Yesterday, on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, I joined moms, teens, gun violence survivors and everyday Americans fighting for gun sense at a block party in Harold Washington Park on the South Side of Chicago. Along with thousands of other Americans, more than 200 organizations, and luminaries and celebrities across the country, we were #WearingOrange to honor our nation's victims of gun violence.
Why orange? Orange is the color hunters wear to protect themselves and others from errant bullets. And orange is the color the classmates of high school student and majorette Hadiya Pendleton chose to commemorate her life.
Hadiya was shot and killed in Chicago two years ago -- just a week after marching in President Obama's second inaugural parade, Hadiya's friends chose the color as a symbol of the value of human life. What started with a group of teens in Chicago is now hitting the national stage. And we hope orange will become a powerful reminder that more than 30,000 American die every year due to gun violence.
This is a pivotal moment in the gun violence prevention movement: Finally, Americans are standing together to let our communities and lawmakers know we will neither accept nor ignore an issue that continues to tear apart so many families and communities.
The goal of Wear Orange is to amplify all the incredible work that is already in motion -- to build a shared understanding of the scope of America's problem with gun violence and keep the conversation going about how we can save lives. And it's time to roll up our orange sleeves and get to work.
Here at Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety, we are painting the country orange, day after day. From recent jumps forward in places like Oregon where lawmakers just passed a background check bill to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals to Texas where we saw drastic improvements made to a bill that would have forced guns onto college campuses, we are making our voices heard in statehouses across the country.
And we are giving people the tools to keep their kids safe from unintentional shootings through Be SMART, our new public education campaign asking gun owners and non-gun owners alike to come together to reduce the number of unintentional shootings, suicides, and homicides that occur when firearms are not stored responsibly and children or teens get ahold of a gun.
By working day in and day out to prevent the tragedy of lives cut short by gun violence, we are honoring all of those affected by gun violence, many of whom I've met through Moms Demand Action. For me, this is one of the most powerful and humbling reasons I wear orange.
People like Natasha Christopher, whose life was upended when her son, Akeal, was shot in the head by still-unknown criminals in Brooklyn. Akeal died just days later on his 15th birthday.
Or Lucy McBath, whose 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in the back of a friend's SUV in Jacksonville, Florida, after an argument over loud music.
Or Nelba Márquez-Greene whose precious 6-year-old daughter, Ana, was slaughtered by a heavily armed madman in the sanctity of an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
And Cleopatra Pendleton, the mother of Hadiya Pendleton, who founded Hadiya's Promise shortly after her daughter's murder to help at-risk youth and soothe troubled communities where gun violence festers.
All of these moms experienced the unimaginable - something I cannot fathom. Yet, they refuse to let these tragedies consume them. Each and every day, they get up and fight in the name of their children so that no other mom, no other parent, will have to suffer the way they do.
Yesterday was a day to remember the victims and survivors of gun violence, but it also should have been Hadiya's 18th birthday. Her vibrant spirit lives on through the work of her friends, family and organizations across the country working to prevent other communities from experiencing similar tragedies.
This is about way more than just throwing on an orange t-shirt and sharing a photo on Facebook or using a hashtag for a day--it's about creating a movement to fight to save American lives today, tomorrow and every day.