What We Do In This Moment Defines Who We Are

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It’s hard to believe it has been nearly four months since we adjourned the 2020 session, early for the first time since the Civil War. In that brief time, we’ve held our first mostly mail-in election, with lessons learned in preparation for November. We have seen more than 125,000 deaths nationwide due to COVID-19, more than 3,000 of which have occurred here in Maryland. We have seen a renewed call for equity and civil rights, a local surge of the Black Lives Matter movement, and a national reckoning of our nation’s original sin of slavery.

We’ve seen our custodians and our health care workers, grocery clerks, and business owners all become heroes as they pivot and adapt to each new challenge posed by the ongoing dual crises of a pandemic and the collapse of the social safety nets established to provide us relief.

As your delegate, I have been counselor, advocate, therapist, protestor, educator, liaison, communicator, resource, sounding board, and even occasionally metaphoric punching bag to this district because as we say in the theater, “that’s the gig.”

Over the last two years, I’ve written numerous articles about advocacy, focused rage, intersectionality, amplifying young voices, leadership and the relentlessness of mourning, and a number of people have asked “why?” Why was I writing about lofty ideas rather than specific, local issues? I don’t think any of us foresaw this moment, but what I did see, with crystal clarity four years ago, was that with the 2016 elections, many marginalized communities were in jeopardy, and what we do in this moment defines who we are and what we want our nation to be.

I know that we will often disagree on policy, and that the politically expedient choice would be to maintain the status quo, but two years ago, this district took a leap of faith on me, an artist educator, because we weren’t happy with how we were growing as a county and as a district. I didn’t like the complacency of our elected officials who didn’t have to show up and do the hard work of bridge-building, of listening, of compromise.

The reason I write about lofty ideals is because they’re attainable but only when we build momentum, when we build consensus, when we build foundation, and when we build our army. What I’ve seen in the last few months has restored my faith in this community, when, despite the sacrifices we are making, we show up to protest inequality, we show up and support our local businesses, we show up for each other to support our neighbors of color or our LGBTQ+ children, we show up physically or virtually or metaphorically, we wade through the discomfort of our own comfort and give up a little so everyone can share.

We have so many challenges presented by the pandemic that it can feel overwhelming, impossible and hopeless, but what we’ve seen in this moment is far from hopeless. We’ve seen what we are when we build and show up for one another, when we build and show up to hold our representatives accountable, when we build and show up to speak truth to power, when we build and show up for our young people, who are taking up the mantle of leadership.

We are being asked to do what feels like the impossible, but remember, everything was impossible before it was possible.

As we approach the July 4 holiday, which looks quite different from years past, we can look to the wisdom of our founding fathers, even as we reconcile their humanity. In protest, in sacrifice, in generosity and in grace, we see our truest self, the rugged individuality stripped away for the greater good, which is the greatest demonstration of our patriotism.

My office continues to work to address every need of our district, from fixing the broken unemployment system to fixing the flooding on 450. It’s all on the radar and it’s all on the table, so keep asking, keep questioning everything, and keep holding us accountable.

I spent years hearing people tell me I couldn’t do everything, and my answer was always the same: “If you believe that, clearly you don’t know me that well.” No one can do everything, but everyone can do something, so choose that something, keep building and showing up, mask on, and we’ll discover we can do far more than we ever believed capable. Together we will make the impossible happen.

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