Why Wake Walks

Student activists Julia Smith, Alia Hassan, Natalie Maron, Katherine Magee, and Lilli Hlavin, who work with Why Wake Walks participated in a rally downtown at Halifax mall on April 20. Participants wore orange to support those affected in the Parkland shooting. (Photo used by permission of Katherine Magee)

Walkouts. Marches. Rallies. Fundraisers. Petitions. Protests. The student-led Why Wake Walks movement has spent countless hours organizing various events and activities to fight for common sense gun reform.

Why Wake Walks is a student-led organization composed of students all around Wake County whose goal is to “mobilize and empower the voices of our generation” (Why Wake Walks). Following the numerous mass shootings across the United States, and most specifically the recent Parkland shooting, every-day students have stepped up in order to voice the opinions of our generation and demand gun reform.

Katherine Magee and Alia Hassan, seniors, are speaking for Leesville Road High School as representatives for Why Wake Walks. “We were all organizers of our student walkouts at our individual schools. It seemed like a really cool idea that all of these people were getting together from individual schools to make this happen,” said Magee.

The WCPSS students involved in Why Wake Walks are all passionate about continuing the conversation about gun control and moving forward from just walkouts and protests.

“I decided to become involved in Why Wake Walks because I wanted my voice to be heard. I wanted to be someone who actually makes a difference. I wanted to see change happen. I wanted to see different headlines,” said Hassan.

The degree of student involvement is part of what makes the Why Wake Walks movement so unique. The organization is entirely student-led and student-organized. WCPSS students organized everything: the tshirts, the petitions, the rallies, etc.

“The March for Our Lives–in Raleigh at least– was [organized by] these students, but they were paired with adults, and adults had to help them. But, Why Wake Walks was totally student-run, and that was pretty cool,” said Magee. Without the help of adults, these passionate activists successfully made their platform known and their voices heard.

The representatives of various high schools across Wake County have done a fantastic job of making their purpose and platform clear and coordinated. “The purpose of Why Wake Walks is to confront the legislature and to give a platform of what students want–rather than what adults have been telling us. We want to be able to be educated and educate other people with our platform,” said Hassan.

As illustrated through their website, the students of Why Wake Walks have clearly defined goals and wishes, including comprehensive background checks, a repeal of the Dickey Amendment, increased numbers of school psychologists, and a bump-stock ban.

Hopefully, lawmakers will take Why Wake Walks’ message to heart and begin to initiate policy in order to accomplish the aforementioned goals. Until then, Why Wake Walks will continue to organize events, fundraisers, and petitions to ensure change.

As of right now, the students of Why Wake Walks have taken large strides towards gun reform. For example, on March 14, hundreds of thousands of students across the country participated in a 17-minute school walkout. But that’s not all they have done.

On April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, the advocates changed from walkout out to walking forward with a large rally held at Halifax mall. At the rally, students gave speeches and performed spoken-word poetry, while other important speakers were present as well. Additionally, there were voter registration booths so the new generation, our generation, can truly ensure that our voices are heard in the world of politics.

In order to finance the various aspects of the rally such as city permits and general equipement, the Why Wake Walks team raised thousands of dollars through their GoFundMe page.

Beyond rallies and protests, Why Wake Walks even created a successful petition with nearly 20,000 signatures, inspiring others to stand up against gun violence and make their voices heard through the political process.

Last but not least, the movement designed custom Why Wake Walks t-shirts, and is currently selling them in order to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation. This foundation helps to support those affected by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas by raising funds to cover funeral costs, hospital bills, and to aid the families of those affected financially. So far, the fundraiser has exceeded its goal, raising over $1,000 and selling over 100 t-shirts. Now, those who purchased the shirts can stand in solidarity with each other and other student movements.

Clearly, the students with Why Wake Walks have already accomplished many of their goals. However, moving forward into the future, Magee and Hassan hope to accomplish even more. “The purpose is just to have our voices heard, to get legislation passed, and to show that we’re not going to give up on this conversation, it’s going to continue,” said Magee. “I just want grown-ups to listen, and legislators to listen. And I think they are, we’ve definitely gotten their attention, and they know that we’re here and we’re here to stay.”

Hassan put it best when she said: “Our future goals are to spread the word, get more student involvement and activism because there is a lot more power in this generation’s voice than we could possibly know.”

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