loop hole that puts our lives at risk. Specifically, passing a law to ban the sale of assault weapons, prohibiting the sale of high-capacity magazines and closing the loopholes in our background check laws that allow dangerous people who should not be allowed to purchase firearms to slip through the cracks and buy guns online or at gun shows.
Finish this sentence for me: In fifty years, the history books will remember this weekend as…
A pivotal youth-led movement.