Editor’s note: At Teen Vogue, we fully believe in young people’s power and want their words and experiences to be the heart of our publication. At any age, organizing is a way to build community, live your values, and try to mend a broken world.
But covering “youth activists” can sometimes feel like a trap. Our society alternately minimizes, tokenizes, and commodifies young people, exploiting them or using them as props. We put tremendous pressure on them to “save the world.” Sometimes we’ve been guilty of that in our coverage too.
All of that pressure can take a toll, especially for those dealing with the trauma of gun violence. For our package acknowledging the decade that has passed since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, we heard from youth activists against gun violence about the “darker sides” of this work and how it has changed them. Because building a better future is on all of us, together.
I run past my high school three times a week. It’s weird to see the building now. All the students who were there during the shooting have graduated, and most of the staffers I knew have since left the school or retired. Yes, it’s still my high school, but it feels like a shell of what I remember.
So I run through the memories, the few that remain in my trauma-battered brain.
My name is Delaney Tarr. I used to be a famous youth activist. I cofounded March for Our Lives (MFOL) after the shooting at our high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. I was 17 years old.
Now 22, I’ve begun to unpack my time as one of the faces of a movement.
It can be hard to find the space for reflection. After the shooting tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, in May, my phone started ringing off the hook again. Press contacts with whom I hadn’t spoken in years but still had my number were cold-calling me. They wanted to book me on a morning show or get a sound bite about how upset I was.
I ignored the majority of them. Mostly, I stayed in bed and cried as I read about the victims online. I wondered, Why do these reporters even want to talk to me? What could I have to say?
It’s no secret that people pay the most attention to gun violence after there’s been a mass shooting. That was the case after Columbine (1999), Virginia Tech (2007), the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, which happened 10 years ago this month. But when the cameras go away, the community and survivors remain, left to pick up the pieces.