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My exploits in history began in pursuit of the past.
The soles of my feet screamed for mercy as I dragged myself through the pages of the internment camps of World War II;
Oh, the cruelty of men! Legacy, legacy, what is a legacy?
grasping helplessly in the dusty air of the cruel road, finding nothing but silent text trapped in black and white;
perhaps some choose to remain frozen in time, perhaps it is better to remain oblivious, perhaps it is easier to become a part of history rather than create it
mind racing with the anger of those cast aside, stripped of their humanity, line by line.
I cannot allow myself to settle for easy.
I am in awe of the sublime and mediocre of centuries preserved within the books on my shelf.
Surely I must have a part in this narrative!
But history has taught me that the greatest failure is to be satisfied with the world when it is undeserving of such patronage.
What is my part, if not to stand when others sit in fear? What is my part, if not to use my voice to amplify those of the oppressed? What is my part, if not to feel hurt in solidarity?
Where is the accountability? The echoes of history whispered as pen touched paper where quill blotted parchment, signing the Hepburn Act into legislation a hundred years earlier. I felt Teddy Roosevelt’s determination to bring trusts to justice, a reminder that there is good in the world, for which it is worth fighting. Undaunted by research turning up abuses of power rivaling those of the Gilded Age, I held the law and corporations liable for failing users’ privacy with my headline featured on the Best of SNO website: “Google’s Project Nightingale Infringes on Privacy.”
Where is the change? The voices of history wept as I spoke to the crowd at the 2018 March for Our Lives campus walkout, led by my social justice club Intersections. I was a daughter of liberty, the worn planks of the Eleanor creaking beneath my feet as I dumped empty promises into the harbor, screaming that we had had enough! enough! enough!
Where is the representation? Lost identities of history emerged as I redefined American literature. When I discovered The Joy Luck Club, my conception of the written word was transformed irrevocably. In 288 pages, Amy Tan told me who I was in a way that “American” literature never had. Am I American? In her novel there was no projection of a stereotype—the characters were the winds of the East and West borne into one. In the eye of the storm there is quiet. I reveled in joy and collapsed in grief as I saw myself in June, Rose, Waverly, and Lena, my identity hovering within my grasp. At school, I went door-to-door in the English wing, asking for op-ed interviews with students and teachers about the profound effect literature has on our identities. The common ground we found in our regard for literature sparked several friendships, and a few teachers committed to integrate novels by writers of color into their curricula. I laughed and cried as I helped my community take crucial first steps towards the incorporation of diversity as a standard in education.
Using my voice to challenge what others have settled for, I learned to let go of the confines of the past, embracing what is to come. I will not be complacent. I am real and real and real and cannot stop; I am free of stereotypes, expectations, boundaries. I have become the diligent disciple of men and women whose legacies are my history. Inspired by the complexities of their stories, I cannot help but ask of my world these imperative questions. And I will continue to seek answers, defining my part in this narrative.
I persist in pursuit of the future.