Gaby Loewenstein watched Richard Martinez on TV from her home in Miami in 2014. He was publicly grieving the death of his son, who was shot and killed during the Isla Vista massacre. “When will this insanity stop?” Martinez asked, enraged that legislative inaction had contributed to the death of his son.
A few years prior, Loewenstein had moved back to the United States with her young son after living in Venezuela for several years. Shortly after they settled in Miami, the Sandy Hook shooting happened; Loewenstein was at school with her son when she got the news.
“I felt so vulnerable at that moment,” she said. After watching Martinez speak, she knew it was past time to get involved with the fight for gun violence prevention. In early 2015, she joined her local chapter of Moms Demand Action.
But at the beginning of 2015, Moms Demand Action did not have the large presence in Florida it does now; in fact, Loewenstein was the only one who showed up to her first chapter meeting. Even so, she soon became a leader and began organizing her first Wear Orange campaign–albeit entirely by herself.
“I did my first Wear Orange by myself,” she said. “I was reaching out to churches and organizations by myself.”
Loewenstein’s work paid off: 60 people showed up, despite there being no volunteers at the event. Now, she looks back on that day as a point of pride, and the beginning of something bigger than herself.
“People that came to that Wear Orange, 10 or 15 current leaders went to that first Wear Orange and learned about Moms Demand Action,” Loewenstein said. “That’s one of the fondest memories I have.”
Since then, Florida’s Moms Demand Action chapter has not just succeeded at growing; the state now boasts the biggest Moms Demand Action contingent in the country. When Loewenstein first joined, she was the only one at the South Florida chapter meeting. Now there are three Moms Demand Action local groups in Miami alone.
Being involved with Moms Demand Action as its presence in Florida has rapidly grown has been a major source of inspiration for Loewenstein.
“It made me believe that this is a cause where we could make a real difference,” she said. “That me, an immigrant who had no connections in Miami could do this and create a team of people to expand far beyond the city. I could not imagine it growing to the point it has.”
During her time with Moms Demand Action, she has made reaching out to the Hispanic community a priority, working to bring Hispanic-Americans into the gun violence prevention movement.
“Learning to speak to all kinds of people has been essential to me,” she said. “It’s important for me to reach out to Hispanics and embolden them.”
Now preparing to go to the annual Gun Sense University conference and four years into her activism, Loewenstein sees her volunteers as not just fellow activists, but as family.
“They have become my family,” she said. “It’s empowering and you feel like your voice matters.”
“Bringing people to a place where they feel they belong is like, the best.”