I was born and raised in Broward County, Fla., an area just north of Miami. Despite its beautiful palm trees and ocean breeze, my time in Broward was plagued by trauma and injustice.
As a child, I listened to my family’s stories of fleeing Cuba in the 1960s and learned how that trauma shaped their political ideologies in the United States. Our reality, despite being one that countless families in Florida and across the country face, wasn’t something my Cuban family felt they could speak up about and change. When they migrated to the United States, a country that promised them freedom from the trauma they endured in Cuba, assimilating into American patriotism was the cost.
As a 20-year-old Cuban American, I come from a different generation. I come from a generation of young people who were born into multiple crises: climate degradation, gun violence, racial injustice, mass deportations of immigrant families. For us young people, it seems trauma has been a prevailing norm.
Growing up, I had minimal access to health care because my mom was self-employed. I remember refraining from going to the doctor at times, unless it was absolutely necessary. And not being able to access affordable care is a reality I continue to face today.
When I was in high school, my mom and I became homeless for several months, bouncing from one cheap motel to the next, because the rent went up so high in our apartment and we could no longer afford to stay.
By senior year, one of the deadliest mass shootings occurred in my backyard in Parkland, Fla. Childhood friends were shot and killed and neighborhood families were devastated by the loss of their children. At times, it felt like the place I called home was crumbling all around me, and I could do nothing to stop it.
The novel coronavirus has been yet another crisis added to the list, and it’s one that has made the systemic inequities that have disenfranchised Black, Brown, immigrant and low-income communities only more apparent.
The weight of all these crises can have a numbing effect, as it did on me as a child in Broward. Being directly impacted by the tragedies we see captured in headlines and tweets every day, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. It can break even the most resilient people.
But this is exactly the moment when we should be leaning on each other’s strength, encouraging one another to take to the polls to demand the lasting changes we’ve been deprived of for years. Our futures are on the ballot this election: This next administration will directly impact the extent to which these crises are recognized and addressed.
This is not something we should take lightly. We have a responsibility to make sure our voices are heard in the changes we want to see. One of the most direct ways for us to do that is by voting. Together, our generations — millennials and Generation Z — have the power to transform the direction of this country’s future, and many of us already have by encouraging one another to vote.
As a member of the United We Dream Action PAC, I’ve seen the power of young people coming together to urge millions of Latinx, first-time and young voters to demand their voices be heard this election. Our Here to Stay Squad has worked tirelessly to encourage voters through texting, social media and phone-banking. And we won’t stop until each of us is heard.
The bottom line is that we all have something to fight for. Whether you’re fighting for racial justice, immigrant justice, climate justice or justice for victims of gun violence, know that our efforts are intertwined. Together, we can fight for a world that reflects and supports our communities.
If we want to see meaningful change in America — where young people are listened to and lives are valued over profit — we have to count on each other to vote strategically. We have to select the candidate that best reflects our collective values. For me, there’s only one presidential candidate that does. And I’m empowered knowing I’ve already cast my ballot for him.
Bella D’Alacio is a first-time voter from Broward County, Fla., and attends George Mason University in Virginia.