From the Heart of the Deep North

A Changemaker story told by the Youth Initiative HS Junior Class

This story was told one person at a time, passing the talking “blue hat,” by 18 high school juniors at the end of a block on Changemaker Stories. Students jotted down (and doodled) responses to five core questions that help to define a changemaker story, then shared their thoughts outloud. Shawn, the teacher, was typing and made edits for stylistic flow and clarity.

Because we live in such a small town, we get a different perception of how the world is. These towns, like little Viroqua, are like their own worlds. Since there is such little diversity; we are unaware. When we went to Chicago, we got to relate to others; we made connections. We see the bigotry and the racism here, which are the result of years of prejudice. For decades this has been building up.

In the rural Deep North, we see poverty — how people are looking for a way out, looking for help from oil pipelines, which kill our land, looking to make a better living for ourselves at the expense of the well-being of our neighbors.

This is not a new thing for White America; this is how we came here to the North, looking for personal gain, looking to get rich.

In the Deep North, we don’t acknowledge the problems we have. We distract ourselves. We choose blindness because we don’t want to be hurt.

Why is it urgent right now? Theses problems have always been here but now they are being exposed. There’s a massive snow-ball effect as people who haven’t been bold in the past, are now becoming emboldened to say things that Trump is supporting. Now that so many people have voiced their agreement with it, it seems ok to talk about it in public.

Only just recently have we been starting to change this. It’s about taking the next step. Where do we go from here? Instead of worrying about the past, it’s about focusing on the future. It’s time to share the wealth of the world with everyone.

We need to take a conscious understanding of the lies we’ve been told. It will take love and compassion for our grandchildren to grow up in a world with honesty and integrity: “Love is stronger than death.”

Of course, racism and poverty are such a big issues. Knowing what to come up with as a solution is so hard. It’s going to take so much work and we don’t know where to start. What can we do?

…We can come from love.

This generation, our generation — it’s up to us. When we grow up, if we have kids, we need to teach our children what love is. It’s up to us. As millennials we need to realize that this is the time to use our voices, even if people don’t like it, even if it comes off as harsh, it’s what we need.

“I’m a human, god dammit, and my life has meaning.”

This story is part of a new Storytelling for Changemakers program for Changemaker Schools activated in partnership with Ashoka’s Youth Venture and Start Empathy.