"I lost my father to gun violence" - A personal take ahead of March for our Lives

This article was authored by Abraham M. Keita*

I am writing these words not to join the bandwagon or for some kind of attention, but because I believe my unborn children will ask me what I did to help make the world a better place. I believe, when history holds its trial, I will stand to recall my journey in this space called the Earth. And the biggest, perhaps, only question that will be posed to me will be: how did you influence and impact your world? Woefully disgraceful it would be should I respond with, “I could not do anything because I was just a single person”, or “I didn’t want to cross people’s paths.”

Last month, I woke up to the news of the massacre of 17 precious lives; 17 people that were the beacons of love, light, and joy for 17 families; 17 individuals whose lives were as equally important as President Donald Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan, and every other official of the Trump administration. Yes, 17 lives who were as American as their fellow citizens alive today.    

It occurred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A school and an area once regarded as a paradise of peace, the safest place in Florida, is now an apocalyptic environment, full of fear and fright, sorrow and lamentation.   

I am 19 years old and I am not an American citizen nor related to one. I am from Liberia, a nation founded by freed slaves from America, but I consider myself a global citizen. I understand the Golden Rule, I follow it not merely as a convenient invitation to be sympathetic, but one more demanding, “to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes”. As a teenager, I believe in one and one principle alone,that injury to one is an injury to all, or as President Barack Obama succinctly put it in his "The Audacity of Hope", "what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart".

One may ask, “Abraham, what do you know about guns?” I know well the impact of guns as when I was only 9 years old, a gun ruined my life; a single bullet from a gun changed my story. It made me fatherless.

My father was killed by rebels while driving for a humanitarian relief organization during the conflict in my country. Guns ripped my country apart. The 14 year civil war in Liberia led to the deaths of over 250,000 people, all caused by individuals pulling the triggers of guns. 

Gun violence is a global threat, but America’s share of such nightmarish experience is in cosmic proportions. In Liberia, gun violence exists but our media gives it no attention. In 2016, the son of Liberia’s Defense Minister shot a man at an event organised by the shooter himself. Questions about how he came to possess a gun remain unanswered. And there is the problem of armed robbers bashing on people's residences during the night.    

Whether you are an American or an African, whether black or white or brown, we all have one shared identity, that we were created by one God, that we are connected through one genetic strain to the earliest humans. And if we can just realise and recognise this, and embrace each other, then the world will be safe, calm, and progressive as we all want it. 

On March 24, I will do the right thing as a world citizen, as someone who cares about the future of young people in America as I care about mine: I shall travel to Washington D.C. and march along with the thousands of people who will march that day. I will join the forces of good and say “never again”. It is a generational mission, and I want to fulfil this task along with the brilliant young Americans leading the Never Again movement. Similar Marches For Our Lives will also take place in Liberia to show that what affects America affects her sisterly nations.

There is grave urgency to legislate ‘common sense’ gun laws is now. Passing tighter regulations to prevent gun violence in America, not just giving guns to teachers, will make American schools safe. It will be an inspiration for other nations to follow. America must listen to its future leaders while serving as a model for countries suffering from this menace.

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*Abraham M. Keita is a campaigner for children’s rights and justice and OYW Ambassador. You can connect with him via Twitter @VIKeita