Black people are disproportionately affected by gun violence, experiencing 10X the gun homicides, rising rates of gun suicide, and nearly 3X the fatal police shootings of white Americans. This Black History Month, we recognize the importance of Black leadership, advocacy, and resilience in the gun violence prevention movement. Get to know four volunteer leaders from Moms Demand Action who are making a difference in their communities.
Meet Ariana Saunders (she/her)
Ariana joined Moms Demand Action five years ago to honor her own mother, Sue Brooks, who was an active volunteer with the organization. Sue shared her passion for this work with her daughter—instilling that same drive for a safer world in her. After losing her mother to brain cancer in 2016, Ariana continues to advocate for safer communities for her children and all children—and in memory of her mother—as a volunteer in the Nevada chapter.
“I think we need to always work through the lens of a trauma-informed approach which not only informs how we support survivors but each other,” Ariana expressed. “By being trauma informed and meeting people and communities where they are, we can find the best way or method to help empower them. It won’t look the same for everyone. So as advocates and community members we are best positioned to understand the unique needs or community and align them with interventions that are evidenced based or innovative.”
Meet Rose Smith (she/her)
Rose’s son, Cory “ACE” Crowe, was killed in Louisville, Kentucky in 2014. Rose now runs a nonprofit, the Ace Project, out of the community center she transformed after the death of her son nearby. In Cory’s honor, she advocates for an end to gun violence. She first joined Moms Demand Action in 2019 to honor her son and help her community heal.
“While treading my road that is riddled with pain, Moms Demand Action allowed my voice to be heard for a purpose. Seeing firsthand the impact of gun violence, I wanted to do what was in my power to push toward transforming my community,” Rose expressed. “I am walking in the shoes of a mother who has lost a child to senseless gun violence. I would love to prevent another person from wearing these ugly, painful shoes that I can never take off. People need to understand walking in these shoes is like walking on pebbles and thorns daily. That’s why I do the work to prevent others from feeling the anguish, misery, suffering, pain, and devastation gun violence causes to families and communities.”
Meet Shela Blanchard (she/her)
After the Dayton, Ohio mass shooting in 2019, Shela joined Moms Demand Action and quickly moved into a volunteer leadership position. As a survivor of gun violence herself, she advocates for a safer future for her family, friends, and community.
“The impact and ripple effect upon our families and communities is devastating. I don’t think people understand the trauma endured by each family member, especially the mothers and fathers,” Shela shared. “It affects us emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, and financially. I fight to bring awareness to our community that we can collectively support legislation that saves lives and hold our legislators accountable.”
Meet Tamiko Armbrister (she/her)
Tamiko is a volunteer leader with the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action. As a former classroom teacher of four students who were killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and having grown up in a community where gun violence is prevalent, Tamiko decided to take action and joined Moms Demand Action in 2021.
“Gun violence is an adverse experience that many Black children encounter,” Tamiko said. “These traumas, if not healed, can lead to chronic issues in adulthood. When we stop and listen to those excessively affected by gun violence—when Black voices are heard—is when we will begin to see the better results of reduced gun violence in our nation.”