Des Harris only joined Moms Demand Action last year, but he has already become deeply involved in the organization’s activism.
When Des first joined Moms Demand Action, his first task was to attend an emergency meeting of community partners in response to an increase in gun violence during the early months of 2018. A resident of South Bend, Indiana, Des said he decided to “get off the sideline” following the shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs in 2017.
“Gun violence has been pervasive in my life since I was six years old and I felt the urge to do my part to end this persistent pattern in American lives,” he said.
After that meeting in early 2018, Des became a Community Outreach Team Lead. In that capacity, he joined local groups with shared interests and sought opportunities to present Moms Demand Action’s gun violence prevention message at places like the county fair, a church’s community peace run, and a special event called the People’s Inauguration, where community partners came together to support hate crimes legislation. Now, Des serves as a Local Group Lead for South Bend and as Indiana’s G-Crew lead to garner excitement ahead of the annual Gun Sense University conference.
“My strategy has been to create engaging experiences that honor survivors, teach our community about different campaigns, spread the word about state and national legislative actions, and create space for youth and others to speak to how gun violence has affected them,” Des said.
For him, doing this work to bring more people into the gun violence prevention movement is his greatest achievement. “I am most proud of the opportunities I’ve afforded others in our community to present their reasons to be involved,” he said. “Unfortunately, too many of them are survivors and I am thankful they choose to honor their experiences with action alongside other deeply concerned citizens.”
Those recruitment efforts have more than paid off for Des. With his help, Indiana Moms Demand Action volunteers hit 165% of their state goal ahead of the 2019 Gun Sense University; they originally sought to bring 23 volunteers with them, but wound up recruiting a total of 38 volunteers for the conference. Des will attend with seven other volunteers from Northern Indiana, three of which are survivors.
Working with these volunteers–the “incredible moms” and others Des has met throughout the country–has been a highlight of his time with Moms Demand Action. He’s also had the chance to see and hear prominent voices such as Stacey Abrams and Lucy McBath through his activism.
“Bringing people close to me affected by gun violence into this advocacy and the people in my community I’ve met through this kind of work,” Des said, “everybody I’ve connected with, they’re amazing and they definitely help me keep going.”
“It’s been really fulfilling to be a part of something greater than yourself.