Featured photo: On April 5, thousands of high school kids walked out of their schools to protest gun violence. At Grimsley High School, the students gathered on the campus lawn and chanted. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

I could hear the echoes of their chants from my office window. 

I was late so I jumped in my car and drove around the block where I hit Josephine Boyd Blvd. Immediately, I was met with the sight of hundreds of high school students standing outside on Grimsley High School’s campus; there was a sea of them. 

Today is National School Walkout Day. Started in 2018, the event culminates in students and staff from schools around the country taking time to protest against gun violence. And on Wednesday afternoon, a mass of Grimsley’s student body made their voices heard.

“What do we want?”


“When do we want it?”


As I tried to run onto campus, I was stopped by a member of the school district’s security team; I was to watch the protest from afar.

At first, I was frustrated at being told that I had to watch the students from afar. I couldn’t take any decent photos of the crowd and I certainly couldn’t interview anywhere from where I was. But watching the students’ backs, listening to their chants, I was struck with the notion that this is how change is made.

I’m still young, sure, in the grand scheme of things. I only turned 30 last year, but lately I’ve been grappling with my age. I’ve been interacting more with kids who are 16, 17 and 18 years olds and I’m struck with how resilient, how strong, how courageous they are, and also how angry they are with the world today. And it was all on display as I watched from the sidelines this afternoon.

Because progress and change really is made by the next generation isn’t it? 

Sure, we as Millennials did our fair share. We protested in the streets, we ran for office, we pushed for change. But it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the mantle is being slowly but surely taken up by the next generation, by Gen Z. 

Last week, hundreds of members of the next generation packed the state Capitol in Tennessee to protest Republicans’ inaction on gun legislation.

And it gives me hope.

Because when adults, especially older generations, can get out of the way, that’s when the real change happens. Because democracy is all of ours to fight for. But the real changemakers, the ones for whom the fight will have lasting impacts, are the kids. Like the ones who gathered on the grassy lawn on Grimsley’s campus today and shouted, demanded for change.

“We’re fed up!” they yelled over and over again.

So when they insisted, “Show me what democracy looks like!,” and they answered, “This is what democracy looks like!,” it wasn’t just their physical appearance outside of the campus that answered the question. Their generation is what democracy looks like. 

And I’m happy to support them from wherever I can.

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