By Logan Zinman Gerber, National Teen Campaign Organizer, Religious Action Center
At NFTY Convention over President’s Day Weekend, NFTYites had the chance to learn from three stellar gun violence prevention activists: Ethan Asher, President of HOTTY and Director of March for Our Lives Georgia, Matt Deitsch, Chief Strategist of March for Our Lives, and David Hogg, co-founder of March for Our Lives. They shared advice for gun violence prevention activists, and knowledge about organizing that can benefit anyone doing to tikkun olam – working to repair the world.
1. Choose your words carefully.
Like March for Our Lives, our movement is about gun violence prevention – not gun control, or firearms regulation. Not only are those loaded terms, but they don’t describe the real work that we’re doing: working to prevent gun violence. Our approach isn’t about taking everyone’s guns away, like some of those other terms assume. It’s about making sure people can feel safe in their schools, communities, synagogues, and homes.
2. Make your work intersectional.
For white Jews working on issues that disproportionately affect people of color, don’t walk in as a white savior, come to “make everything better” in a community. Come in with questions, not answers. Work in community with people who have been doing the work longer than you, and who know the issue and neighborhood on a deeper level. We haven’t forgotten what we learned two years ago in Chicago from Pastor Chris Harris – it’s our job to be proximate and build relationships with people in order to be better activists and allies.
3. Work on root causes and local solutions in your community.
There are so many local organizations doing important work to keep people safe from gun violence. Explore the ones in your community focused on solutions like violence interruption and reduction, making locks for guns and gun cases accessible to everyone, or offering mental health services, to name a few.
4. Invest time in parallel issues.
Gun violence is tied to so many other issues of injustice. Spend time learning about and volunteering for organizations working on criminal justice reform, racial justice, voter protection, poverty reduction…or any of the other issues that contribute to the epidemic of violence and oppression in our country.
5. When you’re in dialogue with people who disagree with you, ask three whys.
It’s hard to have a conversation with people who think differently than you do – on any issue, but especially one as heated as guns. Take a deep breath and start to ask them why they believe what they do – about the issue, or their assumptions about you. By the third why, you may not agree, but you’ll have a much better understanding of where they’re coming from, and how to explain your point of view in return.
6. Use what’s at your fingertips to organize.
A Twitter account is free, and gives you access to some of the most vocal and seasoned advocates and organizers out there. Make gun violence prevention (or whatever your issue is) your brand on social media, and look for folks to follow who share great advice and content. You can also organize in the Reform movement – apply to be part of the Student State Leadership Network to be the communication hub for your state and grow your network as a GVP organizer!
7. Educate yourself. (GVP Fellowship)
Know what you’re talking about. If you don’t know where to start, the RAC and NFTY are partnering to launch the first Gun Violence Prevention Fellowship in March. You can apply to get a basic understanding of gun violence, organizing skills for your toolbox, and support in planning a project in your home community.
Want to take action this summer? Spend part of your summer with Mitzvah Corps! Learn more about our three trips>