The San Jose chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America carried a mobile art exhibit literally on their backs along Castro Street in Mountain View June 6 to raise awareness of lives ended by gun violence.
More than 20 volunteers wearing orange T-shirts, donned clear plastic backpacks and pulled wagons filled with 2,700 origami Soul Boxes. Each three-inch-square box represents one of the 3,000 lives in California lost annually by gun violence — whether murder, accident, or suicide.
San Jose mom Rachel Michelson and Sunnyvale mom Brooke Strishock are two founders of San Jose Moms Demand Action (www.facebook.com/groups/SanJoseMomsDemandAction), numbering about 800. They were spurred to action after the high school mass shooting in Parkland, FL, in 2018.
“We’re a nation of survivors. Almost everybody knows somebody gun violence has touched,” said Strishock.
“We’re not against gun ownership. We are for gun safety laws and responsible gun ownership. We’re a gun violence prevention organization.”
“Our San Jose community just suffered a horrendous mass shooting,” said Michelson. (The shooting at the VTA light rail yard on May 26 left 10 dead.)
The moms, their march scheduled months before the shooting, gathered on the steps of the downtown Performing Arts Center to don their backpacks. Each held 100 Soul Boxes — the number of Americans killed by guns daily.
Additionally, more than 230 daily are shot but survive.
“You don’t really know who is a survivor of this experience,” Michelson said to the marchers. “Take a minute to send peace and love to the universe for these people. We’re doing [this] to honor people in our lives we may never know.”
Then the moms marched past the Sunday morning brunch crowd seated outdoors along Castro Street, to the VTA Station and through the Farmer’s Market.
“Are people really unaware of gun violence?” asked passerby Julie Bry from Redwood City. “One reason we’re leaving the country is because of this, because of fear for my kids’ safety at school.”
The Soul Boxes were hand-folded and decorated by the moms and supporters. Some had the names of individual victims written on them. Unnamed boxes represent souls unidentified to the public.
“I learned the reality of gun violence is deaths every day,” said Michelson. “Mass shootings don’t make up most of the gun violence that happens. Two-thirds is suicide, homicides, police shooting and unintentional deaths when children find guns.”
Santa Clara mom Pam Treder marched for her grandchildren.
“We are creating good visibility,” said Treder. “What I can do myself is a drop in the bucket, but together it’s a bigger splash.”
From San Jose, the Soul Boxes get shipped to Soul Box Project headquarters (www.soulboxproject.org) in Portland, OR. Then on Oct. 16-17, 200,000 (goal) Soul Boxes from around the U.S. will be displayed en masse — an exhibit of “Art Revealing the Gunfire Epidemic” at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (www.momsdemandaction.org) calls all to action: Text “checks” to 644-33, contact senators to pass gun-safety laws, and educate family and friends.
June is National Gun Violence Awareness Month, and June 4 was national Wear Orange Day to remember victims and survivors of gun violence.