The Multiple Mottos by Which I Live

One of my visual mottos

If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s private. My mom says I’m honest to a fault! I’m just unable to keep my beliefs and opinions to myself in every situation. For example: over the past few years, I’ve been radically transparent about how the injustices of the world have caused and/or worsened my depression and periods of anxiety to the point where I’m completely overwhelmed. I often feel like I’m sinking and that there’s too much suffering to heal, so I found a handful of mottos that center my attention and remind me of what’s important.

The first of my essential mottos comes from the brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda– “You can’t let all the world’s tragedies into your heart. You’ll drown. But those you let in should count. Let them manifest action.” This quote is important to me because, especially when my heart is pulled in so many directions to every group of people being hurt and oppressed, I can’t zero in on everyone. That’s the truth. As much as it pains me to say, no one is capable of helping every single person who is suffering. Lin’s words advise me to focus on the anguish I can absorb and figure out ways to be part of the solution.

As a follow up step to my first quote, the second of my mottos was spoken by my Queen Angela Y. Davis– “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I cannot accept.” I like to remind myself of these sentences when I hear people say “it is what it is” or “just move on already” especially when it comes to injustices. One of my main passions is prison abolition and although people tell me that that goal is insane, extreme, or impossible, I like to remember Dr. Davis’ words and continue to pursue that goal.

Ke Aliʻi Bernice Pauahi Bishop was one of the most kind, generous, and brave wahine and her words remain one of the mottos that stays relevant throughout time– “Times will come when you feel you are being pushed into the background. Never allow this to happen — stand always on your own foundation. But you will have to make that foundation. There will come a time when to make this stand will be difficult, especially to you of Hawaiian birth; but conquer you can — if you will.” Kānaka ʻŌiwi have been oppressed since the haole colonizers stepped foot on our ʻāina, so even as we face American imperialism today, I remember Ke Aliʻi Pauahi’s comforting diction that will keep us going.

I discovered Mariame Kaba’s work as I became more invested in dismantling and abolishing the carceral state, but these words are applicable to all of society’s failures and inequities– “How do we create a world where everyone on the planet has enough?” I think about this quote every single day, especially when I see how our society treats the poor and marginalized. When I’m devastated after witnessing people walk right past homeless people who have nowhere to live or any resources, my heart remembers this motto over my other mottos and I instead turn my anger into ideas about how to actually create a better world for all of these people.

I couldn’t make a list of my defining mottos without including a powerful statement from my personal icon El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz aka Malcolm X– “Any person who claims to have deep feeling for other human beings should think a long, long time before he votes to have other men kept behind bars— caged.” Of course this quote is directly speaking to incarceration in its relationship to humanity. We cannot be working toward better societies while we allow the caging of human beings in ICE facilities, immigration concentration camps, or regular American jails and prisons. We must instead, burn all of the cages down.