March, Concert For Our Lives on Maui
Hundreds of thousands of people across the country gathered on Saturday, March 24, 2018 for a student-led March For Our Lives rally, asking for stricter gun control laws in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida which left 17 students and faculty members dead.
At the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College, nearly a thousand-people gathered on the Great Lawn where US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Councilwoman Kelly King, and students made speeches saying “enough is enough” on a podium that had 17 candles with a sign which read Remember Sandy Hook.
“Nelson Mandela famously said it always seems impossible until it is done,” Rep. Gabbard said. “What is happening here today and across the country and around the world is a representation of warriors fighting for change, taking a stand, fighting for peace, fighting for life and fighting for safety for our keiki, ʻohana and our community.”
Students demanded lawmakers and adults to stop making excuses about gun violence and never forget those who have been killed over the years, from Columbine to Las Vegas to the Pulse Nightclub shooting, students said “enough is enough.”
Gita Tucker, a senior at Haleakalā Waldorf School, took to the podium saying her generation is taking the lead to stop gun violence.
“For years we have done nothing to fight this problem,” she said. “We’ve ignored it and leaned on the belief that this isn’t really our problem—that someone must be doing something to stop this, that it can never happen to us. Now—we the teenagers—are here to bring an end to the problem and to say there are no more excuses.”
Rachel Zisk, a 15-year-old freshman at King Kekaulike, has two cousins that live in Parkland, Florida. One of her cousins was inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when the shooting began on Valentine’s Day. Her other cousin, who attends a middle school across the street from Stoneman Douglas, was on Code Red during the shooting.
“I was receiving texts from my cousins hiding at school with an active shooter on the loose, not knowing if they would make it out alive,” she said. “No child should ever have to fear being shot in class, no parent should ever have to bury their child. Yet, if you’re my age, it’s become so normal we’ve become numb. Mass shootings have occurred our entire lives. The Columbine school massacre happened just as our generation was being born. We’ve become numb to watching our parents discuss these mass shootings and move on. We’ve seen dead children become mere statistics, these victims cannot speak for themselves. It is up to you and I and they want you to know, please do not forget us.”
Zisk along with fellow student Dallas Lennon, both members of the LGBT community, said they shouldn’t fear being shot because they are a minority.
“When I was 13 a man shot and killed 49 people and wounded 58 others at a gay club in Florida. As a member of the LGBT community this hit me really hard, I hoped it would never happen again—Will I get shot for being gay? Please do not forget us,” Zisk added.
Zisk, an organizer for the march led by high school students, talked about the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1, 2017, which left 58 people dead and 851 injured. “[All] by one gunman—that’s almost as many people that go to Kalama Intermediate School. None of the people who attended the concert expected it to happen, but no one was surprised. Will I get shot for having a fun night?”
“I’m so proud of everyone being here today, but I’m so heartbroken that it took so many tragedies, so many lives lost to finally say ‘enough is enough and never again.’ It is time to come together and demand change. We can no longer fear that each day will be our last,” Zisk concluded.
“The time for change has come,” Tucker said. “We the teenagers say to our legislators ‘no more excuses.’ We, the teenagers, say to our representatives who are not actively seeking action to gun violence, ‘no more excuses.’ If we have learned anything in the past 20 years it’s that inaction is the problem not the solution, we say no more excuses.”
“Throughout history, time and time again, it is the spirit and strength and voices of people like you that have lighted those sparks of change that have forever changed our country for the better. Thank you for being our inspiration, perseverance, and for standing up and speaking out when others have been too afraid too—and remember it is always impossible until it is done, so as we gather and stand in aloha, let’s get it done,” Rep. Gabbard concluded.
After the speeches were complete, marchers began walking down Kaʻahumanu Avenue towards the Maui Arts & Cultural Center where artists were finishing up sound checks for the Concert for Our Lives event.
The sold-out show featured local musicians such as Lily Meola, Jack Johnson, Landon McNamara, Willie K, Marty Dread, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and a surprise appearance from Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. Many concert-goers could be seen wearing hats that said “Enough” or “Protect Kids Not Guns” hats made by RVCA.
During the concert, more students like Abeba Holt from Haleakalā Waldorf School, took the stage to make speeches.
Holt said her family moved to Maui from South Dakota two and a half years ago, noting “anyone who has ever been to South Dakota will tell you the majority of people there are fans of the Second Amendment.” She added, “I’ve actually been avoiding social media lately because I know my friends on there are protecting their right to carry a gun more than they are protecting the right of lives across America.”
Prior to living in South Dakota, Holt lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a state that as of 2011, became legal to carry a concealed weapon. Holt recalled a night she stayed at a friend’s house in the city who lived 10 yards away from a bar and could hear gunshots a street or two over “from some drunk person who let their anger get the best of them,” she said.
“We would sit and hear the sounds of the police cars, and we would turn the music up and try and tune out the sound around us,” she said. “We would wake up to the news in the morning of a 4-year-old girl that was killed by a stray bullet. I was 10. No child in this country, no child should ever have to witness that, no child should ever have to drown out the sounds of violence around them.”
Landon McNamara, singer and songwriter of “Loss for Words” told Maui Now, “it’s time to look out for our own and especially our keiki and try and take the steps to make this world safer and a happier place for everybody.”
“Loss for Words” was released after the Las Vegas shooting in 2017 with the message, “Put down the guns. This one’s for everyone who has lost someone, who cannot be brought back with words.” McNamara lists places that have seen gun violence from Chicago to Paris to Iraq to London. When asked if he would have to make a “Loss for Words” Pt. 2, he said, “it’s sad to say but, as long as things are going the way it is right now—something else is bound to happen, which is not cool—but that’s why I made the song— to bring awareness to the fact that we don’t have to be singing that song.”
“I feel disappointed in America that it’s possible that someone can come into a school with an AR-15 and kill people in less than 10 minutes,” Zisk told Maui Now. “I hope that with this, it’s not a possibility.”
Zisk begs elected officials to “please do something.”
“I don’t care how you do it, just please fix it,” she said. “I think there needs to be a discussion about gun reform because maybe it’s not about banning guns or maybe it’s about putting mental health on the line but I think there needs to be a way to fix this.”
Senator Mazie Hirono flew to Maui for the Concert For Our Lives event on Saturday evening stating her frustrations about gun legislation. “Those of us who have been wanting to push for sensible gun legislation—we are very heartened by the young people who have come forward to demand the kind of actions that I wish we could have taken long ago to save lives and make our school safe. I’m so glad to see what looks like a thousand people here which is fantastic.
“I am so heartened, it’s been very frustrating to not be able to get any legislation up on the Senate floor for a vote, including closing our background check loopholes, making sure we don’t have assault weapons or bump-stocks and all these kinds of legislation’s that so many of us have supported —and we’ve never been able to get that on the floor for a vote and I’m hopeful that now, with the young people mobilized, it’s going to happen,” Sen. Hirono said.
At the end of the night, all the performers joined the students on stage with rocker Steven Tyler to sing “Come Together” by the Beatles while holding a Lei of Aloha for World Peace.