By Maya Durham
Your name is Emma González. You are 18 years old, Cuban and bisexual. You’re so indecisive that you can’t pick a favorite color, and you’re allergic to 12 things. You draw, paint, crochet, sew, embroider — anything productive you can do with your hands while watching Netflix.
And all of that matters.
Obviously, I am not the one who lived through this. I’ve never experienced the loss you or your community have, and the only thing I can do is react. Reading your essay in Harper’s Bazaar, watching your speech and your question at the town hall, I am in awe. You have inspired my classmates and me to act. Iowa City is an activist town—we have walked out and written letters, called and attended town halls. But when we see what you all are doing, especially in the wake of this immense tragedy, we are driven. We are driven to do more, to demand change.
A lot of what drives us is seeing ourselves in you. You are all our age, you have the same hopes and dreams as us. You draw, paint, crochet, sew, embroider — anything. You are, as huge as this may be, the leaders of our generation.
In the past week, there has been a ridiculous imbalance in our society. There have been walkouts across the state, but at least three shooting threats in Eastern Iowa alone. Students have called out legislators, but there has been no action. Victims and survivors are speaking out, and they are the ones making change.
So, Emma González, who you are matters. Who you are shows us, teenagers in Iowa, that we too can create change. That the things we see in ourselves are there in others, and that those things are amazing. That those things can make a difference.
Thank you — you and your classmates, your parents, every single member of your community — for creating the path for something that should be a full-blown interstate by now. By the time our generation is old enough to be elected, you’ll change the world.
You already are.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 238.