BROOKLYN, N.Y. — More than 700 students from Ascend charter schools protested gun violence on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall Friday.
Each of them were classmates of 15-year-old Rohan Levy, who was shot and killed while hanging out with friends near his East Flatbush home just one year ago. Levy's mother, Nadine Sylvester, and sister, Kyla Robotham, are keeping his legacy alive by leading the calls to end gun violence.
"He was like my best friend. He was like the other half of me," Kyla said.
"It feels like 10-thousand years. There's not a day that goes by when I don't think about my son. It hurts everyday," Nadine said.
The rally comes in light of recent school shootings across the country. But parents and politicians say it's a reality their children live with everyday in their neighborhoods. In fact, as members of their communities marched for the victims of the Parkland shooting last month, four people were shot in Brownsville and East New York, including a one-year-old child.
"We have had this type of violence in communities of color for quite some time. And while I sympathize with many of the mass shootings that have happened at school, this is something that happens to our young people every day," Nadine said.
While much of the discussion about gun reform revolves around high caliber fire arms, the Brooklyn students and their families deal with issues around smaller illegal hand guns and gang violence in their communities.
"When we talk about how do we change gun reforms, we're not trying to change gun reforms just in Virginia or just in Parkland, we want to change it on Park Place in Brooklyn just as well," Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said.
Instead of fighting fire with fire, educators and students called on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior to combat gun violence across the country, choosing to use light to end the darkness.
"I'm asking that instead of increased police presence that we invest in schools, that we invest in school personnel. That we provide after school programs for our children and opportunities for enrichment of our young people," Marsha Gadsden, Director of Brooklyn Ascend Middle School, said.
For students like Kyla, any change will be come too late. But she says if rallies like this can help change the reality for her and her classmates, her brother won't have died in vain.
"Being that we're out here, I feel like we can get our point across, and I can have some sort of justice for my brother because they're doing everything they. But that piece can't be restored," she said.