It’s impossible to articulate all the emotions following the 2016 Presidential election. I won’t try.
But two moments stand out, two that have helped me to crawl out of bed in the mornings since November 9, two that inspire me not to be cowed or afraid.
The first happened at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time on Wednesday, November 9 at a POPS meeting at Venice High School where no one was smiling. We posted a sign on the white board that read:
We stand beside you.
We stand up for you.
We support you.
Everyone looked sad, and a vile note had already been scrawled across the locker of one of our African American students. We began to speak about the support we needed to offer each other, and as we talked, one young woman sobbed. “I’m so afraid. My mom is Muslim. I’m afraid they’re going to lock her up…” she was inconsolable.
Tory Toyama, a Venice High biology teacher, comes to every POPS Venice meeting. He is always there, always supportive, but quiet. Some people may not even notice he’s there, but whenever I see him out of the corner of my eye I am comforted by his kind, generous presence. He helps to make sure everyone’s fed and fine, but usually from the corner. But in that moment he stepped out of the corner and said, forcefully, “I need to say something. My father was born in one of America’s internment…no, concentration camps. And we Japanese Americans, we are quiet, but we will never let that happen again. We will NOT LET THAT HAPPEN AGAIN.”
POPS meetings feel sacred, always, but in that moment everything felt warmer and closer and better. Milena stopped shaking. Tory’s words and the look on his face and the power of his passion wrapped themselves around her heart. Around all our hearts.
A few days later, Katharine Nyhus of Nytro Coaching, the lead volunteer at Lawndale POPS, sent me and Michelle Lee, the Lawndale club sponsor, a note
I’m out of town, but wish I were there today. If the election does come up, I wish I were there to say this:
I’m in my late 40s. I’ve seen a lot of things happen in my life. Some amazing, some terrifying. What I want you to know about this election is that ‘this too shall pass.’ I believe this will be a rough four years but we’ll get through. And then our path will change again-and I dream that the change will be a bright light like we’ve never seen before. Four years, when you are 16, 17, 18, feels like forever. But it’s not. As MLK said, “the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice.” But not always in a straight line.
So read this to them if you want to. Sending hugs.
And that’s just two of the large-hearted volunteers who help to make up our POPS family.
Many more of us gathered a few days later Barnes & Noble at The Grove where 21 POPS students read to a crowd of more than 100. The room was full of tears but also full of the spirit to fight against the forces of bigotry, hatred and greed.