We recently announced the three winners of the I, Too, Am the Dream contest – Yasmine Bolden, Malachi Levy and Antonio Preciado. Their submissions were beautiful, raw, impactful and hopeful. They left me wanting to know more: about them personally; about their experience participating in the Contest; about their thoughts on how the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream can help them realize their dreams; and about the next chapter of their journeys.
In normal times, I would have welcomed the opportunity to sit down with each winner for what would, no doubt, have been an engaging, inspiring and informative conversation. But, these are anything but normal times. Instead, I invited each winner to respond to a series of questions that I hoped would satisfy my desire for more. They didn’t disappoint! Their additional insights only reinforce my sense that these are three young people who will change the world.
Allow me to share a few excerpts with you…
On their dreams for the future:
Yasmine Bolden: My community is in need of healing. I feel called to answer that need; I want to contribute to Black joy and psychological and emotional wellness…The future that I dream for myself centers around combining the awareness of the need for Black therapists who “get it” being existent and accessible with my love for the creative arts in a career… My future job title might be expressive arts therapist, youth counselor, there are so many possibilities.
Malachi Levy: I aspire to be an author and journalist, to write about topics that will help people achieve their own dreams, and to do that I will need to learn all that I can.
Antonio Preciado: The next chapter for my American Dream is higher education. To empower myself and build my knowledge in order to come back and help the people I love.
On writing, and the inspiration for their submission:
ML: My mother is a community organizer, and because of that I have gotten the chance to sit in on meetings with her discussing the American Dream. I used a lot of what I have learned from her as inspiration in my piece… I realized early on that it would be a cool idea to reference a founding document like the Constitution… It really felt like I would be able to state my claims and morals in the most complete way by rewriting something that serves as somewhat of a backbone to the American Dream.
AP: My submission is an homage to my mother… I can't begin to think of the possibilities to retribute the gifts she has given but this is a step in the right direction… I let my fingers roam free and simply wrote… I love being able to express my creativity, excitement, and love in a piece of writing.
YB: [My piece] stemmed from personal experiences and just existing as a Black person who refuses to accept “the way things have always been” or be shut out of my right to be civically engaged… Writing [it] was extremely cathartic because it allowed me to tell the truth both about the foundational hypocrisy of this nation as well as answering that question of “once we tell the truth about our past, where do we go from there?
On their goals in writing their piece:
AP: After people read my submission I want them to know that, despite any adversity they face, they are capable of dreaming and achieving any goals they place their mind to… Every action has a purpose and a lesson…to learn from. I hope we all take proactive steps, learn to value ourselves, and understand that we are enough.
YB: To remind people that there’s hope. We are the hope. That means we have to be the hands and feet of the change that we are hoping for… I want people to be moved to action… I hope people will sit down with themselves and their communities and ask the hard questions that lead to tangible, sustainable, and continuing change.
ML: I want people to feel motivated…empowered to further advance the American Dream for everyone. I hope people will take action first in themselves, then, after that, I hope they take action in the world to break down the barriers that stop people from making the dream their reality.
On their hopes for MCAAD:
YB: I hope the Center becomes one dedicated to transparency and truth… I hope that the Center will not only be passionately dedicated to supporting our country living up to our promises of origin, but also remain steadfast in educating others on the fact that in order to do that, we must acknowledge the systemic violence and oppression that necessitates our re-imagining.
ML: I have hope that the Center will emphasize all the different versions of the American Dream… Whether it be through writing that informs people, urges new legislation, or even simply inspiring people, I believe that MCAAD will be imperative to creating a happier, and overall better country.
AP: I hope that the Center continues building and creating opportunities for people like me. I want it to become an outlet for people to see representation and identify themselves with future finalists and winners.
On how we can help these young leaders:
AP: MCAAD can be the resource…to meet and learn how other people were able to create lasting and impactful change.
YB: Others can support me and other young BIPOC advocates like me on our journeys by focusing on being community-oriented (what’s your dream community role?), doing your part to protest and dismantle systems and policies that hamper communal care and accessibility, and supporting us in the ways that you can (providing or offering up mentorship, coaching, opportunities you think we might be a good fit for, and funding).