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 the killing 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-Peirson set 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

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 
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.