This interview is part of the #StillWeRise Series produced by the National Youth Council for GSA Day for Racial Justice (#GSADay4RJ). Click here for more interviews.
Meet Rachel, interviewed by Daisy from the National Youth Council
What if your first memory of activism?
My first memory with activism was in middle school. I was in sixth grade when it happened. A lot of students of color, including myself, were struggling to find a safe place in school and it had been taking a toll on our education in general. So, after talking and meeting with other students, I took it upon myself to personally talk to the principal about the matter [after] countless times of getting no real response from teachers. After presenting and sharing mine and other [student] experiences and continuing to fight my case, we were offered a room in the office anytime we were experiencing hardships.
What has pulled you towards activism?
I was faced with a lot of hardships at a really young age. I struggled with bullying. I struggled with depression. I struggled with racism and the deaths of family members. I, myself, experienced a lot of racial inequalities and racial injustices. I just want everyone to have equal opportunities. I want everyone to feel welcomed and loved and not have to feel alone. I wanted to fight and use my voice for others who couldn’t for themselves.
What is a hard lesson regarding activism you’ve learned?
A hard lesson I’ve learned through activism is: Sometimes, no matter how much you fight, no matter what you say or do, some things don’t always change. I learned that not everyone is open-minded and willing to listen because they [have] probably not experienced it or been [subjected] to it. I learned that no matter what, though, you keep fighting and pushing—no matter what the outcome is. Lastly, I learned the importance of activism.
How have your marginalized identities influenced your activism?
Being a Black woman of a darker complexion who is also bisexual and intelligent, I will forever be looked down on by society. We have a school resource cop. [My school hasn’t let us] start a BSU. There are so many other things that are truly sickening in Stoughton High. I am so scared to break a rule or even stand up for myself, because I know they will be harsh on me no matter if I’m wrong or right. I am scared that, one day, one of the white students will be scared of me and be the reason I go to jail. I am scared that if I raise my voice just a little bit [about] the false narrative that white people hold towards Black people and criminality, I could literally lose my life for defending myself from others.
I avoid any conflict with any white person in school, because I am afraid that they might hurt me. I allow the white kids to say and do anything to me, because I must stay silent if I want to stay safe. I am scared of losing my life, or getting in trouble, or bullied more, or having more racist comments towards me, or become the stereotypical Black girl they want me to be (…).
What do you wish people understood?
I wish people would be more understanding and more educated on racial inequities, racial injustice, the experiences of a person of color and a person [who is] LGBTQ+, immigrants and immigration in general, and lastly just a lot of big issues that people are so closed-minded about.
What is your advice to younger or newer activists?
I want the young activists to never stop fighting for what’s right. I want them to not let others discourage them. I want them to know that even if they didn’t get the outcome they expected, they still made an impact on something or someone.