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Black Stories

Young Black Changemakers Summit: 2023 Recap

In November, approximately 90 people from across the country gathered in Atlanta, Georgia for Everytown’s inaugural Young Black Changemakers Summit, a workshop and networking experience. The cohort, composed of Black leaders, many of us active with Students Demand Action, and other young changemakers in our communities, interviewed to be selected to attend the Summit, which was held from Friday, Nov. 10 through Sunday, Nov. 12. 

At the opening mixer on Friday evening, participants and panelists gathered for a cocktail-attire reception to connect and begin fostering the warm atmosphere that would last through the weekend. Angela Ferrell-Zabala, Executive Director of Moms Demand Action, gave an energizing speech to set the tone of the weekend. All of us also received new gun violence prevention and Wear Orange hoodies designed specifically for this event through our partnership with The Flip Project in Baltimore, MD.

On Saturday, the events kicked off with a roll call recognizing all of the schools and organizations represented at the Summit. During the day, we watched videos centered around Black youth engagement and heard from the designers of the custom hoodies. Saturday’s learning sessions centered around how the fight for gun violence prevention is different for the Black community and outlined how to access resources and mobilize for gun violence prevention.

Summit Sessions

  • Community Organizing

    A panel that discussed how young leaders could use our “heads, hands, and hearts” to tap into valuable community resources, develop grassroots organizing action plans, and make a real impact in their communities.
  • In the Field: Grassroots Organizing and the Power of Mobilizing People

    A panel discussion about the strategies, hurdles, and victories that come with grassroots organizing while emphasizing the pivotal role that young people play in the gun violence prevention movement.
  • Gun Violence and Its Intersectionality: Young People in the Movement

    Everytown’s Gen-Z consultants gathered for a session so well-attended that it was offered twice in the weekend. Panelists including The Flip Project shared how they are making space to talk about gun sense in their communities, bringing a young Black lens to organizing, and shedding light on how gun violence impacts different communities and identities.
  • The Power of Organizing and Partnerships: Community Violence Intervention with Our Partners on the Ground

    Leading experts, activists, and community organizers who have been at the forefront of implementing violence prevention strategies in Atlanta gathered to inspire attendees with real-world examples of successful community violence intervention strategies and the immense impact that organizing and partnerships can have on creating safer, more resilient neighborhoods.
  • Storytelling

    Participants learned about how harnessing the power of personal stories can move others to action, practiced sharing our own stories, and were reminded of the importance of uplifting Black voices.
  • Pathways to Leadership in Advocacy

    Panelists provided a firsthand look at the qualifications, skills, and strategies that have been instrumental in their careers as influential community leaders.

Saturday’s sessions concluded with a moving conversation between Michael McCall, a gun violence survivor, and Ronald Grey, the young man who shot him. The discussion was moderated by Wallo. Both men were open to hearing from the other, took responsibility for their actions, and sincerely apologized to the other. This was a moment of healing, forgiveness, and continued growth, and gave us a glimpse of the redemptive reconciliation that is necessary in the gun violence prevention movement.

The Summit concluded on Sunday with conversations about where participants could take the connections that we made throughout the weekend and how we could move forward in our activism after departing from the weekend. Attendees were connected with resources within the networks of Everytown for Gun Safety and Students Demand Action to pursue pathways to leadership in organizing, including:

“It was nice to hear from other leaders and brainstorm how I can apply their methods to being a better leader in my community.”

Navian Scarlett, Young Black Changemakers Summit participant

The overall feeling and word that was repeated throughout the weekend was community. The energy at the Summit was uplifting, celebratory, and extremely positive—those of us who had just met felt like old friends. 

A majority of us at the Summit were gun violence survivors, and some of us were grappling for the first time with the realization that we had survived gun violence in some way—even if we hadn’t personally been shot. For others, this was the first time that they shared their own stories of survival. Being in the space was very emotional, but despite the weight of the weekend, we found beauty in bearing witness to and feeling the support, recognition, and validation from others who personally understood the trauma of gun violence. 

Those at the Summit also celebrated the Black excellence and culture that was undeniably present throughout the weekend. Everyone carried pride from their own states and lives, but also came together as Black people—and for the three days of the Summit, we were a family. It felt like a reunion, even though many of us were meeting each other for the first time.

“I felt a sense of pride looking at all of these young people who have been negatively affected by gun violence, but are fighting every day to make sure others don’t suffer the same fate.”

Natrina Roper, Young Black Changemakers Summit organizer

The Summit in itself was a call to action, with three key takeaways:

  1. Uplift
  2. Empower
  3. Act

The Summit inspired us to speak about gun violence in every space. We know that there is no awareness without discomfort—talking about gun violence may seem uncomfortable at first, but these types of discussions are what bring about change. 

Inspired by the sessions, people, and conversations, the next generation of young Black changemakers felt empowered by each other and hopeful about the present and future impacts we can have on our communities as we take our learnings from the weekend forward to work toward gun violence prevention.

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