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At only seven months in, 2018 is seemingly becoming the year of the hashtag. Although started in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke, the #MeToo era came to fruition earlier this year in January along with the #TimesUp movement. Both movements heavily focus on creating sexual assault awareness as well as giving victims the space to share their stories, in the hopes that it will resonate with others. The global success of such movements helped people to recognize the power of “the number sign”.
On February 14th, Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School became the latest victim of a school shooting, with a total of seventeen deaths (students and adults alike). According to CNN, twelve school shootings have taken place across America since the year began (MSD included). Almost immediately, the students of MSD decided change was needed and that they were going to be the ones to bring it. The students quickly became activists, publicly advocating for an end to gun violence (as well as stricter gun laws) across all platforms. It soon became evident that the people of America were witnessing something special, the beginning of a movement, the beginning of the end.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, MSD senior Cameron Kasky explained the reasoning behind titling the movement “Never Again”:
“We.. our voices were being heard, we were speaking out, and as more people were listening to us we decided we needed a name. We needed something people could follow, we needed a linchpin for everybody who was hurt, everybody who's speaking out, everybody who’s demanding change. And I was sitting down in my GhostBusters pajamas, and I was thinking and I thought of Never Again MSD. As just… for everyone who's hearing us to come together, and grieve, and demand action as one movement.”
With the message loud and clear, and with teens at the forefront, people across America started looking for ways to contribute to the movement. Soon enough, multiple protests, marches, and walk-outs were organized. Collectively, people began to acknowledge that the issue of gun violence was something necessary to be talked about. As well as that, no matter how people may be divided over a particular subject, conversations such as these are more than necessary to achieve a “better” America.
As most things do in 2018, “Never Again” subsequently became #NeverAgain. But, what makes it different than all the rest? It is simply that “Never Again” was a movement before it became a hashtag, not a hashtag before it became a movement. The power of “Never Again” does not come from countless retweets or shares. It comes from teenagers who have recognized the sheer power of their words. Marjory Stoeman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez, who has somewhat become the face of the movement (after her speech on gun violence), is quoted as saying, “We are children who are expected to act like adults, while the adults are proving themselves to behave like children”.
From the ashes of tragedy rises a global movement. There's no question that we need change now more than ever. It starts and ends with Marjory Stoneman Douglas, it starts and ends with us, and it starts and ends with “Never Again”.