“WE WILL be the change because you couldn’t be.”
So reads one billboard message from a Texas student group as part of the signage surrounding the “March for Our Lives” protest of gun violence Saturday in Washington.
Ariel Hobbs, a college sophomore at the University of Houston, teamed with three area high school students to write messages that will be viewable on several roving billboards this weekend in the D.C. region.
“We wanted our statements to put the country on notice,” Hobbs tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs, “and let them know that we are not going to let this go on any longer. Living in such a red state like Texas, we knew that a statement from us would mean a lot to people all over the country.”
“To gun violence we can’t respond with silence,” reads a message from Nebraska students. “We want a shot at our future, not to be shot,” reads a billboard sign from Kentucky. Other participating youth groups represent such states as Colorado, Oregon, Georgia and Arizona.
The visual idea for the protest came from the film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” starring the Oscar-winning Frances McDormand as a mother seeking justice after her child was slain.
Twenty-one cartoonists — some of them nationally syndicated and all of them preferring to remain anonymous — funded the roving billboard campaign, which aims to raise awareness and show solidarity with marching students. The campaign is part of the wave of growing protest since the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February left 17 dead.
“Our mission was to pretty much let everyone know that enough was enough!” says Hobbs, who was assisted by high-schoolers Madie Lake, Kelly Choi and Marcel McClinton. “No more kids need to live in fear of stepping out of their house because they might be shot.”
“Gun violence kills 32 people a day. Not just a school issue, it’s an epidemic,” reads the message from the Arizona students.
“While making our quote, we wanted to allow those from all walks of life in our community to have their voice heard,” Jordan Harb, 17, of Phoenix tells The Post. “But while collaborating, we realized something is missing from this conversation: Too many [people] focus just on the schools, but gun violence affects those from every community. Bullets don’t discriminate.
“We heard stories of low-income community members losing their friends to gangs, and some attempting suicide,” Harb continues. “Gun violence affects every American, regardless of what your status or environment is. What we decided on was just a simple statistic to broaden the conversation, and emphasize the fact that this isn’t just an issue of school safety.”
The March for Our Lives protest is expected to draw about half a million people to Washington.