A year ago today, my world changed. I grieved as the results of the 2016 Presidential Election came in. The former (misogynistic, racist, lewd and greedy) reality TV star, Donald Trump, had won the race. It was the type of ironic shit that could only happen in America: the home of the “free and the brave” had elected a coward who won because of rhetoric that hinted at everything but freedom.
I was stunned and I am certain he and his team, who ran his campaign as it if were a reality show, were just as surprised as I was. The doubt and anxiety that gripped me, and so many other vulnerable people in the U.S. and those around the world, was overwhelming. So I prayed. I even cried. I was angry that the great hope that I held close to my heart during the last administration had suddenly disappeared.
I watched the Inauguration alone at my home in New Haven, CT. I was over it the moment Trump was sworn-in. Over the bullshit. Over the hate. Over the fear. But I stayed glued to CNN the entire day. I couldn’t sleep because I was worried about my fate and that of my community. His election ushered in a new world order—one where it might be unsafe to dream, a world where meaningful resistance would be a required act and not just a theory to tout to prove one is woke.
I never imagined bearing witness to someone becoming “my” president who was publicly supported by white supremacists even though Presidents—some of whom were white supremacists anyway—had been supported by the same.
I never imagined a man accused of sexual assault—a man who had disparaged Black people, women, disabled people, undocumented people, and so many others—would go on to win.
As someone who fell in love with electoral politics as a teenager, so much so that I ran for and won an elected position in my early 20s, I knew that this was not my America. I realized, however, that it, in fact, is the America I refused to believe still exists.
I knew that this was not my America. I realized, however, that it, in fact, is the America I refused to believe still exists.
A month later, I started to notice glimpses of hope in spaces already filled with guilt, protest and resistance, I began to understand that the advocate, organizer and strategist that lives in me, in us, is still alive. People came together after the shooting in Vegas. People came together, and died in the pursuit, of justice in the face of white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville. It was the power of the people that was the catalyst for hurricane relief after Puerto Rico was devastated. It was Black collective struggle that pushed my new mayor, Keisha Bottoms, to victory in Atlanta. I remembered that this fight ain’t new for some of us, and that is a long battle. I am more committed than ever to the work of transformation.
Tough times require struggle. This country runs on tough time. Black people know this. And if in the winter of American politics an underserving and inexperienced man won the presidency, then it behooves us to fight through the storm like we always have.
Jeremiah L. Grace is proven organizer and strategist based in ATL.