‘We are survivors of gun violence’

Young people speak candidly about the realities of everyday gun violence in Kalamazoo, shedding light on its distressing prevalence among a generation left powerless to protect themselves.
A Black teenage boy wearing glasses, a baseball cap, and an orange tee-shirt stands in the middle of a park. A text overlay reads "She passed away. She was 16."

In ‘To Be of an Age’ kids and teens discuss the alarming rise of shooting incidents involving their peers. They highlight the unsettling reality of 12-year-olds mingling with 20-year-olds, a dynamic fueled by the presence of guns. The prevailing mindset among their generation is dishearteningly fixated on guns as a means of power and control, as these teens witness fist fights replaced by firearms. The emotional impact is brought home as the video ends, echoing the name of a lost friend caught in the crossfire, killed at 16, a poignant reminder of the devastating toll gun violence takes on these young lives.

Some are survivors of shootings themselves, sharing their ‘Experiences of Violence.’ They recount chilling incidents: one boy who watched his father get gunned down, a pre-teen left with the image of a shot body in the street, and a baby boy alive yet scarred by his close call with a grazing bullet. These first-hand narratives illustrate the trauma of gun violence and its devastating consequences on families and communities.

The ominous frequency of gunshots becomes a backdrop to these young people who highlight ‘How It Changes Their Lives.’ Nine-year-old Zech describes the distressing regularity of hearing gunshots every few days. Youngsters say they’ve become trapped in their own homes, opting for indoor activities like watching TV or playing video games, rather than venturing outside. The fear of stray bullets seeps into even the simplest activities, like sitting on the porch or going to the store. The uncertainty of their future and the aspirations they dream of are clouded by the constant threat of violence. The burden of constantly looking over their shoulders is a heavy one, and they long for a transformation, yearning for a safe and vibrant city where children can play without the looming shadow of gun violence.

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