July begins the final month of YAV. Just 4 more weeks until my YAV term has come to a close. Many people are asking about what reflections I have on this last year of my life. What am I taking with me?
But how do I sum up the last year of my life into a nice picture for everyone to see? How do I make all the moments make sense? All the interactions with CHPRA clients, the days when I’ve come home from work exhausted and yet fulfilled, the moments of laughter with my housemates, the moments of deep raw emotion too. All the good, bad, draining, fulfilling, inspiring, loving, hard, and growth moments.
I don’t think I can sum up any year of my life into a conversation. Much less this one.
Living in Tucson for the last year has been so impactful. So fulfilling. So educational. So life changing.
I can think of takeaways, but that phrase feels strange to me because that makes it seem like there is a concrete thing I am taking with me. That isn’t how I feel at all. I feel like I am leaving from this experience with a trail behind me that I have already walked and a trail in front of me. This is just a moment of change in the journey of my life, but not an ending.
Thinking of this as a journey reminded me of “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. A poem that I used to love when I was in high school.
A camp I went to as a kid showed us a video every summer based around this poem. It was a classic at camp. Many of us long time campers knew all the words. The message of the film was that in order to curb global warming and have a good earth to live on, we need to take the road less traveled. Go against the norm to “all the difference.”
That is the message that I am reflecting on most as my YAV experience is coming to an end. I don’t want to go to a post YAV life that is fitting into the norms of society. These norms uphold systemic inequalities and I don’t want to be passive in these systems.
It seems like most people would agree that there is a lot of brokenness everywhere right now. But that brokenness doesn’t just fix itself. It requires work through analysing biases and injustices on personal and systemic levels. And it requires the work of going against the grain. Being open to new ideas. Refusing to participate in this brokenness.
The road less traveled isn’t easy but it is so worth it to have human rights and equality for everyone.
I believe we need radical changes to have justice for all people. And that requires all of us taking the road less traveled. We all have to go against these norms and put in the time to create a better world for each other. Post YAV, that is exactly what I want to do. My takeaway is the same one that I learned at camp as a teenager: keep taking that road less traveled because it does make a difference. And that difference is needed.
The 2020-2021 TB Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) wrote the following message to share their own reflections and thoughts on the current moment. The TBYAV Board supports the YAVs' raising their voices. As a board, we are committed to focusing on broader issues of racism and need to engage in more conversation & discernment around the call specifically to defund the police. We are doing more learning, discussion, and reflection on dismantling structural racism as a board and look forward to sharing our own thoughts and reflections later this summer.
The cruel murder of George Floyd is not an isolated incident of a Black life being taken at the literal hands of the police, using their bodies, their knees, to crush the last breath out of this man's life. The same way Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and many other Black lives are taken, many of whose names we will never know. These murders are connected and a direct result of years of systemic racism and slavery in this country.
As a program we firmly stand with our Black siblings leading the uprising against police and state sanctioned violence. We are committed to recognizing the role each of us plays in systems of white supremacy and oppression through implicit biases and failing to speak up against racism.
Murder is a sin. Police brutality is evil. Staying silent is to side with the oppressors. The revolution currently happening is against white supremacy as a whole. We are committed to listening to and learning from Black people, personally analyzing the biases each of us carry, actively speaking out against racism, and standing in solidarity.
We support the movement to defund the police and abolish the prison system. These programs are over funded, over militarized, and racially unjust. There is no justice in our current justice system. Money needs to be redirected from prisons and policing to education, healthcare, and social work that provides resources to people and communities that need them most.
We support the direct action in the streets that is leading to conversations about change. We are grateful to the leaders of this movement for leading the change and we are committed to supporting the change that our Black siblings are striving for. We recognize words are not enough and action must be taken: Reparations must be paid, Black voices must be amplified, and we must all engage in hard conversations to address how we each benefit from white supremacy and how we can stand against these injustices.
Dismantling white supremacy is an ongoing process. We strive to continue to be better allies and accomplices to all Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), recognizing that we will mess up and need to be called in by those we are oppressing. However, we cannot rely on only our BIPOC siblings to hold us accountable. We must be accountable to ourselves through analyzing our implicit biases and hold all white people accountable to destroying racist practices.
We recognize that the foundations of the United States are based in keeping upper class, white people in power. These ideals are oppressive to us all. White supremacy tells us who is worth listening to and who is valuable in our society. Although we have benefited in some ways from this oppressive system, we also know that benefiting from the oppression of others dehumanizes us and keeps us from being fully free. We believe all people are valuable for simply being human and we are committed to fighting for changes to express that value. We commit to doing all that we can to enact change that benefits all people. Until there are systemic transformations and create a future to benefit everyone, and until we end white supremacy, no one is free.