Bullets were fired. Blood was lost. And a five year old boy nearly lost his life. Mine was changed forever.
In August 1999, I was at summer camp when my six best friends were shot. I was 10 then, entering fourth grade, and had no idea what was going on, why there was mass chaos, or what this man’s motive was.
As normally happens in these situations, protocol was followed and the summer camp kids and I were all taken to the local refugee camp, located by the Los Angeles Police Department’s central station. Without recanting the details of the day, the end result was less a result of the myriad events of the day and surrounding factors, and more a result of a lesson I learned that day and have not forgotten since.
When I posed basic questions to the authority present that day, I learned at a young age that what took place hours earlier was an act of pure, solid hatred, and I decided that day, at ten years old that in some way, in whatever means possible – it was up to me to correct notions of hatred and malicious acts conducted and committed and replace such hatred with a spirit of optimism and a sense of connected community – whatever that meant at the time.
One month later, the worst attack on American soil hit the World Trades Center in New York City, the Pentagon, and United 93. I lost a lot of family and many friends that day, and recall the aftermath all-too vividly.
Again, hatred had hit, and I decided I had to pursue a career and life trajectory towards correcting whatever form of hatred I was presented with – in whatever ways I could – menial or significant.
In late 2007, I became aware that political activism was a way to become active in my community – at the city, state, and national levels. I began volunteering at charities, for local campaigns, and any non-profit organizations I could get involved with.
Against the counsel from everyone around me, in December 2007 I sent numerous emails to then-Senator Barack Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe. After getting in touch with his office, I managed to convince the campaign to expense travel to Des Moines, Iowa, for me to work the Iowa Caucus in the last two weeks of what had been an eight month campaign, still in the nascent stages of national launch.
I was hooked. I had to do more.
In 2009, I began writing music again, and began writing contributing pieces on political and policy-driven issues for local outlets. In writing and through journalism, I found a way to combine the “do something about it” nature of what I had contributed in Iowa, as well as the dissemination and distribution of information I knew was a way towards the injection of the spirit of optimism and less hatred in the community – I truly believed misinformation garnered poor results – often as dire as shooting and other tragedies.
In February of this year, I took a 22 hour Greyhound bus ride form Ann Arbor to Washington, D.C. to visit with many of the campaign staffers I had met in Iowa three years ago, and remained in contact with since. The purpose of the long journey, other than getting to experience the White House first hand, was to interact with policy professionals in every arena of policy making: health care, violence prevention, international affairs, and even speechwriting and communications staff who worked on the 9/11 commission.
The trip taught me that at the highest levels of government, there are people writing policies, and enacting change on both a national and a global level. Conversations with this group, however, further revealed that each of us, in our own ways, can enact change in our own societies, and in our own communities.
“Even through the act of voting yourself, and encouraging others to do the same, and having them tell even more people; that is change, that is how a rapid progression of policies can be successfully enacted and people at the grassroots levels can play a part in shaping the narrative of our country,” one senior White House official told me.
What is your goal in life? Mine is to change the world, exploring and imploring the education, knowledge, and experiences this all taught me. Which philosopher would argue these the most?
Which would say that these initiatives were crazy versus pragmatic / practical?