Smith College holds colloquium on gun violence in America

‘We have to come together and figure out how to unite together to make this end’

Caroline+OConnor%2FCollegian

Caroline O’Connor/Collegian

By Cassie McGrath, Collegian Staff

Pamela Bosley and Stasha Rhodes, leaders in the fight for gun control, participated in the Presidential Colloquium Series at Smith College on Monday, giving a lecture titled  “America’s Gun Violence Epidemic.”

Bosley began with an introductory video which introduced her son, Terrell. Terrell Bosley was shot and killed outside of a Chicago church in 2006, when he was 18 years old. His killer is still unknown.

“We only hear numbers, like you hear in Chicago we have 2,439 people who were shot this year, and you have 404 people killed, but you never have names, it is always stats and numbers,” Bosley said. “You hear those numbers all the time, but you never tie names to it. That’s why I wanted you to see the video today. I wanted you to see who my son was.”

Honoring her son’s life, Bosley has created a platform for her to use her voice to speak up and advocate for families experiencing the trauma of gun violence. “People do not talk about the after effects. They don’t talk about the pain and struggles we go through after we bury our children.”

Bosely stressed the effect on the family and on her own life. She took six months off from work to battle her depression, anxiety and pain. “I had to watch my sons as they cried,” Bosley said. “When your children cry, you want to ease the [pain] some type of way. But with this type of pain, I couldn’t even help myself.

“My seven year old started praying every single day that nobody gets shot in his family. That should not be the prayers of a seven year old. My middle son, well one day I came home from work and he told me he was going to try to commit suicide, but Terrell came to him and told him not to.”

Bosley stopped celebrating holidays and hosting family dinners, struggling without Terrell. Cooking dinner reminded her of how much her son loved her food. Eventually, her youngest son approached her and said, “Ma, we like to eat, we like to laugh, we like family. In other words, you need to get it together for us.”

Since then, Bosley has dedicated her life to other families who have lost loved ones to gun violence through a series of different programs.

One of these includes Purpose Over Pain. This association helps families without insurance, contributes money to burials and advocates for some of the 83 percent of the unsolved cases. Finally, they identify the youth as the future of our country and work with them to create a safer country.

Bosley also created the Terrell Bosley Association, which purchases new coats, hats, gloves and feeds the homeless in an attempt to honor the life of her son.

“Thank you for listening to me and learning about Terrell,” Bosley finished. “We have to come together and figure out how to unite together to make this end.”

As Bosley stepped down from the podium, Stasha Rhodes, the director of engagement at Giffords, a gun violence prevention organization, took the stage. Giffords was founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords who was shot in the head while meeting with constituents in 2012.

“This isn’t breaking news, but gun violence is a problem in America. Ninety six Americans are shot and killed every single day,” Rhodes said. “Often you hear about the mass shootings…those are not mass shootings and do not make national headlines.”

Rhodes also explained the statistics of gun violence in regard to race.

“If you are a young Black male in America, you are 62 percent more likely to be shot and killed by gunfire than to die in a car accident.

“I don’t tell you these stories to be Debbie Downer or darken the mood tonight here at Smith College, but as Pam said earlier, I tell you these stories because often we focus so much on the policies and the stats and the facts, and we often forget that those facts and stats have names and faces and stories and all of those stories deserve to be told.”

Rhodes advocates for gun laws saying that she supports them because they know that they work.

“Specifically the Center for American Progress recently did a study that found that the 10 states with the weakest gun laws have rates of three times higher gun violence,” she said.

Rhodes says their intentions are not to take guns away, but just to regulate them. Instead, they are looking to change the narrative around the legislation.

“People on the other side really appreciate the comparison to cars. Cars are very useful tools in our country and at some point in the early 60s, there was a huge increase in fatalities from car accidents and because of that we had substantial regulations,” Rhodes said. “But we still have cars. No one banned cars. Guns are just like that. We don’t want to ban guns, we just want to have common sense regulations.”

Rhodes then challenged the audience and supporters of increased gun regulation to win elections, donate to anti-gun violence campaigns and use their voices.

“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Who doesn’t want to stop killings?” she asked.

Freshman political science major Emily Poll has created a club dedicated to raising awareness about Gun violence at Smith College along with her friends, Emily Springer and Carina Davis. The group met before college and found that they had all been affected by this issue in their personal lives.

“I was really struck by the story of Pam’s son. That really hit me emotionally in a way that doesn’t always happen,” said Poll. “We aren’t just fighting for laws, we are fighting for people.”

Cassie McGrath can be reached at [email protected]