Our Existence is Resilience

Mar 1 Our Existence is Resilience

Author: 
Lee Lo

Who I am, my very existence, my worth, what spaces I may have access to – all these continue to be the subject of political debate.

Forty years ago, America debated whether my refugee parents/community, who were being hunted like animals due to their alliance with US CIA Agents, should be permitted into the US. Then it was whether it was worth providing food stamps and health care to this family of 11 who were displaced by a war no one had heard of.

As a kid, I never thought I’d be interested in politics. But when every aspect of my existence is politicized, I have no choice but to be political -- to fight for the day when identities and communities like mine are no longer politicized, but rather humanized.

I am an outspoken, headstrong, second-generation, Southeast Asian American, Hmong American queer cisgender womxn from the lower socio-economic class that religiously practice shamanism. So much of my passion and purpose is rooted in growing up with intersectional experiences, which I eventually began to understand on a systematic level as a youth organizer.  

Like many other families in similar neighborhoods to Del Paso Heights of Sacramento, CA, I am a warrior fighting “against the odds” of a “poverty-stricken” community plagued by crime and drugs. I participated in youth programs led by community mentors -- heroes who magically dissipated my natural instinct to doubt myself and dream only as far as my eye could see, never to dare to dream of anything more.

With their confidence in me, they led me to dreams that some thought were too grand for a young Hmong woman from “the hood” with uneducated parents. With their guidance, I was able to redirect my resilient spirit, once caught on emotional rollercoasters of internalized intersectional oppression learned from my home and community, to actively working to dismantle oppression and advocating for social justice equity on a systematic level.

But on the night that Donald Trump was elected President, I cried.

I cried because it seemed all of the “progress” that I thought the United States was making suddenly felt like nothing but a figment of my imagination. I woke up that next morning repulsed and in despair that normalized hate had won.  

I WAS SO SCARED. I was so scared because this meant that money was enough to excuse a person for their bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and racism. I was so scared because we had elected a person who is a threat to nearly every marginalized community.

But election night was also a turning point. That night I vowed to resist this administration and all the hate it stood for.

Not long after, I joined SEARAC as a Policy Associate to fight for equitable policies in California.

I had always admired civil rights heroes for creating new possibilities they had only ever seen in their dreams. My mentors taught me to “build a world for [community] with [community] in the middle.” Now I see just how radical and important that dream really is, and I fully commit myself to it.

I am so honored to be a part of the SEARAC team and its legacy of resilience and resistance. "Like a lotus, we rise.” We will rise above and build from the muddy waters, because our existence is resilience in itself.  

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