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July 29th, 2016

Dear White Women

Dear white women-

I am a woman, who cannot sleep tonight. I cannot. There are others with me…I sit here alone in the dark, and yet I feel them, with me. This convention dropped something to the pit of my stomach, hollowed out my esophagus.

Do not turn your back. Do not forget how we got here.

In fact, we have been here before. We stand at this crossroads every day.

My blood knows the histories of times when some of your mothers have come to these crossroads and then, have veered off in the direction where there is a gate that locked behind them. It is an illusion that a gate that divides us, will serve you. That it could stay locked. More importantly, it is a wrong direction. You could be trapped there. And when you are, I do not get to feel your power. All I can feel is your back. Sometimes –you reach out to my light-skinned Latina hand and try to pull me with you. And although I can admit that I have sometimes stumbled in that direction, that I mis-step, over-step, skip steps along the way…that is not the path I will, that I can, take. I’m too rooted to this ground – to this tierra that is, the only path my own feet can walk. My abuelita laid the tracks that guide me. My path does not go in that other direction.

 

But, tonight, I am scared. I’m more scared than other nights. What scares me most is not the darkness that approaches. It is the pressure moving down my esophagus, a vacuum sucking up the air I need to trust. It’s a void. When there is that void, that silence, that gap…it comes between you and me. I can’t feel you with me, with us. Us?… I start to feel like a wild mama oso. But….then my humanity clears my vision. And, I see you.

I want to rest tonight. Which means I have to trust. Or, at least, practice trusting.

So… let me just tell you that…a moment from the last night of DNC convention that I must keep with me is ..the recognition I felt seeing that embrace between mother and daughter. A daughter that is tremendously proud of her mother. And a mother, with the confidence that she has worked to give new opportunity to her daughter. A mother, and her daughter. A daughter and her mother.

 

I thought about my momma. My abuelita. My two hermanas, my sobrinas and all of my tias and primas…my hija that I have yet to birth….

 

Tonight, so that I can rest, I try to imagine this country as one where my Chicana daughters and mothers– where Black mothers and daughters, Native American daughters and mothers, immigrant mothers and daughters, Muslim daughters and mothers – are each fully embraced. I allow myself the joy of imagining a country where the lives of the daughter and mother encircled in each pair of arms, is as valuable as the life of any other mother and daughter.
This image gives me back my breath. It fills me with gratitude that we are, right now, amongst women who have built a movement for Black lives—a movement that makes that country I imagine, a possibility… for all of us.
And so… do not turn your back. We would not be at this crossroads without the work and leadership, and love of all the mothers and daughters who build movements, and who do not stand up on that stage. Women and girls who were not nominated to be on that stage and yet have built the platform that those two women were standing on…so… do not turn your back. You need us. Let us practice this trust, together:

#ImWithUs … and I will fight like hell, and pour my love into a fight to secure the electoral victory of this mother, and this daughter. And I will do it because the safety of so many other mothers and daughters requires that we fight this battle. It is –thank you Assata—our duty to win.

 

And then we will keep going.
I choose to practice hope that there will be more of us moving together along the dignified path – a path to the fullness of our humanity, that only unfolds, when we learn to not leave others behind on the journey. I choose to see us as on that journey.

 

I ask that you not close the gate behind you – you will not lock others out – but you will lock yourself in. And we will come back for you, as we do… but that is exhausting – and the way forward is in front of us. So, let’s keep it moving.

 

Now, as I’m finishing writing this letter, there is a sunrise nearing my window. I’ll stay up for it so I can meet you in the morning.

#ImWithUs, my sisters.

Jodeen Olguín-Tayler serves as the Vice President, Policy and Strategic Partnerships of Demos and Demos Action. Prior to her time at Demos she served as the Campaigns Director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Organizing and Digital Campaigns Director at Caring Across Generations and Deputy Field Director at MoveOn.org. A South-West born Chicana from a family of sheep ranchers, Jodeen brings a strong movement building orientation to all of her work, and is a practitioner of social change strategies that integrate normative and cultural change work with policy solutions and structural transformation.

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