An Inspiring Quote in a Troubling Time

The news is really hard right now (as if it hasn’t been for months and years and… oh). Russia invaded Ukraine. Texas is trying to bully trans kids. People are trying to ban books and pretend racism wasn’t so bad and doesn’t exist today.

It’s just a lot.

It’s hard to focus, it’s hard to work, it’s hard to stop doom scrolling. (guilty)

When that happens, I find it best to focus on small acts of love and kindness.

So among other things, I shared this on social media today from my West St. Paul Reader accounts (nothing gives me more joy than using my platforms to be a positive voice):

“I could not look my granddaughter in the eye and tell her things needed to change but do nothing to change them.”

-KaeJae Johnson, the first Black candidate to run for municipal office in West St. Paul

The quote is from an interview I did with KaeJae in 2020 during her run for mayor. I want to share why I find that quote so great.

  • Anyone can make change: First of all, I love it because anyone can make change. Your age doesn’t matter. Here’s a grandmother stepping up. And who inspired her? A kid. Too often we think only certain people can create change and lead a cause. We wait for someone else to do it. But it’s up to you. ‘Be the change you want to see’ is a cliche, but it’s true. You don’t have to run for mayor, but there are things you can do. Look around.
  • Redefine failure: Secondly, change doesn’t always win. KaeJae lost her race for mayor. Does that mean she failed her granddaughter? Absolutely not. I’m going to be honest: Her campaign was a long shot. She was a relative newcomer to city politics and wasn’t widely known, facing a popular mayor born and raised in the city. But running for office can still make change even when you lose. Uncontested elections are bad for democracy, so running, even a doomed race, stretches the muscles of our democracy. You can change the conversation. You can impact the vote up and down the ballot. You can inspire and energize. All of those things happened. (And no one knows how an election will turn out until people vote, so there’s always a chance.)
  • Keep going: KaeJae’s fight for change didn’t begin or end with her campaign for mayor. She founded the Residents of Color Collective (ROCC), a nonprofit that’s working to give a voice to unheard communities in West St. Paul. They’ve organized marches and distributed food and essential items. After her mayoral run, she was appointed to the city’s Charter Commission, where she continues to be a voice for the underrepresented. KaeJae is making change happen.

Change happens slowly, in small, quiet moments. When the news is so hard, we want big change. But in those moments, the small gesture is all you can manage.

But it’s enough.

Hope is made one step at a time.

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