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Commentary: Why I walked out of our “walkout”

Middle+school+students+watch+from+the+front+gates+of+Archer+as+the+older+students+sped+off+of+campus+to+protest+in+the+streets.+The+protest+interrupted+Archer%27s+planned+ceremony.
Middle school students watch from the front gates of Archer as the older students sped off of campus to protest in the streets. The protest interrupted Archer's planned ceremony.

Middle school students watch from the front gates of Archer as the older students sped off of campus to protest in the streets. The protest interrupted Archer's planned ceremony.

Photo by Maya Wernick

Photo by Maya Wernick

Middle school students watch from the front gates of Archer as the older students sped off of campus to protest in the streets. The protest interrupted Archer's planned ceremony.

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To me, sitting in rows of strategically placed white folding chairs in the middle of our courtyard listening to a speaker is not a protest, nor a walk out.

The assembly was planned by a group of Archer upper schoolers as a way to “shed light onto some incredible student voices and exercise our right to stand up for what we believe in,” an email from the Walkout Leadership Committee said. But what originally manifested did not feel like that at all.

The point of the walkout on Mar. 14 was to show our support for the students in Parkland, who have been working tirelessly for more gun control, honor the 17 students and faculty members who were lost one month ago and to share our voices on why we need more gun control, which sitting quietly in the courtyard did not let us do.

Sitting formally in chairs and listening attentively to a speaker as a form of protest seemed eerily similar to the “thoughts and prayers” of many modern politicians. Thoughts and prayers will not stop horrible people from getting their hands on guns, and quiet obedience will not let anyone know that we have had #ENOUGH of this unnecessary violence.

National Walkout Day was supposed to be from 10:00 a.m. to 10:17 a.m. all around the world, holding one minute of silence for each victim lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But at Archer, our silence was broken by the sound of cheering students, honking cars and protest calls from Brentwood School students showing their support from across the street. I truthfully was jealous of them.

As I was sitting during a time where we wouldn’t have class anyway and waiting to hear from someone also on my side of the issue, the students less than a block away were getting to spread their message. At that moment, as the clock hit 10:19 a.m. and 10:20 a.m., and we were still sitting as we do for new student induction and Founders’ Day, one thought came into my head: What would Emma Gonzalez do?

Gonzalez is a fierce and passionate survivor of the Parkland shooting, who has been one of the many faces of this new revolution of students. She is the type of girl, student and leader that Archer has taught us to be. I knew, right then and there, that sitting in a planned assembly was not going to be enough for me.

So I stood up.

Kamryn Bellamy ’18 and I, shortly followed by Omari Benjamin ’18, stood up and began to walk out of the assembly.

I would like to clarify that I meant no disrespect to the students and faculty that worked hard to plan this event, nor was my intent to disrespect the last few Parkland students whose names had yet to be called, even at 10:20. I was upset, and so I stood up to go where I felt I could be most helpful, not to start controversy or conflict. I simply knew at that moment that I was needed elsewhere.

I spent most of February grieving for the loss of the Stoneman Douglas students and for the innocence that has been swiped from all of us students living in an age where school shootings are barely news anymore. I knew sitting there that my voice was not being heard and that no change was going to happen with me sitting idly by.

So I stood up with my head held high, ignoring the stares I was getting and the murmur that was spreading throughout the courtyard, and took my loud voice outside.

For my past four years at Archer, I have been so fortunate to have learned how to be an empowered, passionate and, frankly, bada** woman. My Archer teachers are women who fully embody what it means to be a fierce and strong woman (my sheroes, as Sonali Perera Bridges would say) and by men who understand the importance of educating girls and want the best for us and our future. I stood up in honor of them.

I walked out of the “walkout” to share my voice, loud and proud, as I have been taught to do for so many years. And the crowd of girls that began to follow me as I walked out of the silent courtyard proved to me, and I believe should confirm to the faculty, that they’ve done their jobs. They’ve taught us all to question authority when needed and to stand your ground no matter what. My voice is strong because of them, and my identity as an empowered woman is largely because of them.

While I understand how people can see my protest as an act of disrespect, I assure you it was quite the opposite. The students and faculty shot in Parkland don’t get to use their voice on this issue. The students who died at the hands of someone my age with a gun do not get the choice to share their voice anymore. So I knew I had to do it.

So in honor of Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jamie Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup and Peter Wang, I walked out of Archer’s “walkout,” and I could not be prouder.

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18 Comments

18 Responses to “Commentary: Why I walked out of our “walkout””

  1. Amy Wernick on March 15th, 2018 12:56 am

    I could not be more proud of you, and I am so appreciative of your teachers and administrators for supporting and protecting all of you when you took the walkout outside the safety of your campus. Keep using that loud badass voice of yours to demand change.

    [Reply]

  2. Roberta Clark on March 15th, 2018 1:06 am

    So proud of our granddaughter…watch out world here she comes!!

    [Reply]

  3. Alex Bazarsky on March 15th, 2018 8:16 am

    This is such a great piece Maya! You are a fierce bada** woman who won’t ever be stopped. Thank you for sharing your voice on this topic and for starting the special walkout Archer part took in.

    [Reply]

  4. Rose on March 15th, 2018 9:11 am

    As part of the planning committee, I would just like to respond to this post with an opinion from the other side. I offered both you and Josie an opportunity to be in the planning of the event, to really voice how you felt, but you didn’t join. The 6 other girls and I planned for weeks what the day was going to look like. Archer girls should acknowledge that on a day like yesterday, we were so lucky to have to support of the administration, rather than protesting the administration. Teachers risked their lives by standing in Sunset Blvd to protect us from the cars speeding by. To have a majority of the student body stand up and leave as we were reading off the name of a fellow student who had been shot dead, was completely ignorant and disrespectful to us. Earlier in this article you stated that you don’t believe the original planned event was ‘shedding light on the student leaders’ (etc etc) but you stayed in the crowd for 16 minutes. How could you know just through that minuscule amount of time? Why did you believe that Emma Gonzales would want you to walk out right during the recognition of her peers’ lives lost? As a planning committee, we loved the action taken by the Archer girls and completely believe that it shows the strength and passion that are growing within the new generation. We were completely in support of the walk on sunset, but the timing of it really did not work out well. We ask you, and your peers, that in the future to please think about your actions before you do them. Think about how this may come off to the rest of your peers, especially the archer girls who tried their best to make a day for everyone else, and how calling it a “walkout” may come off as truly, just unappreciative. I hope in the future, if any more events like this should come into play, that you and the other people so passionate about the event to leave it halfway, would please come to the planning instead of destroying it.

    [Reply]

  5. Caitlin Mosch on March 15th, 2018 9:34 am

    A lot of us felt the same way but you took those first steps which allowed the rest of us feel more comfortable to do so as well. I am so proud to call you my archer sister and was so inspired by you. So thank you for helping a lot of us realize that we had the ability to stand up.

    [Reply]

  6. Lola Lamberg on March 15th, 2018 11:19 am

    Thank you for using your voice and inspiring me as well as many others to walkout of the “walkout.” The action we took was necessary and demonstrated true justice for the Parkland victims and hope for a better future.

    [Reply]

  7. Grace Dieveney on March 15th, 2018 11:31 am

    Maya thank you for starting this much needed dialogue at Archer! Your dedication to journalism is admirable, you are truly destined for greatness.

    [Reply]

  8. Courtney Wernick on March 15th, 2018 11:34 am

    Maya, I am so proud of you. You inspired all of these girls to use their voice for good and walk out. You seriously channeled your inner “Emma” and your bad-ass-ness. You stood up for what you believed in, even not knowing if people were going to follow you. I also appreciate how you were still respectful in your own “walkout”. You truly inspire me, and this whole Archer community, everyday.

    [Reply]

  9. Norah Adler on March 15th, 2018 1:05 pm

    This is super well written and I couldn’t agree more!

    [Reply]

  10. Noreen Wernick on March 15th, 2018 5:24 pm

    Maya I am impressed with the way you made your voice heard. It was both respectful and strong .
    Archer has encouraged you to stand up for causes you believe in….and so you did.
    I am so proud of you.

    [Reply]

  11. Lilia Benjamin on March 15th, 2018 5:51 pm

    Very proud of of you all for not following the rules.

    [Reply]

  12. Kaiya Jefferson on March 15th, 2018 5:58 pm

    Thank you so much Maya for helping lead this much needed walkout from the planned “walkout” for those who left sitting in the courtyard much like any other ceremony wasn’t enough. This was very much needed for those of us who knew mourning the victims without using our voices wasn’t enough! Thank you!

    [Reply]

  13. Gemma Brand-Wolf on March 15th, 2018 8:10 pm

    I think the controversy surrounding this issue is indicative of its importance, and really illustrates how necessary this conversation is. To that end, I am grateful that we have begun speaking about it. However, I think the issue itself — that of gun control — has been diluted by the disagreements surfacing between Archer girls surrounding the nature of protest. Protest is messy, spontaneous, and provocative. That’s what makes it powerful. That’s what makes it necessary. We shouldn’t let this get in the way of the real issue at stake here, and we certainly shouldn’t let this debate divide our ranks. This is how movements lose power, this is how we forget about the things that really matter. Maya, I absolutely support your decision to take a stand, but I also support those who chose to remain seated for the duration. When it comes down to it, it’s not about me and it’s not about you — it’s about us, and it’s about something bigger than us. It’s about the danger that is facing our country, the lives that have been unjustly and violently snuffed out too soon, and the power of voices united. So, please don’t let these disagreements divide the movement that we are so privileged to be a part of, don’t let the voices we are lucky to have be silenced or distracted by aiming them at each other.

    [Reply]

  14. Shainna Orecklin on March 15th, 2018 9:05 pm

    Thank you, Maya, for taking initiative to stand up for what you believe in and helping to make others feel comfortable doing so as well. Your leadership was so important to yesterday’s walkout and thank you for sharing your side of the story!

    [Reply]

  15. Ari Brown on March 15th, 2018 11:49 pm

    Hi Maya! I graduated Archer in 2016, and while I didn’t know you well, I wanted to thank you for this article and for standing up for what you believe in. I don’t know the full story, but what I do know is that your fearlessness and courage has not only inspired me, but a group of younger girls who look up to you.

    [Reply]

  16. Fifi Berman on March 16th, 2018 1:31 am

    Thank you for this amazingly well written and well articulated piece that revealed what a passionate leader you were yesterday! Thank you for being the first to “walkout” because you encouraged and motivated so many others to do the same and to use their voice in a way they believed was right! I’m very proud of what this walkout led to in the end and will always remember it!

    [Reply]

  17. Paola Hoffman on March 19th, 2018 10:57 am

    I also walked out immediately. I was happy to see you join me and my group who were already on the lawn.

    [Reply]

  18. Kerry Hernandez on March 19th, 2018 11:26 am

    Way to go Maya! Thank you for sharing your story!
    Keep standing up with your head held high while sharing your voice loud and proud!

    [Reply]

As members of Archer’s active and engaged community, the Oracle welcomes reader comments and debate. We encourage community members to take ownership of their opinions by using their names when commenting. However, in order to ensure a diverse range of opinions, we do allow anonymous comments as long as they are respectful, relevant, and abide by Archer’s Responsible Use Policy. Comments are moderated, but not edited, and will appear once approved.

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