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  • Julie Quiroz

Tenderness


On my fingers I count, first on one hand, then on the other, all the young people I know, personally or through others, who have taken their own lives in the past few weeks, months, and years.


I bring my hands to my heart. There is no time to waste.


We are responsible, collectively, for the culture we create. We are responsible for growing our capacity to re-envision, re-create, repair, restore. We are responsible for seeking out Indigenous wisdom that guided culture long before our narrowed

ways of being and thinking. We are responsible for healing and transforming a world that poisons us and our babies. We are responsible for practicing intergenerational caring, where young people are collectively supported to breathe, belong, and grow life beyond our present systems and structures.


In her poetry on Black motherhood, Aracelis Girmay writes,


how improbable it is

that this 
iteration

of you or you or me might come to be at all — Body of fear,

Body of laughing — & even last a second. This fact should make us fall all

to our knees with awe,

the beauty of it against these odds,

the stacks & stacks of near misses

& slimmest chances that birthed one ancestor into the next & next.

Profound, unspeakable cruelty who counters this, who does not see.

& so to tenderness I add my action.


Today, I paused to look at a photo of the mural Favianna Rodriguez recently painted, in deep collaboration with students, on the concrete of their East Oakland elementary schoolyard. Even from far away I feel the tenderness in this collective action.


I think of my daughter in high school, on those nights when the enormity and absurdity of the world felt suffocating, when we’d drive to the river, no matter the time, no matter the homework, to sit in nourishing silence, listening to the rush of the water. I remember holding ourselves in tenderness, together and with the river.


Days ago, on a windy public wharf where I’d gone for free, joyously public salsa dancing, I noticed a group of teenagers dance at the edge, then slowly, shyly, make their way to the center of the gathering. I smiled warmly to them in welcome, and they smiled back with delight, dancing together, soaking in the communal rhythm, moving in their own way, surrounded by intergenerational love.


May we add action to our tenderness, and to our action, tenderness, tenderness, tenderness.


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