As gun violence continues to claim Black lives year after year, filmmaker Spike Lee helped commemorate National Gun Violence Awareness Day at sunset June 1. He and three other public figures flipped a switch to display orange lights at New York City’s Empire State building. Though the celebration is held June 2, the group started events on the eve of the day honoring the many victims and survivors of gun violence in the country.
Newsweek reports members of the Everytown Creative Council, including actor Denis O’Hare and president John Feinblatt, turned on the orange lights. Lee is also a member of the celebrity group that advocates for gun control and safety. Erica Ford, chief executive officer and founder of LIFE Camp, was also present.
“This is a very important moment in American history, and people standing up all across this great country and saying, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” Lee said at a press conference Wednesday. “Ninety-one Americans die everyday in this country. Two-thirds of those by suicide and that’s not acceptable. And we’re going to keep getting the word out, make it a bigger movement day by day, day by day. And I think at the same time let’s also remember all the people no longer with us because of gun violence.”
According to the Wear Orange campaign website, the color became a symbol for the day when friends of 15-year-old Chicago honor student Hadiya Pendleton asked their classmates to wear orange – a hue donned by hunters so they are not shot – to honor her death by gunfire. Pendleton was killed in 2013 one week after the majorette performed at President Barck Obama’s second inauguration. The first celebration was held last year on June 2. It would have been Pendleton’s 19th birthday.
More than 500 supporters have signed on to sport the color for National Gun Violence Awareness Day. They include corporate sponsors like Essence, BET and Motown Records and non-profit partners like the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and Black Church Center.
Lee has participated in gun safety demonstrations in the past. In 2015, Entertainment Weekly reports the critically acclaimed director led an anti-gun march in New York with Rev. Al Sharpton. Ford helped coordinate the march, which was held following the premiere of Lee’s film, Chi-Raq. The movie centers on women who withhold sex from their boyfriends until gun violence ends.