30 Nov 2012
Stop the Violence, Swarm the Vote
Hillside Students Take a Stand
By Bryan Proffitt
Young people in African-American and Latino communities walk around with targets on their backs. They are the most likely to draw the suspicion and harassment of the police. They are the most likely to struggle with unemployment and poverty. They are the most likely to drop out or be kicked out of schools. And, most tragically, they are also the most likely to face violence, often at the hands of one another.
Luckily, however, they are the most likely to take a stand.
On Friday, October 26th, over 200 students, staff, and parents from Hillside High took that stand by participating in the “Stop the Violence, Swarm the Vote,” march to honor the victims of violence and take positive action to improve our communities. Along the way to early voting, we held a vigil in remembrance of the victims of violence. The energy was high. The feet were lively. And the faces of all told the story: we are tired of living in a world stacked against us and we’re anxious to change it.
A few weeks earlier, in response to an increase in fights at school, a new student activist club supported by People’s Durham staff (and since named Each One Teach One) organized a forum to discuss the role of violence in our communities and how young people could take the lead in ending it. The timing of this event also coincided, unfortunately but aptly, with the murder of a Hillside senior. The school community was devastated and looking for answers.
By connecting positive political action with our desire to end violence, the students and staff are making it clear that we don’t think violence happens in a vacuum. Young people, all over the world, struggle with complicated emotions and conflict resolution. But young people who see violence, lack of opportunity, drugs, racism, poverty, homophobia, and sexual harassment and assault in their lives struggle more. If we are going to end the violence that destroys our schools and communities and lives, we have to end the systems that create it.
We know that holding marches, building altars and having vigils, and voting will not change the system by themselves. But these three actions, taken together on one day, point the way towards change. We look forward to the day when 17-year-old Black boys aren’t murdered in the streets and all young people can feel safe and sure that they live in a world that cherishes them and wants to them to live up to their fullest potential. And until we live in that world, we’ll keep swarming.
Bryan Proffitt is a staff member for People’s Durham and a history teacher at Hillside High School.
See the leaflet we handed out at the march here.