An Amnesty International and Roosevelt Institute Project


The Facebook Activist and Gun Control

Framed Flag, BWLY

Logging into Facebook, it’s naturally expected to become overwhelmed by the number of emotional statuses condoning the atrocious attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A number of people posting statuses about their disappointment and emotional shock in hearing about the incident, followed up later by commenting on their weekend plans, finals woes, etc. At the same time, there continued to be an insensitivity heckled by pain staking attempts to lighten the mood with jokes about the idea of guns, those promoting gun rights, etc. It frustrates me to see an aggregate of people suddenly becoming vocal activists in the event of a tragic incident. It’s unfortunate that it’s not until devastating events like this that we come to remember that we can use our first amendment, our freedom to vocalize our sudden, emotionally charged opinion.

I am guilty of contributing to this cause.

I am conflicted in the use of social media being used to temporarily seduce this activist high. I’ve quoted this a number of times, but find it to not be any less true: in the movie “Hotel Rwanda”, there’s a moment where the a news crew is confronted by a local Rwandan on the Rwandan genocide. The Rwandan commends the crew for seeking to expose the reality as a measure of increasing demand for international support. A member of the news crew, however, responds by saying that while people may turn away for a moment to comprehend the violence, they will go back to their routine lives, being untethered. Discussing the reaction and potential responses to the shooting with friends yesterday, I heard a similar response. The image of cyclic violence through the news, entertainment industry, etc. has corrupted and desensitized the human response to issues, that may otherwise gather stronger emotional response prior to a tragedy actually taking place. At the same time, if news crews isolated and didn’t focus as much on these issues, would there be enough response?

Take for instance the use of drones abroad. A number of innocent civilians in mostly poor regions are impacted and recognized simply as ‘collateral damage’. Drones are increasingly being manned by the Obama administration, while remaining to be un-transparent to the public eye. News programs may include a 15-30 second segment on statistics that will quickly quantify deaths of a family on foreign land. These 15-30 second clips are then galvanized into Hollywood productions, with films such as the highly anticipated “Zero Dark Thirty”. This is such a dangerous approach in decentralizing individual cultures and imposing American values, culture, etc. How are these types of productions suppose to stimulate emotional response when there is a deeply separation of human context?

Many of us preached sentimental support for civilians across the Middle East in 2011, with the start of the Arab ‘Spring’. Nearly 40,000 Syrians have died since the start of the Syrian protests. More than 400,000 Syrians have been registered as refugees in neighboring countries this year. In Egypt two years after the media marked a successful ‘revolution’, Egyptians continue to battle against an army and a president that have left the public with momentous unrest between those in support and those against the newly-(somewhat)elected regime. Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis north of Gaza continue to reconstruct the pieces of their physical and mental lives that were bombarded in the latest attacks, just weeks ago. Israel continues to increase settlements in the West Bank. Where is the support for this now? Where are our overnight activists now?

Baltimore Sleep Out 2011, BWLY

A conversation with a friend a while back struck me with a message that I’ve had a hard time shaking off: in events where we don’t have the right resources or access to resources to actually implement change, why even bother talking about it? Even without the appropriate resources, discussing these issues revive a conscious reminder to appreciate our own instances — that may lead us to give back, even if it begins at a local level. This lingo can be coined as superficial, but can’t a subtle mindful reminder encourage us to better our surroundings? In light of this, social networks may be serving under the right light. There is a huge transition to be drawn through activist sentiment to acting on sentiment

Loose regulations surrounding gun laws, particularly, have prefaced an accruing number of incidents over the past few years. And these incidents have been motivated individually by different interests — from hate crimes to individually suppressed reasons.

A rough timeline over the past few years suggests an increase in mass shootings:

2010 January – Jared Lee Loughner kills 6, wounds 11 – including Representative Gabrielle Giffords is Tuscon, Arizona. Loughner was said to have had an unbalanced past along with being diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression.

2011 October – Scott Dekraai kills 8, wounding 1 at a salon in Seal Beach, California. Dekraai sought to avenge his ex-wife over the custody of his child.

2012 July – James Holmes kills 12, injures 58 in Aurora, Colorado at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises”. Holmes attack sparked a number of reactionary, isolated incidents across the country.

2012 August – Wade Michael Page kills 6 and injures 3 by open firing at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. An army veteran, Page incited his violence as a result of hate crime.

(A detailed compilation of mass shootings since the 1990’s:
Inner Harbor, BWLY

These are just a few of the major shootings that have headlined major news organizations. In the past few weeks, I’ve paid attention to the number of shootings at local universities and neighborhoods in Maryland – close to Baltimore. Many of these shootings have taken place in black communities marked by poor districts. It’s easy to forget about those less fortunate – stifling their access to economic resources. Yet, when we see an increase in drug use/trade, a spike in crime, resorting to prostitution – we ignore the socioeconomic conditions that prohibits individuals from prospering – and we criminalize them. When we cut off access to basic goods to any community, what other means do they have to turn to in order to provide day-to-day support?

In a society that allows easier access to guns than health care/mental health care/psychological support, how are we suppose to implement security on our own soil? While we continue to battle those abroad? How easy will it be to forget about the innocent children, teachers, parents, families that have forever been marked by the open fire in Newtown?

The easiest way to respond to this shooting is to write to your local representative.

There are also a number of petitions in action on the White House website that simply just need a signature.

This is not politicizing a tragedy, this is compelling action that can prevent the next. Whether you are in support for or against access to guns, these events must incite reasoning to agree that there needs to be, at the very least, stricter access.

-Mawish R.

BWLY want to help!

BWLY would like to take this time to send warm vibes and good thoughts to any of you effected by Hurricane Sandy. It’s times like these when it’s important to count our blessings and look out for our neighbors who aren’t as privileged as us – to have a roof over our heads. Baltimore was lucky to not have been hit with the storm as badly as our neighbors around the east coast – New Jersey, New York. We will keep you updated on any way you all can help out victims around the coast.

“We have an immigration problem but let’s not make this an injustice where we begin to criminalize a people” – Alienation

Last year, the Yale Yale Visual Law Project created a short documentary following an immigration raid by ICE in Baltimore that occurred in 2007. The DREAM act is a big step toward the progression of immigration inclusion and recognition of their rights and civil liberties, but there is still work to be done. If you are interested in reaching out to Baltimore organizations that are working with immigration, CASA de Maryland (primary mission is to work with the community to improve the quality of life and fight for equal treatment and full access to resources and opportunities for low-income Latinos and their families), International Rescue Committee (dedicated to providing refugees with the skills, services, and support they need to succeed) and Educating Maryland Kids (a coalition of education organizations, faith groups, labor unions, and civil rights advocates dedicated to defending the Maryland DREAM Act) can create great opportunities to support and learn more about the issues that need support today.

Maryland takes the win for the DREAM act and marriage equality!

Congratulations to all of the work that all you Baltimorians and Marylanders have put in! Now lets set the stage for these issues on a national level!

No matter who you voted for, it’s time to mobilize our efforts and energy and convert it into action – whether it’s in our own communities or those further away. About $2.6 billion dollars were invested by both parties in this presidential
race to win YOUR support. It’s time to progress forward and have our voices addressed. In the coming weeks, we will be updating our page and blog with opportunities that you can take part in to contribute in Baltimore or other communities. Today, we would like to particularly remind you all of the devastation that is impacting many individuals from Hurricane Sandy. Whether it’s a monetary donation or physical volunteering, it’s important to stand aside our neighbors in their time of need.

Fall Screening at University of Maryland, College Park on October 2nd!

Hey everyone! We’re getting ready to kick off our screening tour and we’re getting it started at College Park on October 2nd! If you weren’t able to make it out to our first screening last spring, be sure to come by for this screening hosted by UMD’s Muslims Without Borders chapter. Click here to keep up with updates on this screening! MWB will be beginning their annual Canpaign fundraising with the screening, so bring a canned food donation to donate to the cause!

We are still booking screenings for this next year, so if you’d like to host one of your own, get in touch with us at

In the mean time, go like us on FB!

Hope to see you all soon!

Welcoming More Voices to BWLY

In hopes of celebrating and raising awareness for the achievements and goals that need to be met for cities like Baltimore, we will be opening up this blog as a portal to include a wider range of voices, aside from our own. In the next coming weeks, we will be featuring reflections by the people who have been featured in the documentary, as well as individuals who are working on projects of their own around the nation. We’ve had the chance to meet some amazing in individuals and organizations and we’d like to give you the opportunity to hear about their work and stories that reflect how they impact their city.

For a quick preview to see what some individuals at The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network are thinking about, visit their blog.

Mawish R.