At a time when many high school students focus on summer activities, Teyonna Lofton, a rising senior at Perspectives Leadership Academy, a charter public school in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, stood before hundreds of her peers to speak out against gun violence on Chicago’s South Side.
“There is so much pain we carry as young people and we just shouldn’t have to,” Lofton said. “We cannot become desensitized and accept what is going on around us. We have to stand up together for the fundamental right to be safe in our neighborhoods.”
Hundreds of students, parents and community members attended Perspectives Charter Schools’ sixth annual student-led peace rally and march Friday, June 7. The event included prayer, music, speeches and a march filled with student voices demanding peace in the neighborhoods they call home.
The march was personal for many attendees. Diana Shulla-Cose, co-founder of Perspectives, said more than ten students and alumni have been shot and killed in the past two years.
State Representative Kam Buckner (D-26) recalled losing friends to gun violence.
“I would say goodbye to them in June when school ended and not have an opportunity to ever see them again,” Buckner said. “We need peace this summer throughout the entire city of Chicago.”
Most students, including Lofton, reported knowing someone who was shot and killed. As a co-organizer of the event, Lofton appreciated the opportunity to advocate for her community in a supportive environment.
“The peace march meant everything to me,” Lofton said. “Seeing my friends and kids around my age who look just like me come together as one and stand strong.”
Perspectives’ students will continue their advocacy for peace with a basketball tournament and community planning session on reducing gun violence. To join the conversation, visit https://eventnoire.com/chitown-shutdown/.