By: Cynthia Alonso, Cal State Los Angeles, Brown Issues
I am the first U.S. citizen in my family, and with this privilege, comes responsibility. At an early age, I discovered that this status allowed me to do so much more that my family members could only dream of. One of these things was voting. It was with this realization that drove me to be passionate about representing my family and community through my vote. As soon as I turned 18, I registered to vote.
But the path to voting was not always easy.
When I talked about my eagerness to vote, it was discouraging to hear people tell me, “Do you really think your vote matters?” At that time, I was not able to answer that question. I knew it did, yet I was intimidated by those asking this question.
It was not until years later that I spoke about this experience with a group of youth from my community. I told them that because I knew I had this privilege, it was my responsibility to vote to stand up against laws and elected officials that attacked our undocumented community.
Rather than listen to the naysayers, I listened to my gut. I voted for the first time in 2012. I was proud. Throughout that day, my entire family was asking me if I had voted. I knew that the answer to this question meant a lot to them. I was the only one that could vote and so this action was on behalf of our familia.
On Election Night in 2012, I cried. I did so because I was excited about making my vote count. I had made myself and my family proud. In some way, we were accounted for because being undocumented has meant that you are marginalized and “othered” in this country.
Since then, I’ve continued to vote and talk about my story with youth that are just like me – first generation from South Los Angeles. My story resonates with them because so many times our narratives are erased. My message to young people is, “Your vote is your story and your story is worth telling.”
Let’s keep on moving forward. Remember, Somos Más and We Will Rise Up!