RuQuan Brown, who grew up in Shaw and graduated from Banneker High School, experienced gun violence for the first time at five years old. Then, in 2017, a football teammate and friend was shot and killed while waiting at a bus stop. Brown’s stepfather was fatally shot a year after that.
Brown, who will be one of the speakers at DC’s March for Our Lives on Saturday, says both tragedies motivated him to join the fight against gun violence. The Harvard University junior started Love1, a nonprofit clothing brand that supports families who have been impacted by gun violence, and Victory Village, a consulting company that teaches educators, parents, and coaches how to support young adults. Last year, Brown donated a portion of Love1’s funds to the Love100 project, which aimed to send 100 DC public school students to therapy. “I’m happy to be doing this work because it gives me the opportunity to bless people and help other people feel safe and feel like life is worth living,” Brown says.
This year’s March for Our Lives comes in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The student-led organization held its first rally in 2018 after the massacre in Parkland, Florida. But Brown emphasizes that Black Americans have been experiencing gun violence for years, just without the marches and mass rallies. “People have been being murdered in the poorest neighborhoods in America for 40 years,” Brown says. “This march gives us the opportunity to make it very clear that gun violence is not a Black or white problem, or a left or right problem, or a Republican or Democrat problem, or a young or old problem, it’s an American problem. All people in America should be recognized in the struggle, in the fight.”
Tomorrow’s protest will be the first time Brown has spoken at a March for Our Lives rally. He says he’s excited to reach other young people and empower them to take action as well. To Brown, change can’t come from legislation alone: “We have to change our hearts because our laws are a reflection of what’s inside of our hearts. I know that it’s possible, but it has to come through Americans making love their religion,” Brown says. “Many politicians are not willing to sacrifice their pay check, sacrifice their vacation, sacrifice their beliefs to serve people, and we need that.”
The rally will take place at noon tomorrow at the Washington Monument.