A Letter to my Girls in Houston

Dear girls, 

As I'm sure you know, a lot is going on in our country right now. We all just faced a difficult blow that most of us didn't see coming. I woke up on Tuesday morning with anticipation to see Hillary become the first female president of the United States. Dressed in my "I'm With Her" tshirt and a "Hillary" pin on my backpack, I came home from work that day and immediately turned on the TV to watch the results of a presidential race in which I thought I already knew the ending. Not once did I even entertain the possibility of it concluding any other way. I sat in front of the TV until 2am in utter shock and confusion. With hands over my face and tears in my eyes, disappointment washed over me as the reality set in that my country isn't what I thought it was. My mind raced as I thought of how all the social programs that protect the beautiful diversity of our country could most likely be taken away. I thought about all the ways my life could possibly change and how much I wish we could go back in time to change the results. But really, this isn't about me. It's about you.

You see girls, my first thought was you. Even though I'm not with you in Houston anymore, you're on my mind every single day. I thought about the day I told you Hillary was running for president. I thought about the day many of you performed "Still I Rise" for the entire school with conviction and purpose. I thought about the way you spoke about convincing others to believe that women are people too. I thought about your endless passions for making the world a better place. I thought about the day we sat in a circle and I listened to your fears about the possibility of a Trump presidency. 
That last one hurts the most. It hurts because my job as an adult, as a teacher, and as a mentor is to protect you. His victory on Tuesday night makes me feel like we failed you, like we let you down

On Wednesday, I cried. I cried at 2am when I realized the race was over, I cried during the morning assembly at school, and I cried in front of my first period class. I struggled to contain my emotions because this is real for me. It felt like someone close to me had died. At first I felt silly crying over this, but then I realized what I was truly crying about. I wasn't crying because he won. I was crying because it's become clear to me that this world is a lot less kind than I thought. I cried because you girls shouldn't have to live the next 4 years of your life under a president that doesn't support people like you. You are way too deserving, too kind, and too intelligent for this. I am so sorry that our country doesn't believe in the dream of young people of color just like you. I'm sorry that some of your most formative years ahead of you will be spent justifying your worth. 

In all of our meetings over the past two years, I tried to share with you some of the harsh realities of being a girl in this world in the most appropriate way possible. But at the end of it, we always concluded with how we were stronger, we were better, we would rise above all of it. I always told you that regardless of your cultural background, regardless of your gender, and regardless of your economic status, you can be anything you want to be. Hillary earning the presidency would have perfectly confirmed everything I ever told you. Her victory would have set the tone for your future. 

I am heartbroken that you girls don't get see that reality come to fruition. I am ashamed that many people in our country, the people that are supposed to represent you, support a man that diminishes your integrity. I am angry that we live in a world full of people that are mistakenly under the impression that your life doesn't matter. 

Well girls, I need to tell you that they are wrong. Everything I ever said to you is truer than ever. It's hard to grow up in a world that wasn't designed for people like you, people like us, but we must prove them wrong. I need you to know that you are worthy of everything this life has to offer. You are worthy of love, you are worthy of opportunity, you are worthy of power. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Own your power by making your education your top priority and sharing your passion, purpose, and even your vulnerabilities with the people around you. The world needs your voice because what YOU have to say is important. 

Now, more than ever before, we need to band together. Although what just happened is not what we hoped for, we can use it to bring us closer together. Lean on each other when you're afraid, when you're unsure, and when your confidence is rattled. Lean on each other to rise above hate and find ways to spread love. Lean on each other to surprise the people who doubt you. Spread your beautiful, gracious hearts with everyone you meet. We have to show the world that love will always win. 

"You may shoot me with your words, 
You may cut me with your eyes, 
You may kill me with your hatefulness, 
But still, like air, I'll rise." 
-Maya Angelou 

Girls, I love you. I'm not sure what the next four years will bring and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried. But, I need you to know that I'm here for you. I'm going to keep working to make sure that you grow up in a world that looks like you, embraces you, includes you, and honors you. We will rise above this. Hold your feminist values close to your heart, always believe in yourself, and never give up on your dreams. It may be difficult, but it will be worth it. 

All my love, 
Ms. Martin