After 14 students and three teachers were killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, surviving students, including Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and Delaney Tarr, kicked off a youth-driven movement for gun control.
Their no-nonsense calls to action have captivated the nation, won the support of prominent figures from Barack Obama to Oprah Winfrey, Justin Timberlake, to Ariana Grande and John Legend and jump-started legislative action that had long seemed impossible, with Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, signing a $400 million school safety bill in early March.
Meanwhile, fringe conspiracy theorists accused the students of being “paid crisis actors,” a ludicrous claim that hasn’t slowed the activists down. On Saturday, March 24, over 500,000 are expected to join them in Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives, a rally to end gun violence in schools, organized by the students themselves and being replicated across the country in more than 700 other events.
Lauren Jauregui, 21, singer and member of Fifth Harmony (who just announced a hiatus), has been outspoken praising the students and demanding new firearms regulations. Ahead of the march, Tarr, 17, and Jauregui spoke to Billboard about their shared beliefs on what Generation Z can do to change the future.
From #MeToo to #TimesUp to #NeverAgain, it seems like previously ignored people are finally being heard, and some things are slowly changing. What’s different now?
Lauren Jauregui: We were the first generation with the internet connecting us in a way that we had never been connected. I learned a lot through Tumblr. I would read about how you become aware of your own behavior, and how to check yourself if you’re practicing cultural appropriation.
Tarr: We speak the digital language more so than anyone else ever has. Social media is powerful. People feel more involved than they would by just watching the news. When I was following Lauren on Twitter, I would always feel empowered to see her speak out on social issues.
— Lauren Jauregui (@LaurenJauregui) March 3, 2018
You’re both from a generation that has experienced more gun violence than any one before it, from schools to concerts and churches. Is that what’s driving people your age to seek relevant change on this issue?
Tarr: We were born into a generation of mass shootings. It’s a sad reality, but we’ve become somewhat desensitized to all this. We see violence everywhere — on Twitter, the news, in our own lives — and we just kind of get used to it. But it hit a lot closer to home [for MSD students], and we have the ability to show people our experience.
Young women’s voices have often been discounted in this culture. Do you think the platforms you have are a sign this is changing?
Jauregui: Definitely. Women are using their voices and understanding the power behind them. What we’re seeing in #MeToo, #TimesUp, #NeverAgain, is people coming together to combat corrupt systems that have been in place way too long.
Tarr: Girls my age, girls younger than me, we all need to see these women being given this platform so we feel like we have one as well. It’s amazing seeing so many people pay attention not just to the fact that we’re teenagers but that we’re women speaking out.
Delaney, what does it mean to you when people like Lauren, Oprah, George Clooney and others amplify your message?
Tarr: It’s surreal. I never thought it was going to get as big as it did.
Jauregui: That’s one of the main reasons why I’m so passionate about talking as much as I do. Celebrity culture influences almost every aspect of society — how people act, what they like, what they choose to wear. Just present some facts so people can analyze them for themselves.
Tarr: Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights leader, told me when I met him that without music the civil rights movement wouldn’t have existed. And that was incredibly powerful for me because it’s not something you usually think about. Music, art, and fashion have all played so much into every revolution, every movement.
What can young people do to help end gun violence?
Tarr: We’re trying to mobilize young voters. The best thing they can do is educate themselves, vote and hold the people that run our country accountable.
Jauregui: Amen! And also divesting. Look into the corporations and congressmen who get supported by the NRA [National Rifle Association]. We should stop supporting those companies and those kinds of people.
Three weeks after the shooting, the Florida legislature passed legislation that included a ban on selling AR-15-style weapons to anyone under 21 but also emphasized arming teachers.
Tarr: I’m happy that something happened so quickly. That was our goal. But they are baby steps. The bill doesn’t have everything we wanted — we don’t want to arm teachers — but we have to make that compromise because we know that the other steps being taken can ensure people’s safety all across our state and, hopefully, when federal laws get passed, all across our country.
#IWillMarch to show that I cannot and will not be silenced. To show that I do everything for those that we lost and those that survived. I march for myself and for every student.
— Delaney Tarr (@delaneytarr) March 12, 2018
What do you think when you hear talk about arming teachers?
Tarr: They’re teachers, they’re not trained police officers. Their job is to educate. We’d be putting more weapons into circulation. When you put a weapon into the hands of a human, they may shoot because they are afraid, they may snap one day, they may miss and shoot somebody else, somebody might think they’re the shooter. My senator, Marco Rubio, said that it is not a viable solution. If even NRA-funded members — and I spoke to many when I went to D.C. — don’t support it, why on earth should we support it?
Jauregui: My mom’s a high school math teacher. I know for a fact that her choice is not to be armed. She didn’t get into the profession of teaching children to have to be trained how to use a gun. What kind of responsibility is that to put on somebody? The thought of my mom with a gun is, like, the craziest thing you’ve ever heard.
What are other political or cultural issues that you’re passionate about?
Tarr: I care so much about immigration because I have so many relatives who are immigrants, and some may or may not be undocumented. I care about LGBTQ issues and prison reform. When you watch documentaries like [Ava DuVernay’s 2016 documentary on race and mass incarceration] 13th, you’re like, “Oh, my God! What is going on here?”
Jauregui: Oh, my God, that one fucked me up! Also, The Untold History of the United States. I’m really passionate about a lot of things: undocumented youth and undocumented people in general — what does “undocumented” even mean, and why make people illegal? I’m really passionate about women and children who have been abused, women who’ve suffered domestic abuse and psychological trauma. I’m also really interested in the prison industrial complex because that is a huge problem in the United States of America.
What do you think older people in power misunderstand about your generation?
Jauregui: Deep down, they understand what we’re talking about. [But] when I have conversations with older people, I hear, “You’re so idealistic, you’re so utopian…” All the ways you can put down a liberal.
Tarr: It isn’t a matter of understanding as much as they don’t listen to us. [I’m dismissed] because I’m 17. They’re like, “How do you expect to change the world when you were just eating Tide Pods a week ago?” Which I wasn’t, but that’s the type of comments we’re getting.
Some have claimed MSD student leaders are “crisis actors.” Lauren, you’ve dealt with trolls. What advice do you have for Delaney?
Jauregui: Girl, let me give you the scoop. These people are trolling you because they think the only people who are knowledgeable about political issues are older white men. Their instinct is to put someone down for her age and gender. Pay the haters as much mind as you would a stranger who started yelling at you. You’d be like, “You don’t even know me.”
Who inspires you these days?
Tarr: I’m a film geek. Ava DuVernay is so incredible, Greta Gerwig is incredible. Jordan Peele. But my biggest heroes are the people I see in my daily life. My teachers are the ones who’ve encouraged me to have this way of thinking — to speak freely, be open-minded. Right now, my biggest heroes are the students I’m seeing who are organizing marches in their communities, starting clubs and becoming young activists.
Jauregui: Amen! The most inspiring people I’ve met are the people who are leading these marches.
Only a handful of artists have spoken out strongly on this issue in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Lauren, are you surprised more haven’t?
Jauregui: I’m never surprised because I understand that a lot of people who do artwork and music think of their brand first, who their audience is and how that will affect them. But for me, Florida is my home state, so I was personally affected in a greater way. Emma’s speech brought me to tears because these kids are so motivated, really know what they’re talking about and are willing to hold adults accountable. That’s such a beautiful thing that’s happening right now. I felt compelled to be part of that.
Did you worry that being vocal might have a negative impact on your career?
Jauregui: I like when people get angry because it makes them confront why they’re getting angry. I get shit from my family sometimes; I get shit from people in general. Everyone is going to have an opinion on how you express yourself. But I know that my gift is to articulate things. I know what my voice can be so there’s no question in my mind what I’m supposed to do with it.
Lets flood them like Harry’s Hogwarts letter when his dumb ass guardians wouldn’t let him read it?????????? https://t.co/NMCBNV2XsQ
— Lauren Jauregui (@LaurenJauregui) February 27, 2018
Do you think President Trump has helped advance the conversation?
Jauregui: No! He didn’t even mention gun policy.
Tarr: No. The most I saw from him was the meeting he had with legislators in which he said it was OK to sometimes fight the NRA. He decided to use violent video games and mental health as his scapegoat.
What songs or artists might inspire you when you’re getting psyched for the March?
Tarr: “Welcome to the Black Parade” [by My Chemical Romance], which isn’t even a song that I typically listen to, is definitely a good song for the march to inspire me and get me riled up. I listen to so many different artists, from [Childish] Gambino to Kanye, to Vampire Weekend, Alt-J, the Beatles, of course …
Jauregui: Yes, girl! We’re like soulmates.
— Delaney Tarr (@delaneytarr) March 11, 2018
Any other thoughts you want to share?
Tarr: I want everyone out there to know that you have more power than you think you do. You don’t have to be a person with 1 million followers. You just need to be you and do what can help you make a change.
Jauregui: To Delaney and all of the kids who put this together: Thank you for being so passionate and strong and taking on something so scary. It’s so beautiful and inspiring to watch, and it has ignited a flame in so many people.