Posted Sunday morning, March 25, 2018.
Dwyane Wade (right), Miami Heat basketball star, future Hall of Famer, philanthropist, and concerned local hero with a big heart (right) sits down to listen to students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tell him their stories about the shooting at their school and the deaths and injuries of their friends and give him their ideas and plans to put an end to gun violence in schools and in the country. Photo courtesy of NeverAgain via rollingout.
[Editor’s note: Finally blasted this out of the notebooks. It’s Part Two of what will probably be a four-part series of posts. It’s been a while since I posted Part One, so I’ve moved it to right below. You can scroll down or click here.]
First day they were back in school after the shootings, Wednesday, March 7, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High had two visitors. One was Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. She was there as a politician staging a photo op. She doesn’t seem to have impressed the students.
Betsy Devos came to my school, talked to three people, and pet a dog…
I thought she would at least give us her "thoughts and prayers," but she refused to even meet/speak with students. I don't understand the point of her being here
Do something unexpected: answer our questions. You came to our school just for publicity and avoided our questions for the 90 minutes you were actually here. How about you actually do your job?
Secretary of education Betsy Devos spoke to me and only a hand full of students. She did not properly answer my only question. She did not sit down with any students and [ask] what we wanted…
Those are some representative student tweets via Deadspin and rollingout. The quote just below is from the student paper the Eagle Eye. Apparently, DeVos has mastered the politician’s art of pretending to answer a question by rephrasing it as a question.
After [one of that handful of students who did get to speak with Devos asked] about her agenda to prevent further school shootings, the secretary answered that her agenda was “to ensure that the students of our country are able to pursue their learning in a safe environment. I am going to make sure that we bring forward solutions that communities can put in place that will be appropriate for their surroundings and will ensure that they can care for their students.”
The other visitor was a surprise. Dwyane Wade, once of the Miami Heat, late of the Cleveland Cavaliers, now back with the Heat where he belongs, on his way to the Hall of Fame where he most definitely belongs, dropped in unannounced and spent a good part of the day meeting with as many students as he could.
While he was there he made a point of meeting with the brothers and best friends of Joaquin Oliver. Oliver was one of the students killed in the shooting. Wade was his favorite player. He was buried in a Wade jersey.
Wade has dedicated the rest of the season to him.
But Wade wasn’t there simply as a concerned local hero with a big heart lending a sympathetic ear.
He was there as someone who like them had to grow up in a hurry.
Wade grew up in what he calls a gang environment in Chicago. Dead bodies stuffed in trash cans were a part of the streetscape of his childhood. His mother was an addict and dealer who wound up in prison when Wade was in junior high.
And his family has suffered directly from gun violence. In August of 2016, his cousin Nykea Aldridge was shot to death while she was pushing her baby in the stroller. She was killed in time for Donald Trump to exploit her death on the campaign trail.
But there’s more to it. When I say he belongs back with the Heat, I don’t just mean that Hall of Famers belong with the team they had their best years with. I mean he belongs back in Miami which he’s made more than just his home. He’s made it his project.
Through his philanthropic organization, Wade’s World Foundation, Wade has worked with and funded, as the foundation’s website states, “community-based organizations that promote education, health and social skills for children in at-risk situations...underserved core communities of Chicago, Milwaukee [Wade played his college ball at Marquette], and the South Florida areas.”
So what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas that day was a meeting between a community leader and burgeoning community activists who have started a national movement to end the gun violence plaguing the United States.
Wade sat down with some of the leaders of #NeverAgain and they talked about issues and plans of action, one of which was bringing Marjory Stoneham Douglas’ student activists together with student activists in Chicago so that the movement isn’t just national in sentiment and so that it isn’t also only an upper middle class white movement, as it appears in the media, to the consternation and frustration of non-white anti-violence activists across the country who have been fighting this fight for decades.
The Parkland survivors and their #NeverAgain movement to end school shootings have attracted and maintained national media attention for weeks. The ubiquitous coverage has proven bittersweet to many inner city activists.
“I’m excited these young people are getting attention, which they deserve, and they’re driving amazing social change,” Dante Barry, co-founder of the anti-racist, anti-violence organization Million Hoodies, told HuffPost last week. “But I’m also disheartened and a little shocked to see folks like Oprah give $500,000 to [March for Our Lives], while she’s seen black folks in the streets for years.”
While mass shootings have been on the rise in recent years, they represent just a small portion of overall gun deaths in the U.S. annually. In total, there were between 12,500 to 15,500 gun deaths per year in the U.S. from 2014 to 2017, not including suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
This surge in gun violence has taken a massive toll on American children, especially black children. From 2012 to 2014, the annual firearm homicide rate for black children was roughly 10 times higher than the rate for white children and Asian-American children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, firearm-related fatalities are the third leading cause of death overall for U.S. children, according to the CDC.
This coming together was already underway. On the Saturday before Wade’s visit, students from Stoneman Douglas met with a group of high school student activists from Chicago. Presumably Wade got an earful about that. If he did, he didn’t mind. He came to offer his comfort and support by listening. He impressed students by letting them tell him more than he told them. De Vos didn’t answer students’ questions. Wade asked them questions. And when he was done, he was impressed. In his statements and tweets afterwards he referred to the students he talked with as “future leaders.”
Which brings me back around to that Florida state legislator, Elizabeth Porter, the one I led off with in the first post in this series.
Porter doesn’t see the Stoneman Douglas students as future leaders. She sees them as nuisances. Children who don’t know how to behave or show proper respect to adults like her. She doesn’t want to listen to them. She doesn’t think she has to.
Based on the little there is to read about her in this story, I’m pegging Porter as a racist, an exemplar of the Dunning-Kruger effect, a sanctimonious prig, and a dangerous authoritarian. But what she mainly appears to be is unclear of the concept of democracy. All of which makes her…a typical Republican.
End of Part Two. Follow the link to Part Three.
Like I said above, the coming together of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students with other student activists from more racially and ethnically diverse areas across the country was already underway when Wade came to visit. And it’s continuing…
David Hogg, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High senior and a leader of NeverAgain, and students from Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington, D.C., at a March 22 rally gearing up for Saturday’s March for our Lives. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters via NBC News.