Zakiya Jackson
, The Expectations Project

As we continue to learn more about the awful school shooting in Nashville, I’d like to share a few personal thoughts about the choices before us as communities of people who care deeply about children, education, our faith, and justice. 

Nashville is where I grew into my calling and career as an educator. I attended public and private schools throughout the city and was home schooled there. I’m a proud graduate of the Metro Nashville Public School System. My former students come from schools all over the city.

Nashville is where I grew into my calling as a faith leader and served in churches throughout the city. I have been in the school where the shooting took place and I know that area well. I feel so much compassion for the children attending school in Nashville and the surrounding areas.

On days like this, I hate it here – this land where children, families, and educators live is a land of abundant opportunity that yet remains riddled with unnecessary cruelty as institutions refuse to deploy proven solutions that would make all of us safer, more whole, and better able to thrive.

Violence is not inevitable. Violence is not unstoppable. Violence is not a sacred right to be protected. Violence is not a complex mystery that has no rhyme or reason. 

Our society is collapsing under the weight of infrastructures that do not support human thriving. We will continue to see disgusting and aggressive acts of violence if we do not address the core sicknesses of American ideologies– ideologies that prioritize unchecked power and privilege, and trivialize healing each other and our communities. 

And the children will continue to suffer most. The children will die premature deaths. The children who live will die quiet deaths in their bodies as heightened levels of cortisol rush through them in ways that are prohibitive to rest, growth and freedom.

Addressing the root issues of violence does not mean perpetrators will not be held accountable for their actions. It means we all will be held more accountable for what we allow to transpire in this nation and what we allow children to endure. 

If we are going to let children be children, then adults are going to have to be adult about how we process our fears and desires. We have to dig into our deepest wells of faith, care, creativity and courage in order to create justice in ways we have never seen. The babies deserve it. And for that matter, adults deserve it, too.

The choices before us are plentiful. We can and we should lament. We can and we should support the families that have lost their beloved. We can and we should hold our elected officials, our clergy, and our leaders accountable to making our communities more just. And, we can and we should support and invest in violence prevention strategies…they work

Together, we can lean toward the future we deserve and stop repeating these horrific scenes. Leaning towards this future means stronger regulation of guns, it means investing in violence prevention strategies and it means addressing the root causes of violence. If you’ve been waiting, wait no more. The children need us now. 

Finally, as a proud southern woman, a Christian, and someone who has raised up many children in many ways, I am fearful of the discourse that will surround this shooting. The Bible teaches us so much about fear and how it leads us to act in ways we think are right and just when they are not. Regardless of the identity of the shooter, our work is to protect the humanity of our children and students and to understand the DNA of violence in this country. I implore us not to discriminate against an entire group of people in the midst of our fear and anger over this tragedy. 

When I was a preschool teacher in Nashville, we often instructed our students to use their words and describe their emotions as plainly as possible. Just the act of naming fear, how it makes us feel, what we are afraid will happen, opens up so much space for us to creatively address harm in ways that lead to more healing and redemption. As we contend with all kinds of fears, I hope we will be guided by love, power and soundness of mind so that we can secure better lives for ourselves and our children.


The Expectations Project mobilizes people of faith to act nationally and locally to eliminate education inequity.

March 29, 2023
The Expectations Project

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  1. Thank you so much for writing this heartfelt post. It was insightful and truth. When are we as a country going to stop and change practices that does not work. And selfish politicians who are only lining their pockets and publicizing their own ideas/agenda of guns (money) because they promote shooting. I am an educator that was injured by my students fighting in April 2022. Unfortunately, I will not be returning to teaching due to the lack of safety for teachers and disciplinary actions for students. The safety of our students and teachers are becoming increasingly critical in the United States. Where do we go from here?? I’m over it ! Teachers carry is NOT the answer to stop the senseless killing of our babies. 🙁

  2. While I appreciate this loving article, particularly the part encouraging us to avoid discriminating towards whole groups of people because of the actions of one individual, I am concerned that this article does not provide enough detail regarding gun violence prevention. While the author encourages us to invest in Community Violence interventions with proven efficacy, the article cited was about a Community Violence intervention in inner-city communities and one of the criteria for participation in that particular study was gang-association. While these sorts of interventions are important and applicable in certain settings, this is not applicable to this issue being discussed involving Nashville. I am disappointed that this article lacks any discussion regarding access to high-capacity weaponry and the ease with which people are able to legally obtain guns. The United States is unique, compared to other countries. Our rates of mass shooting are exorbitant, and our pro-gun-access culture is a clear contributor. I think any meaningful discussion about Nashville or the many, many other mass shooting needs to be clearly advocate for legislative changes to make it less easy for young adults to access weapons of war.