© 2017 by Cierra Kaler-Jones

On Fighting the Good Fight

November 11, 2016

 

 

 

The past few days have been incredibly trying. I am exhausted, angry, frustrated, disappointed. As my alarm pings powerfully at 7:00am, I slam the snooze button, as it’s a reminder of another day I have to get up and face the disappointment that I feel in my own country. This is not to be political. At my core, I believe in the tenants of our nation, including the importance and value of acknowledging the different ideologies that shape our worldviews. As an educator and researcher, I encourage students to willingly engage in uncomfortable conversations as a form of growth and expansion of their minds and lived realities.

No matter your political views, no matter whether or not your candidate won, you still need to wake up and recognize that the state of our nation is one that is not equal and the current state has only put a spotlight on issues we’ve been facing. When I say I am disappointed, it is for very real and very personal reasons. I write this to make sense of and give voice to my own story, but more so as a hopeful acknowledgement of what my (and our) role is in moving forward towards a brighter tomorrow.

 

As a daughter to a Pacific Island-White mother and Black father, I’ve heard the stories of how people used to spit at my parents  while they held hands in the street. As a survivor of sexual assault, I’ve experienced the pain and trauma that accompanies being physically violated. As a woman of color, I’ve been called derogatory names and feared for my life after being stopped by an officer. As the partner, daughter, and sister of Black men, I’ve had to hug them a little tighter and hold my breath every time they step out of the house. This is my reality. This is my lived experience. In working with students around the art of storytelling, I’ve learned how incredibly powerful it is in shaping social justice conversations because you can’t look someone in the eye after they’ve told their story and tell them they’re wrong. Our stories shape who we are. They shape how we see and view the world. They shape the way we interact with others. We are experts of our own stories. That is the beauty of storytelling – no one person or viewpoint is right or wrong.

As a researcher and advocate of issues surrounding girls of color and storytelling to encourage social justice conversations, how do I continue to affirm the stories and voices of the students I work with? How do I tell them that they still matter in a world where hate rhetoric is spewed not just from the leader of our country, but those they work and go to school with everyday? How do I encourage them to continue to pursue their dreams, no matter how extravagant, when they don’t see others in power that have similar lived experiences or even simply value their lived experiences? How do I tell them to keep pressing on when they fear for their lives not because of one person, but because of the following that that individual has gathered and how those people now feel empowered to voice and act on their hatred? How do I tell young people that their bodies are sacred, their love is validated, and that their expression of religion is beautiful? How do I, myself, continue to fight on and do the good work, despite feeling like I can barely take care of myself, let alone try and uplift those I’m dedicated to serve? How do I provide a safe space for students to decompress and process when I’m still processing myself? 

 

These are the questions I’ve been asking. Today was the first time I had a glimmer of hope and realization that changed my perspective. As I sat in a meeting discussing how we could best support our students, I remembered that I’ve always lived with the mindset, “one person at a time.” As I am fueling the anger and frustration into negativity, I could be moving those feelings into action. I am here(we all are here), right now, in this moment of monumental history that will forever change our nation. God set me and you in this moment because we are the ones who are going to shake things up and see to it that there is great change. One person. You could touch one person’s life in fighting the good fight and their life, their lived reality and experience, will forever be changed. Do you know how powerful it is? Someone’s whole world can change because of you. We were put here in this moment because we are equipped with the heart, the drive, and the tenacity to see to it that our babies, our next generation of future leaders, will not have to live in a world of inequality.

 

I have hope. As frightening as it may be, I have hope deep down in the core root of my very being. Why? I get to be a part of history. I get to be the change. I get to work with young girls of color and help them recognize their worth. I get to educate and inspire young girls of color to pursue levels of education and achievement they never even dreamed possible. I get to have conversations with college students about their stories and change my perspective on topics that I was once unyielding about. I get to provide spaces for students to unpack their thoughts and watch them grow through the difficult process of understanding why they think the way they think. I get to be a leader in a time of darkness. I have all this possibility in front of me to fight the good fight, even when it’s hard, even when it hurts, even when I can’t get out of bed, I get to keep fighting for what I love. You know what? Heck, this had made me feel as though all of the things I resist doing out of fear of being unqualified I can absolutely do. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll see me in office one day – where I’ll be fighting the good fight. That is where the glimmer of hope comes in. 

All of this to say, do not give up. You were fighting the good fight long before and there’s no reason to stop now. Do the internal work. Heal, scream, cry, take a day, but please, do not give up.  Check your biases and your privileges. Let a young person know that they are loved and enough. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are loved and enough. Reach out to those who need a little extra support. Take care of yourself. Eat, sleep, and drink lots of water. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep fighting because that’s what you were put onto this earth to do. 

 

Don’t give up fighting for what you believe in. I sure won’t. I will fight harder, stronger, and more passionately because it’s not about me – it’s about all the little ones in our country that are the future of America who need to see and know what love, acceptance, tolerance, and celebration of differences truly looks like.

 

 

 

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