Honestly, I originally wrote this letter to my fellow peer counselors, but I sometimes think you all are the more worthy audience.
My beloved young adults,
I send you love on this day of celebration. If we have never met, my name is Leonie Barkakati and I am a 28-year-old woman of South Asian decent. I want to spend just a little bit of your time to share what is on my mind now that the election is over.
Four years ago, when Donald Trump was elected, I was 24 years old. At that time, in a state of hopelessness, I was convinced Trump would be a two-term president. Both consciously and subconsciously, there were futures of mine that I let go of. I was convinced I should not reach for dreams, take big risks, or hope for anything more than the status quo. I gave up on the idea of marrying at a time when that could put me at risk of being legally bound to someone who might lose healthcare or be kicked out of the country. Perhaps this was a cowardly way to live, but it seemed far too great a risk to put my heart in that position. I gave up on the idea of bringing a child into this world for possibly 8 years. I did not want to raise a young person in a world that would take away any hope parents might have and doom a child to live with heavy, heavy oppressions.
Yet, here we are only 4 years later, in a very different capacity than we were 4 years ago. I may have to re-evaluate a great many choices I made since I was 24. I may have to admit that all is not lost. We have thousands of (mostly young) people to thank, who made sure people had access to mail-in ballots and fought to protect polls. How many of them must have been working, probably overworked and underpaid, in red and swing states like Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan, to ensure ballots made it into the hands of women, the working class, people of color, and young people?
Surely, you cannot still believe you are insignificant. 141 million people participated in this election, a 66.8 percent turnout rate. This is the highest turnout rate since 1900, when 73.7 percent of voters re-elected William McKinley. Whether or not we can see it, the wide world believes. They believe in themselves, they believe in the goodness of other people. Good people went out in the world and convinced other good people, and they set the world straight.
You have no excuses anymore. This is the time to put forth ideas. You are good enough to make suggestions, both in the wide world and in [any organization your are part of]. Speak up. Share the thoughts you never share (I’m looking at you, people of color who stew in your anger about racism. [And queer folks who stew in your anger about homophobia and transphobia.] Tell your leaders what you see. Tell them what would make things right). Take a stand against any victimization patterns you have. You are too valuable to be hiding in the dark, forgotten. You are too intelligent for us to not be listening.
I want us to rise to great heights these next four years. I want us to make it so that we never have to choose the lesser of two evils again. We have that power. In the next election, I want to see two or more worthy candidates. I want to see two human beings whose hearts are intact. I want to see two human beings that blow us away with their kindness and commitment to humanity. I want to see two human beings who have integrity and fight for what they believe in. It is possible.
And I want even more than that. I want news stations to report on things like Philadelphia Housing Action, that won a case which deeded 50 vacant houses to a land trust so that homeless people could live in them. I want to see the work of organizations like the Dream Defenders on the news, who have worked since 2012 to fight police brutality and the school-to-prison pipeline in Florida and beyond. I want climate change solutions to be public knowledge so that people can back them in every possible way. I want to cover stories about my own friends, the ones who work to help undocumented people live lives with dignity in Atlanta, the ones who want to run for office themselves, the ones who help microfinance small businesses in India, the ones who keep people from getting evicted in Michigan. These things are no longer the realm of just non-profit or charity. This is what it means to back the poor and working classes, and POC. This has become part of the liberal agenda, and if this is the fad among progressives, I will hold them to our expectations. I hope you will join me.
It is all possible. I want to bring you stories of hope every day, so that you do not give up on your dreams and you will never give up on what is possible.
Be with me, y’all. Bring forth your ideas. Our newest president claims he wants to see an America that works together and heals. This is the time to make our demands heard. We want the same things, Joe Biden and us. I don’t often say this about politicians, but he might even listen to us.
Furthermore, we have this organization, the IRCC. There is opportunity here, too. RC claims to want to hear the voices of young adults and POGM, to put them in leadership. We need to help this organization live up to its potential. Nothing will ever change if we do not come forward. Nothing will happen if we do not speak up.
I urge you to not endure the patterns of our elders simply because it is easy. I love them very much, and this is what they brought us into the world and into RC for. It will not be easy to convince them that you are the right person for any job. Convince them anyway. It will not be easy to overcome the fear of repercussions and mistakes and embarrassment and punishment. Do it anyway. It will not be easy to remember the rest of us are with you when you fight the battles. Fight anyway. [When the feelings come up, call me]. We will back you no matter what happens.
Remember, we did not start this to get something “good enough”. We started it for liberation, to gain back our full humanity. I do not intend to stop until we get there.