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Beyond campus shootings, how one South LA teen is using this moment to raise awareness




South L.A. resident Fernando Mosqueda is a student at John C. Fremont High School and a member of the Community Coalition in South L.A., a grassroots organization. Mosqueda is shown in front of the coalition, on 81st and Vermont Ave.
South L.A. resident Fernando Mosqueda is a student at John C. Fremont High School and a member of the Community Coalition in South L.A., a grassroots organization. Mosqueda is shown in front of the coalition, on 81st and Vermont Ave.
Leroy Hamilton

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Since 17 people were shot and killed last month at a high school in Florida, young people have been leading a nationwide debate about gun control and gun violence.

And that debate has gone beyond campus shootings.

The student activists from Marjory Douglas Stoneman High in Parkland, Florida attend school in what is typically a very safe neighborhood. They come from an affluent community. But they have recognized that many other young people have much different daily realities.

So how do personal experiences with shootings turn into political protest?

Fernando Mosqueda is a student at John C. Fremont High School in South L.A. who attended the March For Our Lives rally in Washington D.C. He was part of a group of students with the Community Coalition, a South L.A. grassroots organization.

He spoke to A Martínez about how he deals with gun violence in his neighborhood.

Interview Highlights:

Tell us about where you live.

Fernando Mosqueda: I live in South Central...there's gang tension. We see drugs, day to day shootings, drive-bys. There are also positive organizations like Community Coalition that bring progressive changes to our community.

Within the last year, 21 people have been killed within a mile of John C. Fremont High School, 18 of those people were shot to death. How does this sort of gun violence touch your everyday life?

Mosqueda: Since I'm Latino, some people assume that I'm gang-affiliated, so I have to constantly know my whereabouts. I have to be sure I'm not wearing certain [gang-affiliated] colors, not looking mean, and make sure that if I'm walking with my earphones, that one of them is taken off...so I can hear if someone's coming or a car slowing down or if somebody yells something, I'm always aware. 

Tell us about a time when you were worried about your safety.

Mosqueda: One time, it was late at night and I was hanging out with my friends. We had just come from the beach...I had to get home, but before I went to the bus stop, we heard a shooting right around the street corner. But I had to wait at the bus stop and was wearing a white shirt with blue pants [which can be identified as gang-affiliate colors]. Waiting there, I was scared, especially since my friends wanted to wait with me. I didn't want [them to be in danger].

What was the response from friends and family when they learned you wanted to join the movement for gun control? 

Mosqueda: It was a little pessimistic. They wondered if youth would really make a change...but a lot of that has shifted, especially after the March For Our Lives. So they see the momentum that youth are building.

Did it bother you that you had to convince people that this would make a difference?

Mosqueda: No, because in South L.A., a lot of people's traumas are embedded into their consciousness, and they have to unravel that. So when they're pessimistic, I see it as something they need to work on, and I work with them...to recognize their power.

Before the Parkland shooting, we didn't see this type of mobilization against gun violence. Why do you think that is?

Mosqueda: Before Parkland, a lot of gun violence regulations and recognition of gun violence has been led by black and brown organizations like Community Coalition. Maybe the language is different. Our language aims to get to the root cause of the issue, like mental health. But the movement since Parkland has been led by white people in more affluent communities. So obviously race [is a factor]. It's angering, but it's also motivating us to take up more space and making sure that our platforms are shared.