Dear Saie Community,
As I sat down to write this letter in celebration of all mothers and mother-figures, I was reminded of this question that I often get asked: how do you do it all? Well, I definitely don’t. I don’t think anyone does…It really does take a village and it's the crucial members of this village, especially our children's teachers, who make any balancing possible. However, because of the reality of gun violence in America, these integral parts of our communities are asked to take on an impossible task: protect our children in a country that poses everyday threats to their safety.
In thinking of how I want to honor Mother’s Day, I connected with my friend Emily Barth Isler, gun-reform activist and author of “AfterMath”. I asked for her advice on how to get active in the fight to protect our children.
In your book "Aftermath," you write about the impact of gun violence on survivors and their families. What compelled you to write this story and how has it impacted your view on the issue?
There are so many reasons I wanted to write about this issue— for starters, the endless barrage of senseless and preventable gun violence in the news, plus my own family’s long commitment to this issue. My grandfather, Alan Barth, who worked for the Washington Post, wrote over 1000 editorials calling for gun reform in the 1960s (!!). His work and his legacy inspires me greatly. Honestly though, the biggest reason is that I wanted to show other people that you don’t have to be personally or directly affected by something in order to care about it and try to make a difference. Many people have asked me if I’m a survivor of gun violence myself, I’m lucky not to be but I am a mother in America. I think we are all affected on some level by the reality and constant threat of this kind of violence, and cannot stand by while people suffer and die every day. I want people to take the issue personally before it’s actually personal to them— that’s how we are going to see change.
How has motherhood played a role in your work? What words do you have for mothers and families struggling with the constant fear?
Put that fear into action! I think the biggest way my own motherhood has impacted and inspired my work is that I want to show my children active ways that I am working towards ending gun violence, and how they, too, can get involved and feel empowered! There’s nothing worse than feeling helpless, and the antidote to that is to help others. By volunteering, fundraising, and organizing, I’m not only showing my children that I’m working towards keeping them safer, I’m also giving them a map towards their own future empowerment. (And we’re raising the next generation of voters, so it’s great to start talking about this stuff early and often!)
How did you start your gun reform activism work? What advice do you have for those of us who want to get involved?
The best advice I’ve been given, that I love to pay forward, is that you don’t have to do ALL the things. Gun violence is such a pervasive problem, and there are so many ways you can make a difference, but you don’t have to do everything all at once. For example, I sometimes get anxious and overwhelmed by huge crowds at marches, so I’m more likely to host a smaller fundraiser for gun violence at my house, or to send postcards/make phone calls for political candidates who are going to represent my gun-sense values in the government, or to, you know, write a book about it! You have to pace yourself and find the way(s) that you can uniquely contribute to the work already being done in the movement. I always advise people to look to the communities of color who have often been doing this work far longer than we have, and to support their ongoing efforts.
What are some gun-reform organizations you recommend supporting?
I love supporting
- Everytown for Gun Safety
- Moms Demand Action
- Ana Grace Project
- Representative Lucy McBath
- Angela Ferrell-Zabala
What actions can we take to better support and empower our educators who are on the front lines of this issue?
I am so glad you asked!! One of my favorite organizations to support is Teachers Unify Against Gun Violence. It is led and founded by public school teachers, two of whom survived the worst of America’s school shootings – at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School— and they are uniquely aware of/in touch with the ways that teachers need support and the kind of legislation that will actually affect change.
From their website: “Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence is a grassroots movement of educators across America whose mission is to elevate stories of gun violence in schools and communities in order to influence policies and Americans at large to make us safer.”
Emily Barth Isler is the author of AfterMath, an award-winning YA novel about grief, resilience, friendship, math, and mime. A passionate advocate for gun control, Emily has written extensively on the topic for publications like Publisher's Weekly, Today.com and Kveller.com. A portion of proceeds from her debut novel, AfterMath, will be donated to gun violence prevention organizations such as Everytown, Moms Demand, Teachers Unify, Survivors Empowered, and March for our Lives. AfterMath will become available in paperback on August 1. You can find Emily online at emilybarthisler.com
To all teachers, mothers, mother-figures, and members of our precious villages, Happy Mother’s Day! We celebrate you and carry on the fight for you. Saie and myself have made a donation to Everytown For Gun Safety in honor of our villages.