When it comes to issues of racial equity and social justice, Mill Valley’s youth continue to take the lead.
Much as they did during the weeks and months after thekilling of George Floyd, which sparked a series of student-led peaceful protests both here in Mill Valley and all over Marin in the spring and summer of 2020, young people were at the forefront of a beautiful event on Mill Valley’s Depot Plaza late last month.
The event, dubbed “A Vigil in Solidarity with Our Asian American and Pacific Islander Community,” was held in the aftermath of the horrific series of mass shootings at three spas or massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as an alarming number of assaults on Asian-Americans. It was hosted by Mill Valley Force for Racial Equity and Empowerment (MVFREE), comprised of members of the former DEI Task Force.
Longtime Marin City and Mill Valley leader Amber Allen-Peirsonset the over-arching tone for the event: “When on of us feels unsafe, we are all unsafe,” she said. A number of MVFREE leaders spoke at the event, including former DEI Task Force members Naima Dean, Elspeth Mathau and Hilary Heaven, but the youth movement very much stood out.
The student speakers included Tam High senior Saranyu Nel, MVMS 8th grader Kika Dunayevich and and Tam High senior Natalie Nong, among others. Here are some of the beautiful words they shared:
A poem by Kika Dunayevich, 8th grader, Mill Valley Middle School:
It’s clear she’s not standing on a glass floor Every time someone tells her to smile more
And EVERY time someone tells her To go back whence she came, The ember of her rage is lost in the haze
Hypersexualization Paves the way to her assassination At the hands of a pawn in the patriarchy
And EVERY time The veneer of politeness plastered over misogyny Comes to light when there’s yet another killing spree, We ignore Intersectionality
Race twists fate as hate trumps dreams
If they won’t listen to our whispers, let them hear our screams
‘Healing for the Young Asian Girl,’ by Tam High Senior Natalie Nong
to the young asian girl who is struggling with how to process your pain right now
i want to tell you that it’s okay. that the anger or hurt you may feel is valid and that you deserve to be acknowledged and seen.
to the young asian girl who wants to speak up but finds that your voice gets lodged in your throat, and you feel as though you can’t breathe,
i am sorry. i am sorry for the pain you are in right now and i know that you hate crying but it’s okay if you have to.
crying will not make you weak and you will not be playing into that sick stereotype of a submissive asian woman.
so allow yourself to feel, to scream, to rant. allow yourself to heal because you deserve it.
to the young asian girl who feels fetishized and sexualized,
you are human. you deserve to feel safe in your own skin and I’m sorry that that sense of security was stolen from you but know that you can take it back because you are stronger than what you may think right now.
to the young asian girl who feels ignored, who feels like people won’t listen to your warnings or protests unless someone gets hurt or ends up murdered,
your voice matters. it always has and always will and people will eventually be forced to listen to what you have to say so do not silence yourself for the comfort of others.
to the young asian girl who knows that this type of violence isn’t new,
who knows the history of yellow peril, the model minority myth, the chinese exclusion act, and the countless other times asian bodies have been brutalized and beaten throughout history
please stay strong. it may feel like you want to give up, that people will forever choose to stay ignorant but in that case, please put yourself first.
it is not your job to educate others on your pain or your history.
you are not a resource. you are a human being and deserve to be treated as such.
to the young asian girl who feels exhausted, and drained, and can’t help but feel like, you’re drowning in the news of the daily hate crimes you see online,
it is okay to unplug. to log off. to return to yourself and find peace with your loved ones.
to the young asian girl writing this poem as a form of healing and processing,
know that you are loved. that you are appreciated. that you are not a model minority. or a scapegoat. or a fetish.
know that feeling pain doesn’t make you weak. know that you are allowed to rest and heal for however long you need.