Shawn Ginwright

author, professor, activist

A More Beautiful Struggle

Today I’m numb, unable to focus and unsure what is about to happen to this country. Like millions of other Americans, I’m in mourning. It feels like the brilliant rays of possibilities, from years of progressive politics, have been violently stomped out, smothered and covered with thick, heavy dirt. I’ve decided to go on a 7-day news and social media fast in order to wedge some space between my peace of mind and the media pundits’ meaningless reflections about what happened. The other day, I held a post-election healing circle in class with my students at San Francisco State University. Some cried and others vented their anger while some sat silent. I explained to them that we were in uncharted waters now; so many things are simultaneously at risk due to the Republicans’ unprecedented control of the Presidency, Congress, Senate, future composition of the Supreme Court, governorships and state legislatures.

Given my work on building hope and healing, one student asked me, “How do you stay hopeful in times like these? What do you personally do to stay hopeful? ” Her question stunned me because I really didn’t have an answer. I can’t recall what I told her, but I can say that it wasn’t honest. I didn’t want to tell her that I was scared as hell, that I was uncertain about the future and that I didn’t sleep the night of the election. As I left campus to drive home, my wife sent me a text message to drop by downtown Oakland where my 15 year old daughter, Nyah, attends school. Nyah had told us earlier that she would be participating in a school walk out to protest the election results.

It was unusually warm for a November night in the Bay Area, and the traffic driving over the Bay Bridge was thick and slow. As I was stopped in traffic, Nyah sent a text to me that read, “It’s so beautiful down here.” I thought her message was strange because I wasn’t entirely sure where she was, and I wondered why she thought a protest with her 100 high school classmates was beautiful. When I finally arrived in downtown Oakland, I parked my car and was just about to send her a message to find out where she was when I heard a roar similar to the sound of a stadium during a football game. It’s the type of roar that tingles the air and vibrates through your senses. “What the hell was that?!,” I thought to myself. As I approached City Hall, I saw thousands of people chanting together, playing music, all holding candles, waiting to march and pour justice and love into the streets of downtown Oakland. It was indeed beautiful.

I found my daughter Nyah and we marched together. As we chanted, “Not my President!,” in unison, between the beats of the drums behind us, she turned to me and said, “Dad, this is going to be a beautiful struggle!,” and in that instant, I was hopeful again!

In that moment I realized that our job now is to defend and dream, resist and reimagine, disrupt and discover. While we cannot expect the quick solution to come in our lifetime, we can, each day, prepare our young people for a more beautiful struggle in theirs.

Copyright Shawn Ginwright All rights reserved.