Opening Speech to the People's Walkout at Cornell

Photo by Christopher Talavera, Junior at Cornell University

The following speech was written and read by two co-hosts and activists from Cafecito con Chisme: Latinx Podcast, as the opening speech for the People's Walkout at Cornell University on Friday, November 11th, 2016. Nearly 1000 students, faculty, and staff members attended the event organized predominately by students of color and allies.


"What does it feel like to be a problem" asked Du Bois. Decades later, we're still asking ourselves this same exact damn question. What does it feel like to be Brown, to be Black, to be queer, to be womxn, disabled, to be undocumented--what does it feel like to be positioned as inherently Other within the US imaginary, within imagined borders dividing land that wasn't ever ours to begin with, and the borders that we construct through our own problematic socializations. Look around you. Today, we stand before a nation partitioned, crumbling under the immense weight of state sanctioned violence, outright greed, and straight-up fuckin' malice propagated by its elected officials. History has a damn stutter, repeating itself over and over again. Oppression evolves--we were never post-racial, and y'all know it.

Today we stand in the ruins of a democracy that has neglected marginalized communities and perpetually continues to do so. Pero hoy, we've found ourselves here unidos in unapologetic dissent towards the structural, systemic, and institutional construction of the politics of fear, terror, and intimidation.

The personal is political--this situation does not exist within an ideological vacuum. What brought y'all here isn't fear, rather resistance. Our ancestors have survived centuries of oppression--we're ready for this shit. We're healers and luchadores.

On November 11th, White America made a statement. We woke up to the "American Dream": a white supremacist fetish, the literal ever approaching elephant in the room; a dream in which this country imagined us erased--wiped from the pages of history books and the soil on which we stand. White America: blood is on your hands. Ours are calloused, worn from generations of peeling layers away from whiteness, demanding our tears in the process. On Wednesday we woke up to the American reality. An America no longer timid in its use of intimidation. An America unafraid to inflict fear on its people. An imperialist America self-justified in its opposition to justice. An America which is to be ruled by a white supremacist named Donald Trump. This is how empires fall.

Fuck that.

This land is your land, but this land was never my land. Never has this imperial body been a land of equality, justice, and "freedom for all". America has always been a stolen land and constructed state of class domination and oppression, white supremacy, and war-mongers. Now we face a very uncertain future and our lives are at a crossroads, tangled up in its implication of will I be alive tomorrow.

What the hell are we gonna do? What happens when there is no where left to turn to because apparently this ain't my country: they don't love us?

We fight like hell
We resist
We dissent
We allow ourselves to cry
We create healing spaces
We overcome
We build

There's no "one" palatable way to resist. Self-care is radical resistance. Healing is resistance. Graduating, first-gens, is resistance. Crying is resistance. Fighting is resistance. Ain't no respectability politics passing through our teeth. Check yourselves, ten times over and be mindful of the spaces you occupy--especially white folxs--and the oppressive power dynamics that you replicate, even when your intention is pure, leaders. Impact over intention. If we are to truly organize and heal together, we must be comfortable addressing our own communities within our own intimate spaces.

Remember the people before you today. Remember the dream and the hope that endured centuries of oppression--of blood and fire--grit flows through our own veins. Remember the people who are not here today. #SayHerName: Sandra Bland, Korryn Gaines. Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter. We remember you, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and Trayvon Martin. The voices and lives of those who are not here today because of the injustices of state violence, police brutality, and hate crime. We are here.

Today we stand before a nation that has destroyed itself and today we must rebuild it. A space that is truly free, truly just, truly inclusive, and that lives up to its "promise" to the world as a beacon of hope and a bastion of justice, or so it says.

"The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." We must oppose the state which undervalues the womxn of color who built it on these bridges called their backs. We must oppose the white cis/heteronormative patriarchy suffocating our communities of color. The diaspora is spitting back the water that they've been drowning in, because neither here nor there do they belong -- but we've finally reached the shore. We must oppose the people who see us as Other, others to be neglected, abused, and tossed aside like bitter fruits.Today we say no mas.

No More to White Supremacy
No More to Corrupt Politics
No More to Systemic Oppression
No to Hate. No to Trump. Yes to us. Hell yes to us. We are so powerful mi gente, so resilient, and so damn intelligent. So incredibly beautiful. We are enough. We are more than enough. We belong.

Our comunidades survived y'all, and somehow we will continue to do so, too.

If we don't stand for something, says Malcolm X, we'll fall for anything. So let's stand together, and walk in solidarity with one another and other students organizing walkouts today across the country, honoring the history of walkouts in the context of civil disobedience from high school to post secondary resistance. We are here, let it be known.