Cynthia Nixon, Parkland Activists Bring Messages to Teen Vogue Summit

Cynthia Nixon and Phillip Picardi attend Teen Vogue Summit 2018 - Getty-H 2018
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Nixon praised the survivors of the Florida shooting for their leadership and encouraged young people to follow in their change-making footsteps.

The Teen Vogue Summit returned for its second time in New York City this weekend for a three-day event featuring discussions centered around a number of hot-button issues, including gun control, climate change, LGBTQ matters and female empowerment.

On Saturday, two panels, both featuring gun-violence survivors, addressed the current epidemic of shootings in America. Moderated by Teen Vogue’s digital editorial director Phillip Picardi, the first panel featured young female activists and survivors of February's Parkland shooting Emma Gonzalez, Jaclyn Corin and Sarah Chadwick, along with the sister of Sandy Hook shooting victim Daniel Barden.

Picardi introduced the young women by first pointing out that the most popular cover in Teen Vogue history was the March 2018 gun control issue, for which Gonzalez wrote the cover feature.  

Chadwick bore a price tag tied around her waist, which Picardi inquired about. “This price tag is Florida and if you go on the March for our Lives website you can get one from any state,” explained Chadwick. “Basically, it’s the amount of money a politician in your area has taken from the NRA, divided by the amount of students there are in that state, so it’s like I’m only worth $1.05 to Marco Rubio, which is basically what it’s about, and different people are about different amounts in different states.”

Corin promised that the Parkland activists are planning something “very, very big for this summer” that’ll be announced within the next few days. Their goal, according to Corin, is to expand their activism to local communities. “March for our Lives isn’t just about us, it’s about every single one of you and every single student in America and we’re really going to channel that,” asserted Corin. On Monday, a number of the Parkland shooting survivors announced a multistate bus tour to educate, register and motivate young people to vote.

She also discussed the power that they’ve amassed as anti-gun-violence activists, saying “We have so much 'clout' now and people are scared of us." She added: “We’re a bunch of 16,17, 18-year-old girls.”

Gonzalez pointed out that in the months that they’ve been using their platform to bring attention to the importance of gun control, their hard work has paid off. 

She named Dick’s Sporting Goods as one of the brands that has listened to their concerns and ceased selling firearms.

Chadwick also pointed out that Wal-Mart followed suit and stopped selling them as well.

Natalie Barden said she was initially reluctant to become an activist against gun violence.

“I didn’t want to feel different. I didn’t want to be that person that was speaking about gun violence because I couldn’t think about it myself,” confessed Barden. The 16-year-old then discovered there was a gun violence-prevention club in her high school and felt it was important to get involved.

The conversation also touched on how the Parkland activists feel about being compared to the survivors of the recent Santa Fe High School shooting. All of them expressed their disdain towards this, pointing out that each survivor has a different way of coping with their traumatic experiences. “Stop playing us against each other, we’re all going through different things,” contended Gonzalez.

Following this panel was another one on anti-gun violence activism, but with a different focus.

It looked into the movement to combat shootings beyond mass incidents, particularly centered around activists of color. For this one, which was also moderated by Picardi, Nza-Ari Khepra, Clifton Kinnie, Jazmine Wildcat and Kenidra Woods talked about how they became activists.

Each of them discussed the harrowing experiences they had motivated them to become activists. Khepra, who formed Project Orange Tree and helped to create the Wear Orange Campaign, donned the campaign’s color. She detailed how she became involved in activism after experiencing the loss of her friend Hadiya Pendleton to gun violence five years ago. “[Pendleton’s death] really shook me and all of my friends up and her family, truly, because she was so lively,” said Khepra.

She explained that the decision to use the color orange to raise awareness came about because it’s “the color that hunters wear when they go out into the woods for their own protection.” She added, “We wanted to take that and flip it on its head to say, ‘We, too, deserve protection. Us children shouldn’t have to go as if like we are in the hunting grounds in the south side of Chicago.’”

Kinnie, who became involved in activism after witnessing the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, opened up about how activists of color are treated in contrast to those who are white and at the forefront of the gun control movement.

Woods, who is the founder of the Hope for Humanity Project, echoed his statement, explaining that her high school barred students who participated in the walkout from returning to campus, threatening to suspend them. Picardi argued that there's a double standard in which the Parkland survivors are celebrated for their activism, while activists of color aren’t allowed to have the privilege of a larger platform.

To that, Woods responded pointing out that while she admires the accomplishments of the Parkland activists, she wants the nation to feel as motivated to speak out about victims of color who are affected by guns. “Where’s the sympathy for the black kids, where was the hype with Mike Brown? Where was the hype with [Tamir] Rice?,” inquired Woods.

Wildcat, who was the last to speak, shared a bit about why she feels passionate about gun control activism. She noted that in her home state of Wyoming anyone can purchase a gun without requiring a permit. Her focus is on advocating for strict background checks.

“My grandpa came back from the Vietnam War with PTSD and he threatened to take his life via gun,” explained Wildcat. “If we just had those checks, he would not have had ever had the opportunity to like say that and to get his hands on a gun cause we as family members, we had to take away his guns and I don’t think anyone should have to do that.”

Later in the day, New York Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon brought her campaign to the summit, touching on some of the issues she hopes to address.

Nixon pointed out how patriarchal the world of politics can be and how much women still have to fight to have the privilege to gain as much power as men. “New York has had 56 governors and not a single one was a woman. And I think it's time to change that,” said Nixon, as the audience cheered. She added: “It’s way past time to end the era when a group of men sit around in a group and decide what happens to women’s bodies.”

She also commended the anti-gun violence activists for speaking out about such a pressing issue that’s present nationwide. “I know you have students here from Parkland today speaking to you. What leadership they have shown — Emma Gonzalez and all the others. And the youth of Chicago who are igniting the nation to end gun violence in our schools and on our streets.”

She ended her speech with a poignant message for the young audience: “I wish that I had been told that when I was young and so I'm making the point of telling you today. Our world needs so much fixing and so much improving and no one generation or gender or ethnicity or class has a monopoly on solutions. So if you feel like you can be a leader, don't wait. Start leading now.”