Letter from Dashka Slater

Dear Courageous Students,

Hey there. It’s me, your stalker. Seriously. I follow you on Twitter. I read articles about you when I should be writing. I’ve watched clips of you speaking more times than is strictly necessary I’m completely, ridiculously, besotted with each and every one of you and here’s why. You are doing what so many of us have wanted to do – take the wretched, dispiriting, awful things that are happening in our country and use them as white-hot fuel for making things better. That you are working so hard through tears, grief, trauma and fear is inspiring. That you believe change is possible reminds me to believe it as well.

I was an activist in high school as well, but I was alone – a mouthy and rebellious book-nerd with a few like-minded friends. One thing that impresses me is that you are working so well together, that you share both the limelight and the work, that you are inspiring legions of young people to join you, that you’ve created a big enough tent that people can respond to the call from wherever they are, physically, politically, emotionally. This is how you build a movement — with other people. You’re doing that.

I wrote a book about a real life crime involving teenagers recently, and gun violence plays a big part in it. Not the mass shooting violence you’ve experienced but the slow-motion massacres that happen in places like Oakland, California, where I live, and in other cities across the nation. Chicago. Baltimore. Detroit. Wilmington, Delaware. Fort Myers, Florida. Savannah, Georgia. In 2013, the year my book takes place, seven people under 18 were killed by guns in my hometown of Oakland. The youngest was sixteen months old. There’s a memorial to kids felled by violence in the middle of town, with a marble slab on which names can be added as each year passes. One thing I learned from writing this book is something you know already firsthand – each name on that list represents dozens of lives irrevocably impacted, long sorrowful chains of grief and trauma. We have to stop it.

I’m here to help. I’ll be marching on March 24. Registering voters from here to November. And watching you on Twitter when I should be writing.