My friend Sarah and I are both going into our sophomore years of high school.
We should be doing the normal “teenage stuff.” You know: Sleepovers. Concerts. Parties. Dating.
But apart for the occasional sleepover, we’re too busy with our activism to do any of that.
We spent this summer, the vacation after our freshmen year, attending Kingian Nonviolence Trainings and activism conferences.
I guess that’s not normal for two 15-year-old girls, but we’re at the point of no return.
Once you learn enough about our world ― the severity of the climate crisis, how countless people are being trafficked in our own city ― there’s only so much you can take before you make a choice between two options:
1. Tune out of the news; make yourself numb to the world; and just go about your own life the best you can.
2. Decide you’re going to do whatever you can about what you see wrong in the world.
Sarah and I chose the latter.
We wrote and performed a poem on why:
I Am An Activist
By: Sarah Pham & Jamie Margolin
“I am a salmon swimming upstream
I have taken on a long fought battle
That was not originally mine to fight
But was so compelling
that it called to me from across the oceans.
I refuse to be a pawn
I refuse to wear all the same colors
For colors do not dictate my personality, they can speak for my race
but my race does not speak for me.
I challenge the norms of society.
I refuse to play their game
I resist the currents of our society
resisting mindless consumerism
the voices telling me to
buy buy buy buy
The voices telling me to use nature like a credit card with no spending limit
I resist the messages that capitalism instills in me
That everything is for sale
That it is profit over people
Money over community
Greed over our sacred natural world
Commercialism over clean air
I am not easily fooled.
As an activist i resist what our colonial history books have taught me
That we should celebrate that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue
In school they told me that it was something to celebrate but my textbooks did more than just sugarcoat history
They failed to mention that 1492 was not something to celebrate but the start of genocide and persecution that lasted for centuries and is still here.
Being an activist
Is oppression weaved into passion.
Is your heart hammering out of anger for the in-balanced scale of in-justice,
For the 300,000 child soldiers in the military,
For the more than 1.5 million Sudanese people fleeing their country,
20 million plus Jews who died in the Holocaust,
4,863,684 registered Syrian refugees,
and 30 million living enslaved people in this world
with 60,000 just in our own country alone.
But those are just numbers, right?
Numbers like the status of your social media,
Numbers of followers following their leaders,
Test scores written on pieces of crinkled paper.
Like our birthdays or tax returns
Just a statistic in the news to be shocked over
to be forgotten and tossed aside
just like those refugees,
and just like my family.
I am an activist.
We are so close
So close to freedom but so far from hope
So far in fact that we are fueled by the tears and the tears of the heart,
On stories that shuttle us back to our childhoods,
on anger- much stronger than road rage,
I am an activist.
I resist American exceptionalism
People say America is the greatest country on earth
We are more free than countries with brutal dictators but to call ourselves the best is dangerous
We become blinded by our made up exceptionalism
Blinded by the fact that we are standing on stolen land that was worked by people who were enslaved.
We are not the best if our constitution says all are created equal, yet so many are left out.
I am an activist
I am here not because it is my hobby,
Not because it unnecessary
My work is not temporary
This love is necessary
To heal the broken wounds
Or at least allow myself a shred of attention to the fact that my world is broken.
I am an activist.”