Levi Strauss & Co. is a proud supporter of “Since Parkland,” a unique project powered by the reporting of more than 200 teen journalists.
“Since Parkland” kicked off in February on the one-year anniversary of the Parkland High School shooting. The project was inspired by the desire to tell the individual stories behind the chronic gun violence that takes young lives across the U.S. every day, but doesn’t get nearly as much attention as headline-grabbing mass shootings.
The nonprofit news organization The Trace worked with student journalists to shed a light on the young people who lost their lives to guns, from victims of school shootings to children killed in incidents that include domestic violence, drug-related shootings, stray bullets and unintentional discharges.
But when the project launched, roughly 100 of the profiles had to be tagged as “Stories Left to Tell,” because the hobbies, talents, and aspirations of those victims remained unknown. Most were black and brown teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18. Some were killed too close to the launch of the project for the student journalists to have time to report them out. Others landed in the category because they had left no discernible digital trail. But the majority of the incomplete profiles remained unfinished because the local media coverage the teen journalists relied on was so scant.
Over the summer, The Trace assembled a team of 10 of the teen journalists who worked on “Since Parkland” to correct that.
LS&Co. supported The Trace from the Safer Tomorrow Fund, a $1 million philanthropic fund to support nonprofits and youth activists working to end gun violence in America. We are honored to champion the incredibly important work that these young journalists have done in painting a full picture of gun violence and how it affects our country’s children.
Here are a few examples from the latest series, which The Trace has collected in this follow-up feature article.
Age 17, Stone Mountain, Georgia
Earned college acceptance, supported his mom
His sister recalled his dedication and love for their mother. At 16, he sold some of his belongings. “The minute he got the money in his hands,” his sister said, “he went straight to my mom and gave her everything.”
A senior at Clarkson High School, he studied diligently and got into Georgia State University. He dreamed of creating a successful franchise in the fashion industry to make his mother proud.
She had immigrated from Somalia to give them a better life. He just wanted to take care of her.
On November 11, 2018, Abaas Aidarus Mohamed, 17, was shot and killed in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
– By Katherine Oung, age 15, and Sophia McDermott-Hughes, age 18
Age 17, Danville, Illinois
Loved basketball “like he loved life”
In May, his basketball coach told him he had to make a change. “You too good to be out here in these streets,” the coach texted. “You got to [sic] much to live for.”
He knew his coach was right. He had talent, and he wanted others to see it, too. He started going to the gym more. He told his coach, “I love the game like I love my life.”
Tahaji Sincere McGill, 17, was one of two people fatally shot outside the Untouchables Motorcycle Club in Danville, Illinois, around 2 a.m. on Saturday, June 16, 2018.
– By Sophie Driscoll, age 18, and Callie McQuilkin, age 18
Age 18, Brooklyn, New York
Web design intern, brother of six
Dancing in the living room, candlestick in hand, tapping along in what he called his “Michael Jackson shoes” — that’s how his mother, Shawndell Henry, remembers him. “He lit up the world,” she told The Trace.
The brother of six siblings was a web design intern and an up-and-coming rapper whose favorite meal was his mom’s Caribbean shrimp roti.
Christopher Williams, 18, saved his friend from an attack outside a Brooklyn storefront, but was shot in the back as he walked away. He died days later on June 16, 2018. His mother hopes to start an anti-gun violence organization in his honor.
– By Fawziah Fariha, age 17, and Sarah Emily Baum, age 18