Race. It’s a word we bring up constantly in society. But race is, was, and always will be a barrier, and is, was, and always will be a strengthener. For me, it’s a confusing maze that I’ve been trying to navigate my whole life without a map. My parents and grandparents, both of different skin tones, try their best, but they will never experience the feeling of being stuck in a never ending game of tug of war between two parts of oneself. On the flipside, I find so much strength in the perspective I have as a biracial person, and I love being a combined part of two races and cultures.
You have to live it to understand it
My parents raised my siblings and me to be strong, loving, independent people in society. However, over the course of growing up, there were things that were hard to show them, or help them to understand, without them actually being in my skin. Here comes the mixed kid cliché, but I never knew where to go, what to do, or where I fit as a kid. I was just stuck. Transported wherever others thought best, no real say in my future, whether it was to a hair salon, to a neighborhood, a camp, etc, etc. For the record I love or loved all of these places, but as I’m growing up, I’m beginning to figure out what is more to my liking.
“Listen, Learn, Look, Lead, and most importantly Have Fun!”
In elementary school, my parents started each day with the whole family saying some affirmations to remind ourselves what we stand for and what we practice in our family. We would say “Listen, Learn, Look, Lead, and most importantly Have Fun!” These reminded us to listen to others, learn at school, look people in the eye, and be leaders, and of course have fun! But that second to last part I never really understood until I started seeing things that upset me as I grew up. An adult litters as I’m walking by, police brutality continues, I’m told to stand up during the singing of the star spangled banner by one of my volleyball coaches.
Finding my voice
In middle school, I discovered spoken word and poetry. I began writing a soapbox speech, originally just for an assignment in class, but I eventually went on to present my speech at the Mikva Soapbox Challenge. This event brought me a huge amount of confidence as a middle schooler! Learning to give speeches, and sharing what I want to change, was so powerful to me and really gave me a voice. The first speech I wrote was named, “The Problem with the Pledge,” and it really explained why our nation should not force kids to say this pledge when they don’t know the true meaning behind it, and it’s not valued by most families. My second speech was about the masks we wear throughout our day-to-day lives, and how we hide our true selves from the people around us. This second speech was given over Zoom, and I thought it really related to the times. For both of these speeches, I made it to the final 10, which was the last round and was able to present my speeches to about 200 people. I was proud of myself and the many others who decided to share their thoughts and feelings with the people at the event.
Finding a compass
This year, my first year of high school, I truly realized that because of all my experiences in life, who I am and what I stand for—as well as my skin color—will all affect who I surround myself with. Some of those people will be major parts of my life, and they’ll support and love me forever, and some of them will leave or choose different paths than me. I think the people I surround myself with, my morals, and what I’m passionate about has affected my life and my activism.
Overall, my leadership drives who I am and who I want to become. My parents and many other role models have shown me how, and now I hope to help lead our world into a better and brighter future, with the help of many other amazing leaders and activists in society.