Sunday, 4th of June, 2017.
Today is the day I found my voice.
This year I am finding that I have really started to push myself, to brave dipping my pinky toe into waters outside my comfort zone. I’m starting to learn that I will never really know who I am if I don’t try new things. Hence, at the beginning of this year I joined a group called, “Shakti”. They came into my school and caught my attention – a feminist organisation dedicated to helping/empowering/freeing refugees and migrants, who have moved to New Zealand, to have a violence-free life and help them adjust to western society.
I was extremely terrified and nervous about putting my name forward. Would I have time to dedicate to the group? Would I even be able to articulate my own feelings and views? Would there be people I knew? But I went to that first meeting, hands shaking, and realised that all this time, all this fear and worry, had prevented me from coming to this place I needed to be. And so, it began. Shakti has a youth branch and is run by university students. They travel around Auckland to a few different high schools, with my own being one. While doing this a fifteen year old student from another school suggested we should have a protest march to raise awareness of issues present in our society. Racism. Sexism. Discrimination of sexuality. Gender inequality. Islamophobia. Growing fear. Hatred. Abuse.
I went to training days, spending days with like-minded people, who I found also had something to say. I felt like my inner voice was growing, louder by the day. We painted banners in preparation for the march, we ate cookies, we danced, we made chants, we learned about domestic violence in migrant and refugee families, we found how to express our opinions through poetry and made spray paint t-shirts, black covering my fingers. We decided on our purpose for the march, which was to end all violence and discrimination in our present society. New Zealand has the highest rates of reported family violence and youth suicide in the OECD. Not only this, but people are dealing with racism constantly, being stereotyped as problems. We decided we were not going to stand for this anymore. And, so the days were dwindling down, until I found that it was the night before and I was wriggling in bed with excitement. This was my first ever protest march, and, as a kid who wished she could’ve been born in the 1960’s, this was as close as I was going to get. I found myself looking up bus times over and over, checking we would be on time, tracking the route, and then falling into interrupted sleep.
The march was something else. We all gathered at the bottom of Queen Street, painting purple stripes on our faces, and passing out the banners and placards. People were really beginning to gather, a crowd was forming, and my adrenaline was pumping. At 1:15 pm we marched. We marched against all forms of violence and discrimination, chanting, “1, 2, 3, 4 we won’t take it anymore, 5, 6, 7, 8 no more violence, no more hate”, “break the silence, end the violence” and “count our voices, our voices count”. And that was just it, something clicked for me as our feet hit the concrete, our voices ringing into the Sunday air. Our voices do count. We, as young people, may not feel that they do, but in that moment I saw how we could really make people listen, and promote change for a better future for everyone.
Not only this, but as we were about to march the news of the terrible London Bridge attacks started to come in. It made the whole protest march even more poignant. A simply idea of hope, something we are less inclined to believe in these days, was something I felt shone clearly through. We were not marching to blame anyone, to hurt anyone, to attack. We were marching in peace, out of love and hope for a better future. I couldn’t stop myself from beaming as we marched and listened to speakers in Aotea Square. I even got up in front of the crowd, legs shaking, heart pounding in my chest, as I read out a poem I had written. It surprised me when I spoke into that microphone with such a clear voice and such purpose. I looked out over those I loved (all my family), and those I had come to know from joining the group and just felt this lightness wash over me. I am seventeen years old, in my last year of high school, and I could have easily told myself it wasn’t worth joining Shakti, but I didn’t. It is never too late to start acting, to start proclaiming who you are. I was so proud of myself on this day, because ultimately it takes a lot of bravery to step up and take action for what you are passionate about. I dare you to try things and you never know, maybe you will find your voice too?
Because on Sunday, 4th of June, 2017…
I found mine.
Love, Brecon X
P.S You can find out about all the amazing things Shakti does by clicking on these links: