2020 has been a life-changing year. Everything that was considered to be normal has now changed. Due to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, we must all take precautions to keep each other safe: stay six feet apart, wash our hands, and avoid crowds. Travel restrictions have prevented me from visiting my grandparents, cousins, and friends. It can be a very lonely time. Video calls and text messaging can help with staying connected to loved ones. During the holidays, I hosted an ugly-sweater Zoom party with my cousins. Seeing the computer screen filled with cubes of their faces wearing hilarious sweaters was the best.
I’ve had to adjust to many changes. My travel basketball season ended early, and I was devastated. I am a power forward and would play year round with games every few days. A few months later, I joined an outdoor league with a limited number of players and mandatory masks. I have learned that wearing a mask is not such a hassle. We practiced a lot, and now my three-point shot has really improved. I’ve also had more time to ride my bike, read books, hang with my family, and take walks.
I’ve also learned more about the struggle for racial justice in this country. Last summer my classmate Chase and I had a socially distant hangout at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C. The fences around the White House were covered with posters and signs demanding a stop to police violence and injustice in the Black community. People of all colors were walking around the plaza. I heard their voices chanting, “We want peace!” and “Black lives matter!”—their words echoing in the streets. Concession stands covered with t-shirts of pioneers like John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ruth Bader Ginsburg filled the crowded sidewalks. It made me feel proud to know that everyone there was fighting for the same rights as me: true equality for People of Color. Over the summer, I watched in disgust as peaceful protesters were tear gassed and hit with rubber bullets by the police. It seemed like a replay of the 1960s race riots. They were protesting against the killing of George Floyd and the many other Black people who are dead from the pandemic of racism—people like Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, and Trayvon Martin. They were killed, and the people who did the violence never seem to get in trouble.
The difference in treatment based upon skin color was very clear on January 6 of this year. On TV, I watched a mob of rioters storm into the U.S. Capitol with seemingly no fear about getting arrested. They easily entered the historical building and threatened guards and security. The rioters broke windows and stole important documents from offices. When it was over they just left. Why was there such a difference in how the two groups were treated? It is important that we talk about these things and that we work together to make a change. As a new Black sixth-grade student at Sidwell Friends, I feel very comfortable here. I like to listen to my classmates’ views and share my opinion about current events. My teacher replayed Amanda Gorman’s amazing inauguration poem, and we analyzed its meaning. The school encourages everyone to share their voice, and we talk about justice, peaceful protests, and coming together to help each other.
The main thing I have learned about myself from all the challenges of 2020 is that I cannot give up in tough times. I have to keep moving forward and adjusting to the new normal.