Bullets were fired. Blood was lost. And a 5-year-old boy nearly lost his life. Mine was changed forever.
In August 1999, I was at summer camp at the North Valley Jewish Community Center when my five best friends were shot. I was 10, entering fourth grade, and had no idea what was going on, why there was mass chaos or what this man’s motive was.
As what normally happens in these situations, protocol was followed and we were taken to a Los Angeles Police Department central station. That day, I learned a lesson that I have not forgotten.
When I asked basic questions to the authorities present, I learned at that young age that this was an act of pure, solid hatred and I decided at 10 years old that in some way, in whatever means possible, it was up to me to correct notions of hatred and malicious acts and replace them with a spirit of optimism and a sense of connected community.
Two years later, the worst attack on American soil hit the World Trades Center in New York City, the Pentagon and United 93. I lost a lot of family members and many friends that day and recall the aftermath all too vividly.
Again, hatred had acted, and I decided I had to pursue a career and life trajectory toward correcting whatever form of hatred I was presented with in whatever ways I could — menial or significant.
In late 2007, I became aware that political activism was a way to become involved in my community — at the city, state and national levels. I began volunteering for charities, local campaigns and any non-profit organizations I could get involved with.
Against the counsel from everyone around me, in December 2007 I sent numerous e-mails to then-Senator Barack Obama’s campaign staff in Iowa. After getting in touch with the headquartered office, I travelled to Des Moines, Iowa to work the Iowa caucus in the last two weeks of what had been an eight-month campaign, still in the nascent stages of a national launch.
He won. I was hooked. I had to do more.
In 2009, I began contributing pieces on political and policy-driven issues for local news outlets. In writing and through journalism, I found a way to combine the “do something about it” nature of what I had contributed in Iowa, as well as the distribution of information I knew was a way to inject spirit of optimism and love in the community.
Last February, I took a 22-hour Greyhound bus ride from Ann Arbor to Washington D.C. to visit many of the campaign staffers I met in Iowa three years ago and had since remained in contact. The purpose of the long journey, other than getting to see the White House was to interact with policy professionals in every arena of policy making: health care, violence prevention and international affairs.
Conversations with this group further revealed to me that each of us, in our own way, can enact change in our societies and communities.
My goal in life is to send the world in an upward trajectory — in whatever means possible. Whether this is on the campaign trail as a strategist or a member of the media, the notion of eliciting change in the community excites me. Whether it’s my small hometown or the country as a whole, I hope to prevent racism and stereotyping that stem from a lack of accurate truth.
These various incidents in my life have taught me that an optimistic outlook and positive perspective usually win out in the end.