A Youth Activist, 'Blooming In The Noise Of The Whirlwind'

The original title of this blog post was, "Not Too Exciting; Not Too Boring: Grady Wants Your Attention." The piece emerged as the result of a series of conversations with my friend Grady, age 7. With parental permission, and with the understanding that we would seek publication in the Huffington Post, Grady pursued enthusiastically this collaborative writing opportunity.

The comments below are a combination of direct quotes and paraphrases that Grady and I wrote together during our dialogues. We are simultaneously reflecting on our conversations and encouraging people to respond -- in the ways that work best, safely, and realistically, for each of them, and each of us -- in the wake of what is happening in the United States, under its new leadership.

Grady articulates proudly that he has been committed to justice all of his life. He remarked, "We don't know for sure, but because he has written about it on Twitter, and seems proud about it, I am worried that many people are going to die or get very sick because of what our [new] President is likely going to do."

Grady's reflections are situated in his assertiveness and openness as a youth activist. He notes, "I have a cause. My cause is to make things right. I'm separate from the group. When a group agrees on something, I try to think outside of the box, to judge them. I don't want it to just be about scripts. I want to decide on my own if I want to vote for something or someone. For example, I hate racism. I hate racism because some people kill other people just because the people doing the killing are racist. And if someone is disabled or is dealing with disabled stuff, that doesn't mean they should be treated badly or killed by other people. Everyone has the right to live, instead of being killed. People wind up being racist, sexist, and mean to people with disabilities or other people maybe because people lied to them about those people. Maybe their dad or mom was racist or they heard stories that are not true but they believed them and then they became racist."

Grady and I talked openly about how the current political landscape feels to him, and, particularly, how everyday interactions, understandings, and behaviors affect and are affected by this climate, as experienced by folks who are connected and disconnected from one another. He asserted, "I feel mad inside and at the same time I feel sad for the people who got and will get hurt physically, mentally, and emotionally. And, I am mad because people should stop doing this stuff. It's wrong. I mean like, you should not do this stuff. Things happen for no good reason. People are scared of each other. They have been misguided. And so they don't know what to do. They guess. They may become racist and then they just do stuff. Someone does nothing at all to you. And then you are mean to them. It's scary. They're just folks like you. It's not like people who are different from you are going to turn into zombies or something!"

We discussed what it is like for Grady to realize that adults have created the situation in which we now find ourselves. He said, "I feel like the adults who have elected our new President might have had peer pressure, were traumatized by fear, or didn't fully know or understand what Trump was actually going to do. And, if they did know what he was likely going to do and they voted for him anyway, I'm not sure how to feel about what they did."

Given his family background and belief systems, we knew that it would be important to Grady for us to address what if anything God has and had to do with the current political context, as in the question that I have heard some people ask: "How could God let this happen?" I asked Grady this question, and he responded that it is hard for him to find a word to describe God, or what pronouns to use, so he just refers to God as "God," and sometimes as "she." Grady explained, "God cannot really help, and when she looks at this situation, she is very sad. I think God would want people to stand up to Trump and say, 'this is wrong.' But I cannot fully know if that is what God wants." Grady emphasized his viewpoint that everyone needs to remember "...people are not helpless. God can't fix this. You have to fix this. You can stand up to Trump."

We both value poetry, and agreed that we would conclude our co-authored piece with this quote from Gwendolyn Brooks that we feel speaks to what we wanted to share with everyone: "This is the urgency: Live! And have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind" (from "The Second Sermon on the Warpland").

Grady and I understand Brooks to be describing a passion to live and thrive inside of and despite a turbulent storm. In revising our piece, it seemed fitting to update the title to indicate explicitly that Grady, a youth activist, is himself "blooming in the noise of the whirlwind."