My 17-year-old daughter wrote this poem/manifesto for her AP English class at the end of January. Since then, she summoned the courage to share it on stage and gave me permission to share it across the internet. We hope you are moved by her fierce position on love, equality, and human kindness.
I recently got up on stage at my high school Fine Arts Collage event to read the manifesto I’d written about the changes I want to see in our world.
I hadn’t planned to perform. I’d never practiced, and I wasn’t in the playbill for the evening. As the performances got underway, I felt a fire in my belly to talk with a couple of my mentors to see if they would allow me to perform. They said yes.
My parents attend Collage every year to see my art on display and celebrate my growth as an artist. This year they celebrated my art and my courageous heart. Both of them and I were moved to tears during my reading. When I finished, several members of the audience gave me a standing ovation. Many of my peers and teachers gave me hugs and high-fives afterward.
We Want, We Need: A manifesto for societal change
I want a world in which kindness rules
A world filled with respect and love.
A place where kindness leads society and its ideals,
I want women, kind, loving, beautiful women
To walk in safety after a night out,
Heads high with the knowledge of their worth.
I want little girls to grow up with confidence,
To be free of society’s brainwashed ideas of what makes them pretty.
I want #MeToo to not have to be a national,
No, a global outbreak on mass media.
I want women to go through life free of fear,
Fear of assault, catcalls, rape, sexism.
I want women to lead their own lives, free of hatred for choosing what to do with their bodies.
I want African Americans to live in equality,
To be able to access the same things as white Americans.
Free from fear of police brutality, racism, and nasty stereotypes.
I want your skin tone to define how beautifully unique you are,
Not how privileged you get to be.
I want our beloved dreamers to be unafraid in America,
To know they deserve a place here just as much as someone born here.
I want hard working DACA immigrants, who have no clue what a life in their birth country is like,
To remain unpunished for simply living their lives in this country.
I want gentle and loving mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters,
Free from the looming threat of being torn away from their families like a criminal in exile,
Without any pity from the people there to protect those families.
I want same-sex couples to be accepted,
Their marriage acknowledged and considered normal.
I want transgender individuals free to live and be who they are,
Unafraid of demands to check their privates before they use their gendered bathroom.
I want two dads and two moms to be able to raise a child
Without question on how their influence affects that child.
I want young confused teens to be free to express who they are
Without fear of derogatory terms like faggot, dike, tranny
Words thrown into their backs like a knife when they are simply trying to understand themselves.
I want Muslims and Christians and Buddhists and Jews to thrive
All kind and respectful of one another.
Religion is like an art form, every piece different but all sharing a common beauty,
Love and kindness form the ultimate base for which religion is held,
The vehement hatred and loathing of our cultural and religious diversity is heartbreaking.
I want pedophiles and rapists and sexist pigs held accountable.
I want men with power to respect the female form.
I want men like Cosby, Weinstein, Spacey, and Trump to be held accountable for their deplorable actions.
Forced to face what they have done to so many innocent lives,
It’s time for America, the world, to drop the rape culture and wake up.
I want equality for everyone, for we are not black, white, gay, straight, cis, trans.
We are human.
We all deserve love, care, kindness,
So love, love, love your neighbor,
Treat people with kindness.
Come together and realize that we are all deserving of life without fear
Fear of society’s brainwashed ideals,
Fear of society’s racist and sexist culture,
Fear of society’s gender, sexuality, religious and political expectations.
We want, we need, to get over the drive of hatred
And stop acting like ignorant children.
We need to grow,
And it’s people like me and you who can change the world for the better.
Let’s get to it.
Marin Vander Leek is a high school senior, peer educator, artist, writer, and activist for social change. You can contact Marin by leaving her a comment here.