In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, three Lehigh first-years realized they could take a stand on gun violence.
Over the course of three days, and with very little marketing, Ryan Bailey, Sara Boyd and Chloe Sider gained interest from more than 180 students in attending “March For Our Lives,” a planned demonstration against gun violence in Washington, D.C., on March 24. The trio has deemed their effort “Lehigh for Our Lives.”
Boyd, who is a photographer for The Brown and White, described the march as stage one of the club’s initiative. After the march, Boyd, Bailey and Sider plan to form a club called Lehigh University Student Political Action Committee to increase Lehigh students’ civic engagement.
Lehigh for Our Lives has received over $7,000 in donations, with a large portion collected through its GoFundMe page. The group has also received donations from the Pride Center, the Eckardt Scholars Program and personal checks.
“No matter how big or small the organization, it seems that everyone is supporting us, and we can’t believe that,” Sider said.
Lehigh for Our Lives recruited Danielle Okun, ’21, to be a part of its social media team.
Okun said she became passionate about gun control following the Parkland school shooting and is embracing the opportunity to make change starting at Lehigh
“I see this as one of the ways Lehigh students can politically participate while making a momentous change in our government,” she said.
Bailey said he is frustrated with the prevalence of gun violence in the United States, and after listening to the news and hearing commentators say no gun reform would come after this mass shooting, he was disheartened.
“Hearing people confidently say that mass shootings were a part of American life now is just unacceptable to me,” he said.
Bailey said once he became aware of the opportunity to march against gun violence, he knew he needed to take part.
Boyd said she recalled an incident a few weeks ago when there was a possible armed individual on Lehigh’s Goodman Campus.
“(The threat of gun violence) is here at Lehigh, and we cannot be numb to it,” Boyd said.
Boyd said the regularity of mass shootings in the news has desensitized people to their severity. She remains hopeful after seeing the response from students around the country determined to make a change about gun reform.
“Gun violence is not a partisan issue — it’s a public health crisis, and we have the ability to make direct changes to our government’s policies,” she said. “Going to the march is how we connect and afterward it is going to be how we act.”
Sider said there seems to be a lack of public discourse across Lehigh’s campus.
“If you have something you believe in, we want it to be heard,” she said.
The group aims to create critical and positive discourse among all students across the political spectrum to make Lehigh’s environment more vibrant. It will host a sign-making party in the Global Commons on March 20 from 5-9 p.m.
Joe Walsh, a Lehigh alumnus and state member of the American Civil Liberties Union, will attend the sign-making party and talk to students about civil disobedience, as well as their rights as marchers.
Bailey said the purpose of Walsh’s visit is to help students understand the trip to Washington isn’t to create a fight but express their political activism and feel protected by the law. Bailey said the group is also inviting state and local representatives to discuss their positions on gun reform.
In the future, Lehigh for Our Lives plans to reach out to local lawmakers, host speakers and continue the conversation.
“This conversation isn’t going to end at 11:00 p.m. when we get back to campus (on March 24),” Boyd said. “We are going to sustain this dialogue until something changes. And even after that, we’re going to keep going because small change isn’t enough.”