How a Blindsiding Moment Became Fuel for our Fire
Eyes around the world are on America this week as we usher in a new president.
Ten weeks ago, on election night, we stood in Kenya with our eyes on America, too, prepared to welcome a new era.
We had marked our ballots before we left. We drafted our social media posts celebrating a shattered glass ceiling.
Then, disbelief started creeping under our mosquito nets as we watched CNN from our hotel rooms, phoning each other with hourly updates well before the sun rose. It was impossible to sleep through the anxiety 8,000 miles away from home.
We continued to watch the reporters’ predictions from the lobby alongside our blown-up Facebook feeds.
Impulsively trying to defend our generation of voters to the other hotel guests, we realized we were the only Americans there. Our words became a temporary band-aid on the bleeding global perceptions of U.S. citizens that we were facing in real time.
Mid-day in a rural warehouse, we stood with our cameras and turned on our cell data to check the results.
We shook down, and we broke down.
The notion of “suck it up” didn’t seem appropriate as we allowed ourselves to mourn what felt like potential death of our rights and our future.
So, we let it out. All of it: shock, heartbreak, fear, rage, and gut-wrenching sorrow.
Our team held on to each other for comfort in a foreign place. Locals kept asking us “How did this happen? But why?” to which we wish we had a sensible answer.
We looked around. We were now feeling what so many around the world – including East Africa – had been feeling for centuries in their own political climates.
How had we been so “lucky,” we thought? How could we have been so naive to think token rights and privileges could simply appear beneath us without continuing to fight for them?
As our documentary subject Leah Day noted, “Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. This is how all revolutions start.”
We picked up our cameras and notebooks and carried on.
The next day, our tears settled. We had time to process.
“You know, it’s not a coincidence that we’re here in the field, capturing these stories of hope, of women persevering in the face of darkness, rising above,” we told each other.
In a matter of hours, Freeheart’s foundation had thickened, solidified. We were absolutely there to do our part. We had to help connect, and bridge, the gaps that had just widened.
We had to bring hope back.
We saw bravery in a new light. Being silent was not an option.
We made a pact for our daughters to come. Our sisters who are alongside us, refusing to give up, too. Becoming numb to reality, we decided, seemed worst of all.
We learned that we cannot rely on someone to hand something to us. To do it for us.
As one person takes an oath on Friday, millions of us will be taking our own oaths to use our voices, our talents, our passions to create solutions — not barriers to them.
That new era we want to live in? We all have to create it.
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