(Photo Credit: Maria Boynton/Entercom Atlanta)

Young MLK Service Orator Leads ATL "March for Our Lives"

Student Protest Marches Planned Across Country Saturday

Maria Boynton
March 21, 2018 - 12:05 pm

One might remember Royce Mann from the 2017 MLK Day Service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. It was there that the then-15 year old delivered his original poem "Rise Up" to a capacity crowd.

Fast forward. A typical day, for the now-16-year-old, included doing regular teenage things. That was until he says, the mass shooting happened at Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

On February 14, 2018, a gunman armed with an AK 15-style rifle shot and killed 17 people inside the school.  Mann, a student at The Paideia School, in Atlanta's Druid Hills neighborhood, now finds himself organizing the "March for Our Lives Atlanta" which takes place on Saturday, March 24, 2018.  It begins at 11 a.m. at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. Says Mann, "we will be marching to Liberty Plaza by the Capitol so our elected officials can hear our voices."

Mann says he and about 50 other young people, and adult advisers, from across the state knew they had to do something. "We want to see a change at the policy level." That means, "bans on assault weapons, raising the minimum age to buy weapons to 21, a mandatory 2-day waiting period on all gun sales."  The full platform is on their social media accounts #mfolga. Mann says they don't support arming teachers. "We don't support more guns in schools. That ends up harming more people than helping them." The Atlanta 10th grader says they want to reduce gun violence by "reducing the access to certain weapons and reducing the access to certain weapons by certain people." And, he adds that while gun violence can be greatly reduced through legislation, that's not the only thing that needs to be done. "We can also look into issues of mental health, our communities' environments, our school environments." He says the issue needs to be approached in a multi-faceted way. "That includes legislation and changing the environment at individual schools. We hope that young people go back to their schools thinking how can we make this school a better, more welcoming environment."

 Coverage of Atlanta Student Walkout

​ Reacting to Tuesday's shooting at a school in Maryland that left 2 students injured and the gunman dead, Mann's group posted on social media, "despite the walkouts, despite our planning, school shootings continue. This is why we will march. This is why we will continue to work on legislative action to protect us after the march."

In preparation for Saturday's march, there's a sign making party tonight from 6 to 8 at Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta. Mann says everyone is welcomed, adding "the church is right along the march route, so you'll be able to see where we'll be on Saturday."  He says this won't be the only action, "it isn't the last step of this movement and we're going to keep on going until something is actually done."

(Mar 18, 2018 - march organizing meeting and Peace Marshal training... Courtesy of Kailen Kim)

(Mar 18, 2018 - march organizing meeting and Peace Marshal training... Courtesy of Kailen Kim)

(Mar 18, 2018 - march organizing meeting and Peace Marshal training... Courtesy of Kailen Kim)