Michiana Chronicles: "You Have A Voice. Use It."

May 13, 2021

April Lidinsky and Des Harris
Credit Ken Smith

This is April Lidinsky 

And this is Des Harris 

April: Thank you for sharing some time with me, Des. We know one another through our shared volunteer work through the Michiana Social Justice Coalition. But in one of our recent conversations, we realized we were both at the same 2018 public library event, about gun safety. So, could you talk, first, just a little bit about how you got involved in this issue? 

Des: Yeah. When I came back here, in 2016, I just started noticing that there were issues that were prevalent when I was younger that were still going on. And it really struck me that I felt like I had failed to act on them when I was younger, and failed the younger generation. We didn’t stop the problem of gun violence, or the economic downturn that was going on in our communities. 

April: Yeah. So, what is different for you, now, as you decided to become more of an advocate on this issue, and not just a bystander. 

Des: It’s been an eye-opener. It’s definitely connected me with a lot of people that were close to me in my community, but I didn’t know they were doing some of the amazing things they’re doing, like Miss Bobbie Woods with Mamas Against Violence, Loria Perez and Takisha Jacobs with Connect 2 Be the Change, and not realizing that these are people who have lost loved ones to gun violence and they live right around the corner from me.  And then I got involved with Moms Demand Action and just met a lot of amazing people who were giving their time and their energy, and just dedicating their cause to solving the gun violence issues in our community. 

April : Yeah, yeah.  A lot of mentors there.  That’s beautiful to hear.  So, this is a national issue, obviously, but is there something about South Bend that makes you either optimistic, or are there particular challenges in our community on gun safety? 

Des: There are definitely some challenges in South Bend that are just tragic and heart-breaking. 

And, unfortunately, like you said, it’s a national issue, and we’re not alone in this. Over 58% of Americans either have experienced gun violence or someone they care about has experienced gun violence, and we are living and re-living these tragedies every time we hear of someone afflicted by violence in our community. It is heart-breaking that it affects a lot of young people in our community, and that we have so many tragedies, even recently, involving very young children. We must recognize also that devastating gun violence in cities like South Bend and the Michiana community are related to the effects of historical harms perpetuated on communities of color, including racist policies that led to systematic underfunding. I did hear someone say one time that communities like ours don’t experience post-traumatic stress disorder, we experience persistent traumatic stress … and it shows.  We need trauma-informed care, we need direct investment in underserved communities, and we need data-driven violence-prevention policies. 

April: Yeah, you have a vision there. So, what would you say to someone who is despairing about a social issue, like gun violence or something else … how might they move from just despair to becoming an advocate? What advice would you give? 

Des: I never thought I’d be in a position to be using my voice against gun violence.  I really went to that meeting that we were both at just wanting to learn what was going on.  I would say to anybody: You have a voice. Use it. Use it to uplift the people closest to you. Use it to speak for those who have lost their lives to violence. Use it to speak for what’s right, and never give in to people who are dissenters. And, if you’re feeling down, or like you’re not getting across to people, heed the words of the honorable Phi Beta Sigma brother, Congressman John Lewis, and get into some “good trouble.” 

April: Ah, that’s a great way to end.  Thank you so much for your crucial work, and for your time, Des. It’s great to see you  

For “Michiana Chronicles,” this is April Lidinsky and this is Des Harris 

Music: "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson