Moving Forward By Looking Back

Home. That is a complicated concept for me. I’ve lived in quite a few states/cities and home can be defined many ways. Home is where I had some of my more formative years during high school (Texas). Home is where my mom is (Virginia). Home is the last placed I lived (Charlottesville). In Virginia, home for me is Charlottesville. I moved to Virginia right after graduating high school and after a quick summer spent at my mom’s new house I was off to The University of Virginia for undergrad.

I made it a goal when I first got to grounds that I was going to engage with the actual Charlottesville community. Not to be confused with the UVA community. I volunteered in various public schools. Went to church, babysat, played recreational sports with people who had zero connection to the University. In addition, a lot of the classes I chose to take required us to go out into the community. Learn about the different neighborhoods, the history that happened in them, and how the city has changed due to that history. Events like Vinegar Hill, and Massive Resistance are two historical events that come to mind. To me, it was incredibly important to understand the space I was living in. And I wanted to try to understand it from the perspective of those native to the city, not from the perspective of those from the “Master’s House” like some of the native Charlottesville residents refer to the University as. 

Four years later, I walked across the lawn wearing the Honors of Honor. Since then, I’ve had multiple people ask me what my UVA experience was like. In that moment I always feel conflicted. “I loved it” I say, “If I had to do it all over I would still go there.” But at the same time, attending UVA was one of the most emotionally exhausting places ever. I look at what happened last night, the plans that are to occur this weekend, and all that occurred over my four years, and it makes me angry, frustrated, and tired.

It blows my mind that people can spend their weekends violently protesting in the name of white supremacy, then return to their jobs on Monday morning. I don’t have answers or solutions. But I know on Monday morning I’ll be back at school preparing for a bunch of 4th and 5th graders to return to school. My resistance is in the classroom where I’m privileged to listen, teach, and amplify the voices and ideas of the next generations leaders. I teach black and brown kids. They don’t have the privilege to simply ignore the happenings of the world around them. Even at a young age, I think there are developmentally appropriate ways to teach them that ultimately the system is flawed, but that they have power and a voice for change. I believe in them and I believe we can do better.

But how? What does better look like in reality? Past my individual classroom, I still can do more and it is a question I am still reflecting on, but maybe it’s something like:

  • Learning about the history of the community you live in
  • Having tough conversations with those who have harmful views/beliefs/opinions
  • Consistently volunteering in your community
  • Finding a way to engage with social action organization
  • Listening to those in “minority” groups & believing them!

Ways you can financially support the community

In the coming days I hope you engage in some self-care, and continued reflection. This is not a time to sit back. Everyone can do something.

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