Casey: Fighting for Gun Control — Arts Education in Southwest Virginia Communities | Local News
It’s fair to say that Andy Parker’s spring and summer have been eventful.
Earlier this year, Collinsville residents entered the Democratic primary for the 5th congressional district, eager to take on freshman Rep. Bob Goode (R-Campbell) in the November general election. However, before the primary election, Parker was kicked out of the ballot after his campaign staff failed to gather enough registered voter signatures.
In July, Parker and his wife, Barbara, were invited to the White House to celebrate the first nationwide gun control law in 30 years. Parker planned to announce a new Political Action Committee shortly afterward to tap into all the media at his disposal.
But he had COVID-19 the night before and had to skip it. Instead, he put out “Andy’s Fight” (AndysFight.com) at the end of his July. Last week he issued his first email blast.
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PAC has two purposes, Parker told me. The first is the endorsement of political candidates who are “committed to getting the job done with common sense gun laws.”
Parker defined this as a ban on the sale of military-style “assault rifles” and high-capacity magazines. Universal background checks on gun buyers and “red flag” laws that allow authorities to seize guns from individuals who make threats.
He said the new PAC is also aiming for what he calls “the confluence of guns and Google.” He said he was trying to break “the inseparable link between gun violence and social media.”
It’s a fear Parker knows all too well. It stemmed from a certain Adam Ward being fatally shot on live television.
A disgruntled former television station colleague sneaks up on them, shoots them dead, and seriously injures interviewee Vicki Gardner, then executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. The shooter then committed suicide during a police chase.
Since then, people have posted videos of Allison’s fatal shooting on YouTube and Facebook. Parker was unable to persuade his platforms online, such as Google (which owns YouTube), to block these uploads.
What prevents that is Section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act. Essentially, it grants online platforms near-total immunity from liability for material posted on the platform by users.
Facebook and Google are “monetizing this,” he said. That’s why they don’t want to block uploads, he added.
“If that exemption is removed, they’ll fix it. They won’t do anything until it’s enforced,” Parker told me on Friday.
Incidentally, Friday was Alison Parker’s 31st birthday.
Andy’s Fight isn’t the first high-profile political endeavor the Parkers have rallied on since the tragedy. But they are also involved in low-profile, non-political efforts to spread lasting good in their communities.
The primary means was through the Four Allison Foundation, which Barbara Parker set up in February 2016, six months after her daughter’s murder. It supports Allison’s strongest interest in her all-too-short life: the arts.
It funds scholarships and educational opportunities for students studying dance, theater, filmmaking, and other arts-related activities.
One example occurred in March of this year. The Four Allison Foundation sent her 70 students and staff from Bassett-Campbell Court Elementary School on a day trip to Greensboro to see a touring performance of the Broadway show The Lion King.
Otherwise the school wouldn’t have been able to afford those tickets, Barbara Parker told me.
The Foundation undertook tickets for 57 high school art students to attend the exhibition “Afrofuturism” at the Taubman Museum of Art and supported 100 student members of Dance Espanyol in Martinsville.
Altogether, the nonprofit has helped more than 1,100 students, 263 of whom have had tickets purchased by the Foundation to attend shows at Mill Mountain Theater and Stanton’s Blackfriars Playhouse.
Barbara Parker told me it was launched with a $22,000 donation from the National Broadcasting Corporation and the Virginia Broadcasting Corporation. Its purpose is to spread interest in art among young people.
Barbara Parker estimates the nonprofit raised an additional $76,000 to fund tickets, band camps, and other artistic endeavors. The all-volunteer foundation has no employees, so all the money it raises goes to exposing students to the arts.
Alison is also a patron of the Grandin Theater Film Lab, which teaches high school students hands-on film and video production. Founded the same year as the For Alison Foundation.
“They are one of our most loyal funders,” said Ian Fortier, executive director of the Grandin Theater Foundation. He said donations from For Alison support film lab operations, equipment purchases and scholarships.
Film Labs are typically year-long programs that require participants about 12 hours per week. Counting students currently enrolled, Fortier said about 60 have served since 2016.
Some have used the skills they learned to get a job in television or film straight out of high school. Some have attended colleges known for their arts programs, such as the University of Southern California Film School, Savannah College of Arts and Design, and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Another film lab student, a recent graduate of Patrick Henry High, used what she learned in the film lab to win a $20,000 scholarship to attend the University of Virginia, where she studied environmental sciences and You’ll study media studies, added Fortier. .
Films made at the lab have won eight student Emmy Awards in the past six years, he added. “Their work has been screened at more than 40 of his film festivals around the world, including in Austria, Australia and Canada,” Fortier said.
“I wanted to give young people the opportunity to see professional theater, play in an orchestra, and take dance lessons,” said Barbara Parker. She said, “Allison had her chance. A lot of people don’t.
“That’s how I wanted to remember her,” she added.
Contact Subway Columnist Dan Casey at 981-3423 or [email protected]Follow him on Twitter.