At 10 a.m., dozens of students, faculty and staff at California Institute of the Arts, including CalArts President Ravi Rajan, gathered in the school’s main lobby before walking out in solidarity with students in Parkland, Fla.
“I don’t think I’m inspired to lead the students, I’m being led by the students at Stoneman Douglas and the students here,” Rajan said of his participation in the walkout. “I think this is something that our community deeply cares about because we’re talking about the health and wellbeing of students. We were all, at one point, a student so this is something we can directly relate to. This is not a partisan issue, it’s really important for us to stand together when we have shared values.”
Together, the CalArts community honored the 17 students and faculty lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, while also promoting the national student conversation to end gun violence.
“When I had heard about the Parkland shooting, I thought of the times I had been on lockdown, once in high school and three times since I’ve been here, and I realized that the lives of 17 people can never come back,” said CalArts Student Trustee Abigail Salling, who helped organize the walkout with the school’s administration and board of trustees. “I’m tired of it, it’s ridiculous that we live in this place that allows this to happen so regularly especially after Sandy Hook when the lives of 6-year-olds (were lost).”
In addition to walking out of the school, participants also took action by signing petitions addressed to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Kamala Harris and Congressman Steve Knight.
“Being at CalArts has taught me a lot about privilege and about how lucky I am to be here and to be citizen of this country,” said Alexandra Mitchell, president of the Black Arts Collective who spoke at the walkout. “I know that it’s important to me, as a student, to show that I’m reforming legislation, getting in contact with our senators, members of Congress and all of our legislative representatives, it’s our job. Because we have the privilege to do it, we must.”
The petitions, supported by The Women’s March Youth Empower group, asked the listed representatives to support policies that ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, expand background checks to all gun sales and pass a gun violence restraining order law.
“I think it’ll enact something,” Salling said. “I’m not in the prediction business and I’m not going to say what this Congress will do, but I think it will be absolutely atrocious if they didn’t listen.”
The students and faculty of CalArts also hoped that their participation in the walkout, as well as their voices as artists could help change the larger culture in the United States.
“We are here today as artists and we change minds,” Rajan said. “We as citizen artists have a responsibility to create that change and use our talents and our abilities as storytellers to change the narrative in this country because one day it might depend on it.”
The students also hoped this movement and walkout allowed their voices to be heard not only in the Santa Clarita Valley, but also across the nation.
“I think as an actor, and especially someone in the creative field, we have to be able to stick up for ourselves in a lot of ways and a lot of the times we do get discounted when talking about this stuff,” Mitchell said. “Yes of course I’m creative, but I can also be creative in my political opinions and the things I stand behind too.”
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_