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On Monday, May 21st, community members sat in the audience of Newbury Park’s Performing Arts Center for the show “Never Again”, an event put on completely by students in efforts to address gun violence. The night was filled with dance, music, poetry, and theatre and all of the proceeds went towards the March For Our Lives campaign.
Although all acts on stage were creative and thought-provoking, the students themselves were the sources of inspiration. Kylie Vincent (18), a senior at Newbury Park High School, decided to do something after seeing the latest tragedies in Parkland, Florida. Vincent and other many students had already put on a walkout against gun violence during school hours on April 20th, but she felt more could be done.
“Seeing everyone come together to support was so inspiring,” she said, “but I wanted to do something more that could bring everyone together, no matter the political party.”
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An avid participant in Newbury Park’s theatre, choir, and dance programs, Vincent used art for the discussion. She hoped not only to raise a large amount for March For Our Lives but rather to “inspire others to use art daily to change the world”. Many students from all performing arts departments and those who had the mere passion gave talented performances, each with a unique perspective.
Alisha Patel and Brenda Herron, also seniors at Newbury Park, sang in an acapella quartet to “Where is the Love?” by The Black Eyed Peas. When asked about the 2004 tune, the two students emphasized the universality and relation to the recurring tragedies going on today.
“The song that we chose stressed the importance of coming together in America despite our differences,” Patel explained, “and I think that’s an extremely important point that needs to be reiterated time and time again.”
The three seniors also pressed for the significance of art and its impact when making a statement. The passion behind the project is what allowed the artists to create an open discussion for such a controversial subject. “I wanted to use the artist’s’ passion to show how gun violence has affected so many people this year,” Vincent said.
What we can really take away from this demonstration is not the exact amount raised, but rather the social and emotional impact. The power of art to change the world was clearly the goal of the night and was evidently met with applause.
Performances included a mix of classic odes of peace like John Lennon’s “Imagine” and “We are the World”, as well as original tunes about Trump’s “tiny” hands performed by senior Caitlin Henderson. Slam poetry, theatrical scenes, and dance numbers eluded differing but unifying messages about violence.
“To sing and provoke thought and to dance and express my feelings when words fail is such an amazing opportunity,” Herron said, “I hope more events like this sprout up and speak out.”
Vincent reflected on the elation she felt after the event’s ultimate success. She hopes that the performances inspired others to continue the practice of activism and “to express their own form of art” when speaking out.
When asked about the future for gun use and reform, the students united in hopes for major reform on assault weapons. “My purpose is not to take anyone’s’ guns away that have not proven to affect our society negatively,” Vincent said. Most responses and messages through the performances were not in advocacy for radical change, rather just progressive legislation on gun ownership and use.
Student activism has now reached the precipice of near-revolution in regards to social and political reform and is now more needed than ever. Especially in the light of the recent mass school shooting at Sante Fe High School in Texas, the students felt that this event was due for performance. It really boils down to the students like those at Newbury Park who dare to speak out and make a difference, no matter the outcome or medium.
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