To Move Forward After Bernie, a Young Progressive Looks to the Past
Bernie Sanders’ run for president may be over but the young people at the center of it are still politically engaged. Sher Delva reflects on her political awakening and wonders what comes next. Listen to her story above, or read the transcript below.
Sher: I remember how I felt the night Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election.
Obama: We will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people, yes we can!
Sher: I remember listening to the chants of people yelling “Yes we can!”
Crowd: Yes we can, Yes we can!
Sher: I was 15 years old and I thought I was lucky to be alive, that the world was changing and I was a part of it. It was a monumental moment, especially for Black people.
Sher: Interesting photo, right?
Mom: This is one of my favorite photos in the house.
Sher: In my mother’s living room, there’s a black and white photo of Martin Luther King Jr.’s face photoshopped beside Barack Obama.
Mom: And I was so excited when I saw that picture, I say I got to get it.
Sher: On the top of the photo are the words “I Have A Dream” and on the bottom “I Live the Dream.”
Sher: So what made you hang it here?
Mom: Everywhere I live, different houses, I put it where I can see it. It used to be over there back by the computer, then I realized not too many people see it. Hopefully my grandchildren will see it over and over and over, to remind them they can be anything in America. I didn’t pay a lot for it, I only paid $10 for it. But that picture I wouldn’t give it up for half a million!
Sher: Because of Joe Biden’s connection to Obama, my mom voted for him in the primary.
Mom: And I’m sure he’s going to get a lot of advice on Obama. They’re very close, they’re still close.
Sher: A lot of people want to go back to “normal.” Back to how things were before Donald Trump became president. But, I worry that nostalgia will keep people from thinking bigger.
Crowd chants: Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!
Sher: I was 19 years old when the Occupy Wall Street protests started. I went on YouTube to see why they were there and I learned about income inequality and how the rich were getting richer. I began to question the hustle culture I’d grown to adore, the one instilled in me by my Haitian parents. I’ve always been proud of my ambition, but I realized there’s a lot we don’t have control over. I noticed that while banks were being bailed out, my mom was filing for bankruptcy because she was underwater on her rental properties.
Bernie Sanders: It is a rigged economy, an economy in which we have today a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality which is unsustainable and unamerican!
Sher: When Bernie Sanders first ran for president in 2016, I told my mom how excited I was to vote for him. I was still new to Bernie back then but after he dropped out, I told myself if he ever ran again, I’d do more. So this time around, I canvassed and phone banked for him. I also joined the Democratic Socialists of America and the Sunrise Movement.
Announcer: Some breaking political news: CNN now told Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is suspending his campaign for the presidency.
Sher: I’m disappointed Bernie didn’t win but at least I’ve learned about the culture of activism. I’ve worked with people who are relentless. Even when things don’t happen, you still have to keep getting your message out there. Politics is more than elections and voting every four years; it’s steering committee meetings, education roundtables and having difficult conversations. Yes, I’ll vote for Biden, but I still want more for the country. It’s not enough to just boot Trump out of office and go back to “normal.”
Sher Delva is part of a collaboration between YR Media and WNYC’s Radio Rookies called 18-to-29 Now: Young America Speaks Up. It’s an election project that brings together young adults (18-to-29) from around the country to document their lives and what’s at stake for them in 2020.