I entered 2021 with a renewed sense of hope and optimism; after a tumultuous four years, we’d just elected our first African and Asian-American vice president. Our new president made the COVID pandemic and the ensuing vaccine a priority for all Americans. However, knowing that our country was deeply divided. I still felt a sense of peace that we were getting our priorities back in order.
That feeling quickly dissipated as we watched the increased violence towards Asian Americans. Along with the murder of Daunte Wright at the hands of police, the excessive force used on Army Lt. Caron Nazario, the Derek Chauvin trial in the killing of George Floyd, and Georgia’s new voting law, I realize racial equity and social justice had reached a fever pitch and racism could no longer be ignored.
Over the last four years, the nation’s foundation has been shaken to the core, a realization that we live in a more deeply divided country than I could ever have imagined, that has at times brought me to my knees. I’ve been angry, sad, and felt a sense of hopelessness. As many of us have, I’ve had to make a conscious effort to remind myself of the last time I experienced moments of pure joy. Our country’s core values are being tested more than ever as these voices of hatred, divisiveness and intolerance are louder and stronger than ever.
As a child, I watched my mother on television day after day report on racial and social injustices, as she was personally dealing with her own challenges of being “the first” Black woman to become a television journalist on the West Coast. My mother instilled in me that integrity and empathy are core values, and that social responsibility is not a choice, but a way of life. I learned that when people can’t speak for themselves, we have a responsibility to speak for them.
I’ve personally sat at the feet of and listened to Huey Newton, the Black Panthers Party leader, talk about self-sufficiency and equitable treatment, so I was well aware that the negative narratives being built in the public arena about the Black Panther Party weren’t 100% accurate. I have listened to James Baldwin talk about Race in America, and I remember when Martin Luther King and John Kennedy worked together to address racial equality. I followed Civil Rights leaders like Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer (Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free), who played a significant role in raising awareness about social inequities. They influenced me and my thinking about the world and the possibility of a more inclusive and just society. This was absolutely on my mind when I found myself years later in the south helping communities of color understand and join work unions.
Why weren’t there more voices of people in communities of color and poor communities, you might ask? They were either too busy trying to put food on the table, caring for families, or so far out of the mainstream because the people in power had failed them. Most were unaware
of and/or didn’t know how to change the injustices they were experiencing. I knew what COULD happen when people were informed. I knew that IF these communities were engaged and allowed to participate in the decisions that would impact their lives, THEN the outcomes could be different.
And that was my moment of clarity. My mission was clear — to work toward a life of service and impact for those communities, often of color and lower socio-economic means, that were uninformed and disengaged from the government and public agency decisions that would affect them and their families for generations to come.
I have worked for the most powerful legislators in the State of California, and spent nearly a decade watching lawmakers pass laws that disproportionately hurt people of color and the economically disenfranchised. Efforts to eliminate poverty, social inequities and environmental protections took a back seat to Three Strikes, Term Limits (WLB), Prop 209, and Redistricting. This was all happening when 70% of the Black kids in my home town of Oakland, CA had a D grade point average. Where was the focus on equity in education, and in social justice from our government leaders?
And here we are, more than 20 years later, dealing with the same issues of lack of equity in education, lack of access, and racial injustices and violence that not only impact us, but future generations to come. Yet, I continue to be hopeful that my knowledge of the inner workings of government along with communities of color give me a unique advantage in helping more voices shape the fabric of our society. For decades, the journey has been like swimming against the tide, but now — despite the bleakness of current events — the tide has shifted and our work is squarely aligned with this moment of social justice and racial equity. In fact, public agencies across San Francisco are requesting services and help shaping policies to make their work more equitable. And corporations are banding together against Georgia’s new restrictive voting law. And the Biden administration with its cabinet that “looks like America” is pushing for the same. Finally, the world has caught up with my vision. But that just means there is more work to be done.
I realize that over the last year I have gotten the most joy in having spent an inordinate amount of time with my 14-year-old daughter, who I have proudly watched approach the craziness of the last year with both optimism and fear. I have been there to watch and encourage the development of her creative side as well as answer the inevitable questions about racism and violence. I then turn to look at my mother, who has lived a life of incredible stories as well, and I realize that I am the bridge between the past and the future. I represent the present, and my time is now.
Through all the sadness, fear and exhaustion of these past few years, I realize that I must recommit to my mission of service in the name of inclusion and social impact, not only for my daughter and my mother, but for all those who feel voiceless in a system that so often seeks to silence them. I must represent the change that I want to see in the world — it starts with me.
“We are striving to forge a union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of humans.“
“We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be”
“So let us leave behind a country, better than the one we were left with”
“For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us”
Davis and Associates
D&A Communications is an equity-first communications firm focused on creating meaningful and lasting social change. Our mission is to build human connections and empower all people to make a transformative change that elevates our communities, creating a more just and equitable society.