By Lwiza Escobar, LMSW
The 2020 election was personal. After a very depressing birthday in 2016 on election day, I was determined to do everything in my power to be aware of and be active in the electoral process, engaging as many people as possible in recognizing and exercising their right to vote. Moving towards election day I was worried about safety for myself and my family wondering what I would do to protect my child if violence broke out. On election day I headed to the poll site bright and early at 5:00 am, an hour before it opened. I stood there reflecting on this year, filled with hope that what I was about to do would indeed matter, despite my fear. Once my vote was cast it was as if I were holding my breath, not only for fear and concern for my family, but more importantly for the communities that I come from and serve.
I have been filled with great angst listening to the divisive rhetoric that asserted that the votes of unprecedented numbers of oppressed people who rose up to make their voices heard, must be declared invalid. I was in a constant state of fear, knowing that every day there were efforts being made to disenfranchise entire communities of color and to reinforce the structural oppression that has been in place. The acceptance speeches by the Biden-Harris team and calls for unity were of no comfort, as I saw the daily efforts being attempted in the courts and in the media to undo the will of the American public. Sadly, I must admit, I was not surprised by the events of January 6th. It simply confirmed that gnawing feeling that this could all be undone, that we were on a precipice. Needless to say, I expected more violence going forward, noting that the former president did not denounce the rioters and insurrectionists; he instead told them he loved them.
I hadn’t realized until Inauguration Day how much tension I had been carrying all year. Yet as I witnessed the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, a girl from the Bronx, swearing in the first Black female Vice President of the United States, a wave of hope coursed through my body. In that moment I was reminded that despite the actions of those who are led by fear and divisiveness, or perhaps because of them, there will always be a collective march toward hope. And that we, the people, as Amanda Gorman describes in her poem “The Hill We Climb”, “…diverse and beautiful will emerge,/battered and beautiful/When day comes we step out of the shade,/aflame and unafraid/The new dawn blooms as we free it, For there is always light,/if only we’re brave enough to see it/If only we’re brave enough to be it.”