Living at the Intersections of Multiple Identities: Why I’m Voting by Jaspreet Chowdhary

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One summer at camp when I was in elementary school, I got into an argument with friends about the rules of a game we were playing. In anger, one of the girls said to me, “Go back to where you came from.” Stunned and confused by how to respond since the United States was the only country I’ve ever known, I went home and sought reassurance from my parents that I was a U.S. Citizen, just to make sure. And as I grew up, I learned that this would not be the only time I would confront anti-immigrant hostility.

Today, I continue to encounter individuals who feel the need to verify my citizenship status and question how I speak English so well, insisting to know where I was really from. And now as a parent, I am especially concerned with the increasingly hostile political climate against communities of color, immigrants, and refugees, including the Sikh American community. When my husband and I take our daughter for lessons on Punjabi and Sikhism on Sunday mornings, we sometimes see police cars and know that a horrendous act of violence occurred earlier. I also find myself worrying about threats and harassment and it has been difficult to convey the urge to be overly cautious with my kids.

However, I am proud to be a part of the Sikh community and to live by the American values of embracing diversity and working towards justice. Like other Americans, we strive to have healthy relationships, we worry about our kids, and we stress about career paths, and mortgages, and retirement plans.

Many of us live at the intersection of multiple identities; as a woman of color who was raised in the Sikh community by immigrant parents, I am often amazed at how I want to have all my identities acknowledged and embraced while also wanting to fit into the idea of what it means to be an American. I carry these paradoxes, questions, and concerns with me as I try to educate fellow citizens about my different communities and as I build a life and make a home.

To me, making a home means helping to create and implement laws and policies that are fair and inclusive. It means taking time to learn the specifics of these laws when voting on them. It means showing up and asking questions at town halls. It means communicating with government officials about concerns and then working to find solutions that work for everyone. It means making your voice heard with your vote. This election cycle has brought out strong feelings and fears for many but at the same time, it is a reminder that we must work towards a better outcome and participate by casting a vote.

You can find your polling place and review your voter registration at canivote.org.

Jaspreet Chjaspreetheadshotowdhary is the Senior Policy Specialist for the 30 for 30 Campaign. In this role, Jaspreet will conduct public health research to move forward policy change. Previously, Jaspreet was the State Advocacy Manager at Community Catalyst and part of the inaugural class of the if/when/how Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program. She has also been part of public health research teams at Duke University Medical Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Voting for a More Inclusive America: Why I’m Voting by Winnie Ye

In the 1970s, my mom, who was around the same age as I am today, and her four younger siblings literally ran for their lives to escape genocide and war perpetuated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. After initially being forced to work in labor camps, they were lucky enough to escape, survive the treacherous journey across the border into Thailand and make it to a refugee camp. After a few years of being stuck at a crossroads, my mom and family were finally granted refugee status and came to the United States, settling in New York City– the only place that they would ever call home.

However, it would be dishonest for me to say that I have always felt at home in the United States. As a woman of color, I am no stranger to hate that is embodied in systematic oppression at worst, or countless microaggressions at best. This election cycle in particular has been traumatizing given the openly hateful rhetoric directed at people of color, refugees, immigrants, and women. Still, I try to remember our common humanity and my mom’s story which tells me that we are better than this.

After all, it was the kindness of strangers that completely changed the trajectory of my mom’s life and mine. As the daughter of a refugee, I know that in another country– or even another state– there is a girl who looks like me and has the same capabilities I have, but simply because of her citizenship status, socioeconomic background, race, gender or sexuality, her quality of life is drastically different from mine, and often times not for the better.

And so, on Election Day, not only am I choosing the next President of the United States and other decision-makers, but I am also choosing the direction that our country will head in. I plan to vote for a more inclusive America, and I hope you will get out and vote, too.

You can find your polling place and review your voter registration at canivote.org.

wyeWinnie Ye joined the 30 for 30 Campaign as a Communications Intern this fall, working to amplify the Campaign’s work across platforms. She started in the reproductive freedom movement as a campus organizer in 2013 and went on to intern at Planned Parenthood Global, and the National Institute for Reproductive Health. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in public policy at Stony Brook University. 

Three Generations and the Right to Vote: Why I’m Voting by Melissa Torres-Montoya

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Melissa Torres-Montoya, 30 for 30 Project Director, with her grandma.

In the midst of the “Guerro de los Cristeros” (Cristero War), a conflict that ravaged Mexico in the 1920s, my maternal grandmother was born in Jalisco, Mexico. A decade earlier and to the west in Baja California, Mexico, my paternal grandmother was born during the Mexican Revolution and at the onset of the First World War. They both entered into this world in war time during an era where the prospect of voting was legally restricted for them purely due to their gender. Both my grandmothers and my mom immigrated to the United States and as legal residents were still unable to vote despite the U.S. granting women the right in 1920. My paternal grandmother would gain citizenship in her twenties and vote in 1940. My maternal grandmother moved to the United States later, leaving Mexico right before Mexico granted women the right to vote in national elections in 1958. She did not become a U.S. citizen until 1995 and voted for the first time when she was 69. Voting was not a right my grandmothers or mom were born into. My mom became a U.S. citizen after 1998, when the U.S. allowed for dual U.S. and Mexican nationality. At the age of 19, I cast my first vote for president, alongside my mom who was also voting in her first U.S. presidential election. As the first woman in my immediate family to be born at a time where I knew when I became of age, I had the right to vote; I take my role in meaningful political engagement seriously. The stories of my grandmothers and mom taught me that the right to vote was hard earned and a powerful tool for protecting and advancing our rights.

I vote to continue the tradition that my grandmothers started, as the first generation of women able to vote. I vote as a woman, I vote as a daughter of an immigrant, I vote as a Latina, I vote as a Californian.

I vote because entering into the voting booth this year, I care about reproductive rights, gender equity, gun control and health care. I vote because these issues uniquely impact women and as a woman, I will cast my vote to move these issues forward. Your story, your vote counts; make it heard this Election Day, Tuesday November 8, 2016.

You can find your polling place and review your voter registration at canivote.org.

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Melissa Torres-Montoya, JD, MPH, is the Project Director for the 30 for 30 Campaign.  She started her political engagement at the age of 17 in the California state legislature and after earning her law degree from UC Berkeley, has spent the past five years working to protect and expand sexual and reproductive justice in the U.S.