Alicia Garza, Co-Founder Of Black Lives Matter, On Defending Freedom At All Costs

"Live free as if your life depends on it, because it does."

This letter is part of our inaugural editorial series, “Letter to Myself,” in which we asked 40 remarkable queer people to write a note to their younger selves.

Remember how mom would say that “a hard head makes a soft behind?” She was right. All of the things she said about life, love, relationships, and integrity? She was right.

When we are young we believe that we are indestructible. That our belief in the inherent goodness of the world will prevail. I still believe that goodness will prevail, but I no longer think that it does so because we wish it or will it to be. The goodness of the world only prevails when we are courageous enough to defend it. To fight for it as if it is the only thing that matters. It is the only thing that matters.

Sometimes you will be good and you will do the right thing, not only for yourself, but you will do the thing that is right for all of us and it will not be enough. You will have your heart broken thousands of times by people who claim to love you and want you to fly. Not everyone who says they want you to fly really wants you to. Sometimes they want to fly and they will do it at your expense. They will encourage you to be small, to shrink yourself in the service of their vision, their desires, and their needs.

You will be told that you are wrong. That you are young and don’t know the way that things are. They will tell you that you don’t know what’s really good for you. But you must keep going. Your destiny is yours and yours alone to realize. Only you can meet your destiny and it is designed only for you. So keep going.

Let your heart be broken so that you can learn how to put it back together again and still believe that goodness will prevail. Love fully and freely when everything is telling you to constrict, not to trust, not to believe, not to connect. Do it anyway, because if you don’t, you will not only regret it, but you will miss out on the blessings that were meant for you and you alone.

Get to know yourself. Learn from each scar, each wound, each victory. You will find someone who will make you feel like magic. Someone who will support your dreams as if they are your own. Wait for them. Know that they are worth waiting for and that you are worth the wait. Let the hurts of your past be a map, but not a set of handcuffs. You are changing everyday, and change is not only inevitable, but it is holy. Change should be revered.

Lastly, no matter what, live free. You will not be free, but you must live as if you are, because freedom is coming. Live free as if your life depends on it, because it does. Your dignity depends on it. And you must defend your dignity at all costs.

I know that you will read this and you will tell yourself that I don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s okay. That’s you, living free. One day these words will make sense to you.

Alicia Garza is the Special Projects Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Read more letters here.

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