My whole life I shied away from politics. That’s a lie. In the sixth grade I ran for some office and lost. Then I was senior class vice-president in high school. So perhaps there was a seed of political interest early on. But real life politics, the politics that made my world go round, were quite intimidating, too big and complicated, something I was scared to understand. So I pushed the political world, our government, its politicians aside. I was the person who could only, usually, name our president and vice president. All the others were a sea of white men in suits--they didn’t look like me or sound like people I knew and maybe that’s why I didn’t care. They were nameless and I didn’t trust them. You’d think not trusting them would make me pay closer attention--like it is now. It didn’t. It made me turn my head, avert my eyes. And it was so much work to memorize names and titles and read, learn about these men and the policies they made that could affect me. I had enough on my plate. It wasn’t difficult to stay ignorant.
I voted. I occasionally went to jury duty. I had a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution on my bookshelf, not in my pocket. I paid attention when the big things happened: Clinton’s scandal, Bush’s winning controversy, Obama, Occupy, DOMA. But I never protested. Never marched. Being as ignorant as I was I’d certainly feel like a poser at any demonstration. Nothing in my life ever lit me on fire to take to the god damned streets.
Until the Women’s March in 2017. I was one of the 100,000 people who marched in Oakland, CA and it was incredible. I made a sign. A supposed Mexican proverb but who really knows. I liked the sentiment and the way it made me feel connected to my ancestors. It wasn’t a single event that made me march. It was an accumulation. An accumulation, a series of events both national and personal, shook me, scared me to my core in a way I had never felt before. Something very sacred and very foundational felt threatened. It was primal. Timing is everything and these series of events ran head on, full speed into my awakening political and social conscience.
This timing was the perfect alchemy for change and this was the promise I made to myself on January 21st marching in my rain boots, holding my sign in the air, in the company of some of my closest friends: I can no longer sleep. I take responsibility for the things I do not know. I must become a student of the political and social forces around me. I must act. I must give a fuck and examine the thing.
But it is still so much work. And the men in charge still do not look like me and it’s still so hard to trust, even more now because of what I’ve seen, felt. Momentum is a mutherfucker. It’s hard to gain and sustain and we are busy with our lives, our work, our children. Habit is hard. But I do know more names than Trump and Pence and I take time to read articles, I listen to NPR on the radio. I no longer say turn that shit off when news is on TV. I sit and listen, consider the source and try my best to metabolize the information no matter how angry that information makes me. I bring up uncomfortable ideas and start conversations with folks who I know will listen, folks who care and are scared like me. I feel like a fumbling kindergartner but I do it anyway. I went to my first town hall meeting and will march again. Today I had coffee with a woman from the Mayor’s office to talk about our love for Oakland, artists and space, gentrification and activism. I left with a little more clarity, more direction as if I’d found a clue. I left feeling inspired to write this and to contribute my voice to the cause. Onward.
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Candace Eros Díaz is a queer Chicanx writer based in Oakland, CA. She has held fellowships at the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto, Lambda Literary, and The Steinbeck Fellows Program of San José State University. She co-curates the long-standing San Francisco reading series Babylon Salon and is the Coordinator of Admissions and Student Services for the MFA in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College of California where she earned a dual-concentration Masters in Fine Art in creative nonfiction and fiction. Her work has appeared in Under the Gum Tree, Arroyo Literary Review, The East Bay Review, and Huizache, among others. She can be found at candaceerosdiaz.com.