I'm Reclaiming My Power in the Wake of Family Separation—And You Can Too
July 13, 2018
I'll never forget the feeling of going to school a few days after 9/11. Thirteen-year-old me was expecting to mourn in solidarity with my classmates, and instead I was told by a few of peers to "go back where I came from."
Ever since that moment, I knew I was growing up in a country where many people felt I didn't belong.
Lately, that feeling has felt more potent than ever.
The words that make up my identity and lived experience seem to be under some new form of attack every single day in my America.
Woman. Person of Color. Feminist. Activist. First generation Pakistani American.
I wake up on a given morning feeling like I’m being told over and over again that I don’t deserve to be here. It’s enough to make the resolve of even the strongest person disintegrate. Each tweet, each Executive Order, each horrifying day causes a crack in my armor—the armor I need to move through this world.
The Devastating News
Not surprisingly, when the New York Times story around family separation first broke in April 2018, it felt like another crack in my armor.
More information started pouring out about what was happening to families at the U.S. borders. How old the children were that were being forcibly separated from the only parents they knew. What the families were being told—or not told. I couldn’t stop thinking: These are children, babies. Being told they didn’t deserve safety. A home. A life. The same things I felt on a daily basis—but so much worse.
It felt like another loud and clear case against my right to be here, living the life I am.
The feelings of helplessness deepened. Every social post I published felt like I was screaming into an abyss.
Every social post I published felt like I was screaming into an abyss.
Not long after I first heard the news, my friend Hilary and I were texting about our paralyzing fear and frustrations and how hard it was to start conversations with people who don’t see eye to eye with us.
After some emotional back-and-forth, we came together with a mutual desire: to figure out how our particular skills and knowledge could be of use during a particularly horrifying time. We don’t have much political pull, neither of us have thousands of dollars to donate, nor the necessary training to help with on the ground efforts in impactful ways—but we thought creatively about what we had to offer. We landed on our shared passion of helping people have more authentic conversations.
In a matter of minutes, an idea was born.
Let Them All In
On June 29, 2018, we launched a campaign to support victims of family separation called All In. We worked with LA-based designer Jessee Fish to design t-shirts that would spark conversations and raise money for The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. Plus: We built out an Action Guide to help people have those difficult conversations that can change minds.
When our campaign went live, it was the first time since November 8, 2016, that I felt like an action, an effort, a stance I took, actually meant something.
For me, All In feels like the lifeline I need. I finally feel like I’m doing something that’s making an impact.
Is this going to fix all of the issues of our country? No.
Is it going to reunite the thousands of families that have been affected by these horrors? Probably not.
But if anything, the impact is personal. I feel, for the first time, powerful. I feel like my voice matters. I feel like we’ve given other people a way to make their voices matter. I feel the will to keep going and keep fighting.
I feel, for the first time, powerful. I feel like my voice matters. I feel like we’ve given other people a way to make their voices matter.
Raising your voice, starting a conversation, and wearing your viewpoints on your sleeve are all powerful acts of resistance. You have great power, your voice matters, and it’s time to step up to the plate.
Here are some ways you can get involved:
1. Snag Your Shirt
Every dollar raised from the purchase of these dope t-shirts will go directly to the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, which is working to change the immigration system so that children in immigration proceedings are recognized and treated as children—not adults—and their best interests are kept in mind as part of process.
2. Educate Yourself
Familiarize yourself with the issues so you’re armed with the facts prior to engaging in conversations with those whose minds you may want to change. A few good places to start:
●︎ "Dispelling the myths about refugess in the Trump era" The Daily Show
3. Start a Conversation
Stop avoiding that coworker who made an awkward comment. Don't skip out on your racist uncle's birthday party. It's our responsibility to foster a dialogue with those in our lives.
If you start from a place of respect—even if you don’t see eye-to-eye—it’s amazing the kind of dialogue you can have. One of my favorite conversation starters: "I want to talk to you about this because not only do I admire you, but I know a lot of other people do, too."
Want to support without buying a shirt? Donate directly to the Young Center. Or, consider donating to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Texas Civil Rights Project, or the Florence Project.
5. Share Their Stories
Studies show that highlighting an individual story can help people better understand complex social issues. These stories are also more likely to change people's behavior.
Whether it’s on social media or over coffee, start to share the stories of real people grappling with the effects of family separation.
Not sure where to start? Check out:
●︎ "The ordeal of family separation, in one toddler’s story" PBS NewsHour
In trying times, standing up for what you believe in is the most powerful tool you can wield. Find your voice and shout from the rooftops—and know it won’t be in vain.