AF3IRM LA’s SOYA Youth Briana: “We are choosing to fight”

Los Angeles–On the day of #MarchforOurLives, we in AF3IRM wanted to also uplift the voices of the youth with whom we work. We know that feminist future that we seek can be found in the youth who inspire us with their brilliance and their leadership. This speech was delivered by Briana Morales, one of the youth who participated in AF3IRM LA’s School of Youth Activism, at our fourth consecutive International Women’s Day March and Rally on Saturday, March 3rd. 

Briana at AF3IRM International Women’s Day March and Rally on March 3rd.

My name is Briana Morales and I’m 17 years old, a student at Grand Arts High School, and a member of AF3IRM LA’s School of Youth Activism, or “ SOYA”. SOYA is a free eight-week program for teenage girls, focusing on political education, organizing skills and self-defense.

As girls of color, we have already faced a lot of violence and fear already and SOYA has provided us a safe space in a time where we don’t live in one. Just two weeks ago we saw the 18th school shooting since January 1st 2018 take place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. That’s 3 shootings A WEEK. Seventeen people were killed and fifteen were injured that day. We are required by compulsory education laws to attend school Monday through Friday yet there aren’t laws prohibiting high school students from purchasing a firearm. We shouldn’t have to fear that we are going to be the next school with a body count and being antagonized on the news for “ostracizing” the shooter.

We need to start listening to our youth, our students. We are living in the same time as you and right now the people in power whose only job is to create a better future, are failing us.

Who are you trying to protect by deporting my fellow peers? 

Who are you trying to defend when you are so adamant about keeping the one thing that’s killing us the most?

Who are you protecting when you turn a blind eye to the officers who kill black and brown kids like a sport?

You know what would “protect and serve” us right now? Gun control and stricter regulations. Oh wait, I forgot. Students apparently have a monetary worth that isn’t as much as the NRA’s donations to politicians in power. It seems to me you aren’t protecting us, you are trying to get rid of us. You want to look down on us like we are “just kids”, but put us in situation where we have to “grow up and face reality”.

We live in fear. We live in fear of being torn apart from our families due to deportation. We fear seeing our peers die in the very rooms we learn about the laws that make attaining guns so effortless. We fear what we are going to learn next when we turn on our televisions. And when it comes to fear, you have to choose between fight or flight. By being here today, breaking our silence, speaking our truths out loud, together, between prominent institutions of oppression, we are choosing to FIGHT-to fight for the decriminalization of immigrants; to fight for the lives and safety of students; to fight against the celebrated violent hyper-masculine culture; to fight for the deconstruction of the normalization of violence; to fight forward to a feminist future. JOIN US. Thank you.