Okayplayer Alongside Everytown Pledges To #WearOrange
15-year-old Chicago high schooler Hadiya Pendleton would be gearing up to go to college this year had she not been shot and killed. The talented majorette was bright light in a city teeming with darkness. Her spirit even shone amongst Barack Obama, the President of the United States, as she danced alongside friends during his second inauguration ceremony. Her then-present and future was wiped off of life’s chess board thanks to the flawed bravado that comes with those who practice gun violence. It is why, we here at Okayplayer and those around the world, wear the color orange to champion her memory and advocate to stop gun violence everywhere.
Sadly, it took Hadiya’s death plus the losses of numerous others (12,000 gun murders happen every year) to spark the changes that we are pushing for today. June 2nd, which marks the second annual ‘Wear Orange Party For Peace’ event, is also a rallying call from us to you, the reader, the music lover, the parent, the sibling and friend. On an average day, seven children and teens are killed with guns in the U.S., according to Everytown, and in an average month, 51 women are shot to death in an act of domestic violence. This should outrage Americans enough to call for gun reform, yet there is a healthy contingency here who doesn’t want that to change.
It is that stubbornness that has enabled us to partner up with Everytown to champion gun safety, gun education and a call for peace alongside Everytown. While today will find people all around the globe wearing orange in tribute to Hadiya Pendleton’s life, during our 9th annual Roots Picnic in Philadelphia, we will also be working to end gun violence on the ground as Americans groove out to Usher, Future and Leon Bridges. As a movement, Everytown for Gun Safety x #WearOrange has more than 3.5 million Americans working to raise awareness, but one particular American — namely Jason Rzepka — took some special time out to speak with us about the nonprofit organization’s intentions.
“This movement and the development of the idea has been phenomenal to watch,” Jason told us via the phone. “It was an idea that was rooted in the early 2000s in New York City with a group called Life Camp.” Adopting orange as a color for peace, LIFE Camp, Inc. had implemented the first nonviolent salvo meant to engage the public in violence disruption. “We here at Everytown identified it and saw the full potential of how orange could be a symbol of life,” added Mr. Rzepka, who serves as the Director of Cultural Engagement at Everytown for Gun Safety. It was while mourning Hadiya’s passing that her friends refused to be silent in the face of such violence. Deciding to also wear orange, Hadiya’s friends, classmates and family started a small movement in the South Side of Chicago that would turn into a nationwide campaign. “For anyone from Chicago or knows about Chicago, this is far too often an occurrence,” Mr. Rzepka said.
More than 500 influencers, corporations, elected officials are rocking orange, which is the color hunters wear to protect themselves and others. The Empire State Building in New York City was illuminated in orange by director Spike Lee to celebrate the movement, while sites such as Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter have done the same. Celebrities like Zac Posen, Chelsea Handler, Rachel Zoe, Russell Simmons and others will #wearorange, too. “When somebody you know gets shot, you make a shirt to commemorate their life,” Jason told us over the phone. “These were 15-years-old who didn’t accept this as their reality and wanted to do whatever they could through their own agency to make things better.”
The #WearOrange campaign has reached more than 220 million people worldwide and has thrusted orange as the symbol of the gun violence prevention movement. “When you see that millions of people are wearing orange around the country, you’ll witness that there is more hope out there than despair,” Jason Rzepka said to us. But that isn’t even enough, people! As #WearOrange supporters, we must not wait until June 2nd arrives to band together and challenge those who want to keep gun laws and violence in this country as the status quo. No, we must make this an all-year, 365, 24/7 fight! “We must demonstrate the power and the diversity of this movement, which is connected to ongoing action.”
As mentioned earlier, one of the places that #WearOrange x Everytown for Gun Violence will organize at is with us at this year’s Roots Picnic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Through positive planning and motivated maneuvering, the crowd will be adorned with those wearing orange and illuminating others about the fight against gun violence. “I’m so thrilled about the Roots Picnic,” Jason told us via our phone interview, “and Questlove’s support for our work through Everytown Creative Council helps to use their platform and reach to connect their fans to advocate on our behalf.” Not too long ago, Jason was on the phone with President Obama to discuss executive actions around gun violence when he learned another startling fact. “I had learned that Tariq [Black Thought] Trotter’s father was taken by gun violence, and he expressed an interest in wanting to be more involved.”
Artists, actors, parents, painters and Americans of all ages want the violence to end. Even if you won’t be joining us at this year’s Roots Picnic, you can still link up to fight against gun violence at one of more than 190 “Orange meet-ups” that are going on right now throughout the country today. Find these meet-ups, concerts, picnics and Orange walks in your area by using this map, and by following the #WearOrange hashtag on social media. “Everyone is fed up with all this gun violence, so to see The Roots and Okayplayer using their influence to bring people together around this issue and to raise up their voices — it is extremely impactful.”
Listen to our interview in full with Mr. Jason Rzepka below + share your #WearOrange pictures and thoughts with us on Twitter @Okayplayer.