We are hurt by some of the election results here in Tennessee. As a non-partisan, non-profit organization, it’s not about who won – it’s about the hateful message that won. Again.

After more than 16 years at this, it’s hard to acknowledge that the mountain we have to climb to build a welcoming Tennessee where everyone belongs remains pretty steep.

In moments like these, I find inspiration and perspective in poetry. I want to share one that’s speaking to me today.

They Want Us To Be Afraid

They want us to be afraid.
They want us to be afraid of leaving our homes.
They want us to barricade our doors
and hide our children.
Their aim is to make us fear life itself!

They want us to hate.
They want us to hate the other.
They want us to practice aggression
and perfect antagonism.
Their aim is to divide us all!

They want us to be inhuman.
They want us to throw out our kindness.
They want us to burn our love
and bury our hope.
Their aim is to take all our light!

They think their bricked walls
will separate us.
They think their damned bombs
will defeat us.

They are so ignorant they don’t understand
that my soul and your soul are old friends.
They are so ignorant they don’t understand
that when they cut you I bleed.

They are so ignorant they don’t understand
that we will never be afraid,
we will never hate,
and we will never be silent.
Let life be ours!

– Kamand Kojouri

As we move forward and roll up our sleeves to work harder to build a welcoming community, we are inspired that record numbers of Latinos and Latinas turned out to vote. Staff at Conexión Américas helped interpret for many Spanish speaking citizens who came to Casa Azafrán to vote early.

When it was my turn to vote, I voted with José Dominguez, a newly naturalized American citizen exercising his right to vote for the first time. José and his family have been part of the Conexión Américas familia since we started 16 years ago. My heart was filled being by his side to vote that day.

Remember – it will take all of us to build the welcoming state we want to see.