From classrooms to the streets: Crown Heights students to demand action on gun violence with annual walkout

Crown Heights students gun violence walkout
Students at Launch Expeditionary Charter School in Crown Heights are set to host their annual walkout against gun violence on June 5.
Photo courtesy of Anat Gerstein Inc

In honor of National Gun Violence Awareness Month, a group of Brooklyn students from a Crown Heights charter school are taking a stand against gun violence with an annual walkout, march and rally on June 5. 

Students from Launch Expeditionary Learning Charter School are exchanging their school uniforms for the signature bright orange of the anti-gun violence movement and using their voices to speak out against violence with speeches, dance performances, spoken word poetry and discussions on public health solutions to gun violence.

Janee Wright, a teacher at Launch, said the walkout gives the kids a sense of leadership as they nudge political leaders and fellow community members to work toward solutions for firearm violence.

Crown Heights students gun violence walkout
Silence isn’t an option for these middle schoolers. They’re using their talents and voices to say no more. Photo courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc

Since it is completely student-led, she said, the rally fosters an environment of empowerment and enables students to be the driving force behind the change they wish to see.

“The more students and community members talk about gun violence and take action, the more it sticks,” Wright told Brooklyn Paper. “I think consistency is key and the goal is to make people aware, so with us doing this annually, it reiterates the message to those who don’t pay attention or who may forget.”

School leaders said a couple of student organizers have lost family members to gun violence. So for some, this event isn’t just a movement but a personal display of strength. This walkout gives them room to express their experiences, concerns, and aspirations for a world free from brutality.

crown heights gun violence walkout
Some students have been personally affected by gun violence. File photo by Ximena Del Cerro

“Students are aware of what is happening in their communities and what makes national news, but to explore the ins and outs of how we got to this point with this public health crisis really resonated with students,” Wright said. “It opened their eyes to how many different parties are involved and how far back the root cause can be traced to.” 

Nearly 43,000 Americans died from gun-related injuries in 2023, according to the National Institute for Health Care Management. More than half of those deaths were gun-related suicides, while more than 35% were homicides. More than 1,400 of those deaths involved law enforcement, and 710 were in mass shootings. 

Last year, homicide fell by 11.9% in New York City last year, per the NYPD, and shooting incidents fell by 24.7%. Still, a total of 974 shootings were reported across the city. In the 77th Precinct, which includes Launch, homicides are up 66.7% so far this year compared to last year, though shooting incidents are down slightly — eight incidents had been reported as of June 2, according to the latest NYPD data, compared to nine last year.

Stand up! Speak out! Brooklynites are invited to join the students for their march and rally.
Stand up! Speak out! Brooklynites are invited to join the students for their march and rally. Photo courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc

Being an expeditionary learning school, Launch works to be student-centered and student-led in all of its efforts, and encourages kids to be active in their communities.

The sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students will be joining with volunteers from Save Our Streets, an anti-violence group out of the central Brooklyn neighborhood, at Launch Charter School at 10 a.m. They’ll march side-by-side through city streets before ending at Restoration Plaza for the rally and performances.

The public is welcome to participate in this youthful display of activism.