"To earn my vote, you must be willing to show incredible political courage."

By Kiah Morris
Kiah Morris. Photo: Oxfam America/Óscar Levia Marinero

Artist, community leader, and poet Kiah Morris on what the next US president must know about the people who seek haven on our shores

Dear Future President:

To earn my vote, you must be willing to show incredible political courage.

Political courage, to me, is the ability to push forth policy responsive to the people’s needs regardless of consequence. As a woman of color, I support those who demand the systemic eradication of white supremacy culture and the defense of civil and human rights. I seek out politicians who speak the unflinching truths about what must change—because the world cannot placate sensitivities about the blood that is on our hands.

In October, I traveled to El Salvador and Honduras with Oxfam. I saw the lasting impacts of the systematic dehumanization of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous women in Central America. I bore witness to their harrowing stories—and found resonance in my own life story, that of my mother, and my mother’s mother.

The children that we inhumanely incarcerate in detention centers at the border are the babes of these women. These women, our sisters, are fleeing unspeakable acts of violence, deadly gang warfare, sexual enslavement, and explicit disenfranchisement from the global economy.

Many food producers are conscripted into literal sharecropping agreements, a cruel method of ensuring they remain in poverty regardless of their labor. As the climate crisis worsens, farmers and indigenous peoples are being crushed by flash floods, extreme drought, clear cutting, and the pollution of their waterways.

These people seek haven on our shores. They are courageous. Their stories are our stories. And I should know, as my own mother was one of those sojourners.

She was among tens of thousands of single women in the US forced to move their families out of the poverty and violence of the south and American ghettos during the 1940s Great Migration of black Southerners northward and the 1970s and 1980s when many blacks left the cities to the suburbs—all in search of a better life.

That decision not only changed the course of my life for the better. It allowed so many in my generation to activate our genius and contributions to society, unencumbered by cycles of generational violence, systemic racism, and trauma. This is how you bolster American values. We welcome, build up, and celebrate the aspirational determination and courage of individuals like the women I met. People who are willing to risk their very lives to be a part of our nation.

Fundamentally, migration is an integral part of human history that is foundational to our country’s origins. We must reengage with our commitments to ending the climate crisis, not shirk them, to save all of our lives. We must acknowledge that women of color around the world are being slaughtered, tortured, terrorized, assaulted, enslaved, exploited, starved and routinely oppressed using the tactics, policies, and practices of our government.

The power of the Presidency is not yours to hold—it is granted to you by the people. Your political courage is shaped by our collective morals and values, the foundation of our constitution, and the promise of the “American Dream.” It is strengthened by our voices. We need you to be that president.

The world will be watching what you will do next.

Kiah Morris

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