VMA first-year student Robbie Shinder is co-organizing a March for Our Lives gun violence prevention panel on October 30 in the Cutler Majestic Theatre. Courtesy photo
Robbie Shinder ’22 said he’s always been politically “aware.” But he was never politically “active” until last February, when a gunman opened fire in a Parkland, Florida, high school, killing 17.
Shinder, who is from Boca Raton, Florida, lived five miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and a close friend of his lost her cousin and her sister’s best friend in the shooting.
“It really hit close to home,” he said. “It really affected my life, because I spent so much time at this person’s house.”
More than eight months later, Shinder is co-organizing a Gun Violence Prevention Panel at the Cutler Majestic Theatre with March for Our Lives, the national student anti-gun violence organization that formed in the wake of the Parkland shootings. The event will be Tuesday, October 30, 6:00-8:00 pm, and is free and open to the public.
“My life was heavily affected by this shooting, and I think the entire nation was affected by this shooting,” Shinder said. “Everyone needs to hear the message of March for Our Lives, because this is the future. [Youth activism] is what’s going to attempt to make this country a safer place.”
In the days that followed Parkland, Shinder and a friend organized events at their high school to bring students and community members together around the tragedy. Over the summer, as the March for Our Lives movement started taking shape and holding rallies across Florida, Shinder, now a Media Arts Production major, grabbed his camera and hit the road to film the momentum.
Eventually, he was asked to join March for Our Lives, a connection he kept when he moved north to attend Emerson. So when he learned that the Boston chapter would be leading a series of workshops and panels in the area, he suggested they do one at Emerson.
The panel will include Aalayah Eastmond, a Parkland survivor who testified during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings; Michael Martinez and Fiona Phie from March for Our Lives Boston; and Bria Smith, a Milwaukee resident representing the national organization.
His partner in the event is Vikiana Petit-Homme, a high school senior and the executive director of March for Our Lives Boston.
Petit-Homme said the focus of the Boston chapter, and of the panel being held at Emerson, is not on mass shootings like what happened at Douglas, because as horrific and headline-grabbing as they are, they represent a small fraction of gun deaths in the United States.
“It’s more going to be looking at the overall overview of gun violence [and] steps to prevent it, with an emphasis on communities of color and those disproportionately affected,” Petit-Homme said.
The panel is part of March for Our Lives’ efforts both to empower youth and get out the vote.
People vote for many different reasons, but what brings them out to cast a ballot is when something matters to them, Petit-Homme said. March for Our Lives wants young people to understand that gun violence intersects with so many other issues, including school funding and the school-to-prison pipeline, she said.
“This is a week before the election on purpose,” Shinder said. “We want to make sure people are getting out there and voting.”
Shinder has his own side project aimed at just that. Absentee Ballots Now, is a website that Shinder created to help students obtain absentee ballots from their home states and vote on time.
He came up with the idea after Googling how to vote absentee in Florida. Let’s just say it wasn’t a straightforward activity.
“I know my friends,” Shinder said. “My friends would give up after that first Google search and wouldn’t end up voting.”
For those students who about politics, or want to learn more, the next week is an exciting one at Emerson.
In addition to the Gun Violence Prevention Panel, Assistant Professor Spencer Kimball and his Emerson Polling students will be analyzing and releasing 19 polls between October 29 and November 5, looking at some of the hottest Congressional races in the country.
The final four – Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and Missouri – will be released Monday, November 5, the night before the midterm elections, at a Talk the Vote event with WBZ Radio’s Night Side with Dan Rea broadcasting live from the Bordy Theater from 7:30-10:00 pm. Students (and anyone else who wants to come) will be able to interact with Rea and his high-profile guests during the broadcast, as well as get keen political insight.
This Friday, October 26, 3:00-4:30 pm, Journalism and Communication Studies experts will lead a discussion on “Present U.S. Politics, the Political System, and the Media” in Walker 417. Specifically geared toward international students, the event aims to shed light on a heated election cycle and the role the media plays in it.
By Erin Clossey