We love our interns at AKA and Brighten Crawford gives us hope, inspiration, and reassurance that our collective vision matters, and we are on the right path of building capacity and transforming minds and communities. AKA seeks to elevate the voices of the unseen and unheard- advanced degrees and prestigious titles are not required. This reflection reminds us that we are all in this life together, that we must walk wildly and passionately toward equity, and that advocacy and service are actionable steps toward universal healing.
Before I committed to learning and involving myself in the public health field, I only saw two different worlds, two different types of problems and people. The first world consisted of disappointment when I didn’t make my 7th-grade basketball team, or heartbreak and confusion when my parents announced their separation. You see my problems, and heartache only came from my experiences and therefore encompassed my entire world. But I have started to learn about this other world. A world in which I didn’t realize I resided. A world I hardly knew anything about. My eyes have been opened to see a world where Indian boarding schools existed. A world where women are going missing and being murdered and no one seems to care. In this other world, I didn’t understand the barriers, and the limitations they face, because to me their problems, malnutrition, disease, poverty, lack of education, and discrimination were all just stories. Stories about people who lived in a world I would never be exposed to, or so I thought.
Sometimes I think it would be so easy to brush aside what I have learned and forget it all. Regrettably, sometimes I wish that I could move on and forget. Yet here I am trying to understand and empathize so that I can help. I just want to help. Somehow, in some way, their pain is becoming my pain. I don’t succeed until they do. There is no going back now. I know too much, and I have felt too deeply. I need to do something.
I can now see these once-separate worlds becoming intertwined. My eyes are open to see just how interconnected we all are. So, the questions become, “Now what? If not me, who? How am I going to help?” Well, in class I’ve learned that the most effective public health workers first, listen. So, I am going to listen with the same passion I have for being heard. By listening we create a space in which people feel safe to express their needs and build trust. Once communities start expressing their needs, I’m going to start asking questions to better understand. My favorite question to ask is going to be, “Why?” I am going to ask this again, and again, and again. Through these obnoxious and persistent “Whys” I’ll be led to the root cause.
Through this information, I will be able to create something.
I’m not worried about creating something that is best “in” the world, I want to create something that is the best “for” and “with” the world.
I am not going to allow my own resources to limit my options. I will do what I can and partner out the rest. With the help and perspective of many different silos, we will create something that is sustainable, scalable, and replicable. If that doesn’t work, then we will fail, and we want to fail hard and fast. I hope I am dead wrong about something every day because we don’t know what we don’t know, and I want to learn. I want to better the program, policy, or intervention that will better my community and reach as many people as possible. So, I pray to God that we fail every day and thereby give opportunities to try again and again and become better and better.
I have learned in public health that once you start to promote change, people begin to think you are outrageous. And so, I want people to think I am outrageous because I am. I am outrageous, unreasonable, emotional, obsessed, and ambitious.
I have big crazy, wild ideas, and I’m on a mission—a mission to invest in experiences and in people. I want to invest in people having experiences, ones they wouldn’t have had before. Experiences of healing, safety, education, growth, and of love.
I want people to feel the need to feel needed, because we all are, needed that is. We all have something to offer. We all have a voice that deserves to be heard and talents that need to be shared and multiplied. We need you. Public health, Indian Country needs you. Help us advocate. Help us serve. Help us be more effective, help us not just think outside the box, but rethink how we use the box. Your world and my world are one. You won’t succeed until those less fortunate and less privileged than you succeed. And since all of us are smarter together than any one of us, let's be outrageous together while we promote change.