Students from various Broward high schools gathered Friday night at the Miramar Cultural Center to address the school shootings in Parkland and Santa Fe, Texas.
Poets, singers and debaters took part in Broward Speaks, an event that channeled the Never Again movement through the arts.
Amy Nguyen, a 17-year-old junior who is a member of the speech and debate team at Everglades High School, started Broward Speaks to showcase the various ways debate can spark change.
“Because [Marjory Stoneman Douglas] is in our district, that really hit home because it is in our community,” said Nguyen.
At a meeting by Broward Debate a week after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, performance poet Sierra Demulder proposed spoken word and poetry as an outlet for kids to express themselves, according to Nguyen.
Taking inspiration from the discussion, Nguyen presented the idea of having a platform for students to express their thoughts to Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam.
Mia Miranda, a 17-year-old junior from Everglades High School, was able to arrange a meeting with Messam through her connection with City Attorney Alison Smith.
Messam decided to have a hands-off approach, allowing the students to take control of the event.
Beaming as he spoke to the crowd, Messam said he was proud of the students who participated in the initiative.
“It was important for the students to realize their power, for them to know that they can make change,” Messam said. “When you allow young people to express themselves, without handcuffs, it’s something.”
Nguyen said three days prior to the shooting, she and other debaters were at Marjory Stoneman Douglas for National District Qualifier tournament.
“To think that I’ve walked these hallways before and the shooter could have walked those same hallways is surreal to me,” she said.
Ariann Barker, who was involved in the production of the event, has friends who attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas. She spoke of being a friend to those who lost someone.
“I have many friends with friends who were shot and killed, and I had to comfort a lot of people,” Barker said.