Our Generation: Enveloped in Grief, Entrenched in Terror, and Enshrined in Fear

Canyon Crest Academy student Sydney Chan delivered a powerful speech at a July 9 abortion rights march and rally in Del Mar. Her speech excerpted below.


I would like to thank you all for coming and supporting. As many of us live in the Del Mar area, it is important for us to show that though we live in California, where abortion rights are protected, we will stand up for people in the other states that have abortion bans and abortion restrictions that are being instated. We need to stand up for those in the foster care system, that is massively underfunded and overcrowded, and is used as a be-all, end-all solution that justifies denying people the rights to their bodies. We need to stand up for the right and accessibility to contraceptives, and for the right to queer intimacy and queer marriage. These are all interconnected rights –⁠ to fight for one is to need to fight for all, because our lives and futures depend on it. 


My next message is for all of you here who are youth, who have had your adolescence ridden with news of tragedy, of restriction, of threat, of violence, of fear, and of despair, one case after another. This is for my friends and peers and all of you who are living in a time where our future feels bleak, uncertain, and doomed. I see us –⁠ I see our generation, enveloped in grief, entrenched in terror, and enshrined in fear. I see our generation, seething in rage, wielding our rage because it’s the only resource as many of us cannot vote. Our rage is the only thing we have, it is our uniting force. But the rage tears at our souls.


The constant fight to ensure we are safe and have some semblance of a future leaves permanent scars –⁠ we are teenagers, trying to exist, trying to survive. At this point, we have aching arms, hoarse voices, dried tears on our faces.  We keep showing up. Sometimes we win, many times we are turned down, invalidated, called slurs, yelled at, told we do not know enough.


We are used to it at this point, we watch as tragedy hits the headlines again, we despair in more fear and more rage as children are shot in their classrooms, as children and people become victims to police brutality, as our rights to our bodily autonomy are taken away, as our voices and existences are silenced in classrooms. Parents lose their 10-year-old children. Teenagers are forced to carry pregnancies. Kids are outed by their teachers to their homophobic and transphobic families.

Story author Sydney Chan (center, with bullhorn) delivered a powerful speech at the July 9 abortion rights march and rally in Del Mar. Photo by Hylton Lonstein

Kids are told they are “too young to understand,” at the same time we are given statistics about how likely we are to live, how many weeks (if any) we’ll have of reproductive freedom, and how long our Earth will sustain us. They tell us we do not understand, but we understand pain, we understand fear, and we understand death. We understand freedom and we understand when our freedom to live as we are is taken away. We understand when holding political power is prioritized over our rights and lives. We understand the endless, traumatizing cycle of despair all too well.


And as I watch our hearts break over, and over, and over, as I watch my peers feel helpless, hopeless, as our lives are being left endangered, as our voices are being silenced –⁠ we must rely on each other now, we must rely on our communities. We must build these communities and fight for each other, and stand up for each other. We do not survive because someone in power gives us permission to do so. We survive because of the communities we create and the strength we foster within them. We survive because of the ways we stand up for each other and fight for each other, we give each other hope.


And I know all of you who are here today inspire me to fight for our future. You inspire each and every one of us, your peers and your communities. By being here today, you are making me feel like there’s some chance that we will get through this, even if it feels crushing, even if the weight feels like a force on our shoulders that we cannot hold. Keep raging, keep fighting, keep resisting.