I spent three days among people like me at the Poynter Institute's Power of Diverse Voices seminar — writers of color; immigrants, children of immigrants, original owners of the land on which the United States was built and builders of this new country whose careers have been punctuated by a self-defeating sense of wanting. We are people of rich histories and stories who have felt consistently undermined exactly because we are who we are when it is in the things that make us us that our super powers reside.
We were asked to look at a picture of a dog behind a fence and write about it. The picture looked a lot like this one:
When I looked at it, this is what I saw:
I saw eyes that don't see the fence before it.
I saw eyes that are focused, and vigilant, and aware of what's happening ahead.
My eyes wanted to look at the fence, but I told them, "No," look at the dog, focus on the dog.
The dog doesn't see the fence.
The dog may be stuck behind the fence — in this picture, the fence is his limit. But the dog isn't scared. He doesn't let a fence that he had no part in erecting dictate how far he can go.
The fence will only define him and confine him if the dog allows it to. But this dog looks determined! He sees something I can't see — what is it? Whatever it is, it's something I hope I can see someday too so that I too can focus ahead, ignoring the fences that other people have tried to put around me.
I am more than who and what you see, more than I can see sometimes. This is me, now, writing as I fly high above snowy flatlands down below, back to Phoenix, an accidental home that is turning out to be the perfect home for this accidental American who is still discovering what being "American" really means.
This Sunday, POLITICO Magazine published my story about the Latino activists who grew up under the grip of Arizona's harsh stance against illegal immigration and who are now in elected office. They too see the fences in front of them, real and imaginary, but choose to train their focus on what's in front of them. They have mountains to climb, Supreme Court arguments to win, spaces to claim as their own, and they are determined.
I believe in them. I believe in myself. We are here to stay.
With love and purpose,
WHY – AND HOW – I WRITE
The key to writing a good story is knowing what you don’t know and finding the right people and documents to help you learn it. You have a fundamental question that leads to a bunch of other questions that need to be answered so that your fundamental question makes sense. This is how I write.
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