Why should you become a BRAVE-Maker?
The following is a summary from the ACAN Youth Talk given by Emlyn Lee on May 29.
Follow Emlyn Lee on Twitter @brave_atx
Join ACAN Youth on Discord to CONNECT, LEARN & SERVE (https://discord.gg/9VTSe7q)
If you couldn’t achieve something just because of your skin color, what would you do?
Unfortunately, Emlyn Lee had to witness this when she was only in 5th grade. She noticed that the main roles of a play at her school were all white students, even though there were other more talented, non-white students. When she was in 6th grade, the same happened to her and her best friend; they were given the supporting roles despite being more fit for the main.
Emlyn is the 5th (and youngest) daughter of her family. While her 1st and 3rd sisters had a gift for math and her 2nd and 4th sisters had art skills, Emlyn was sort of the “black sheep” of her family. Although she wasn’t good at a specific subject, she had great people skills and as a result, she was very aware of the injustices happening around her.
Angered by the unfairness, Emlyn encouraged the ”minority”
classmates to boycott the play. This would be the beginning of her fight to bring awareness to the social injustice happening around us.
Many years later in 2001, after the tragic 9/11 attacks, Emlyn was inspired to start her first company. She and a group of volunteers helped Americans, predominantly 18-30 years old, to travel abroad to ~29 countries in 5 continents with an immersive experience.. She worked on this business for about 10 years until she sold it.
In 2015, after multiple African Americans being shot to death because of their skin color, Emlyn created BRAVE Communities, a program dedicated to spreading awareness to social justice, amplifying voices of the marginalized, and advocating various political events, such as the census.
BRAVE stands for: Build Relationships Awareness Voices Engagement
BRAVE Communities is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that offers a variety of programs and services for the Greater Austin area and beyond. They host monthly community conversations, organize a monthly community celebration called “BRAVE-Fest”, and host young leaders for U.S. Department of State cultural and educational programs. This year, 2020, has two significant events: the US Census and the national presidential election, which only fall on the same year every 20 years. Because of the lasting impact that these two events will have over the next few years, Emlyn is hosting a summer program for female-identifying youth between the ages of 15-21 years old.
This program, called BRAVE-Makers, is a leadership and social change program for young women. During this program, young women will develop leadership skills, explore racial identity, promote peer accountability, and become influencers for positive social change.
Right now we are living in a historic time. The COVID-19 pandemic not only caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, but revealed the inequities of living standard and access to healthcare among communities of color. The tragic death of George Floyd and many others show this. Not only that, but the two greatest powers in the world, China and the US, have increased tensions.
It is in this context that Emlyn came to speak to ACAN Youth last Friday and shared with us her life journey, her passion, and what we can do as ACAN Youth. Just as Emlyn said, “as an Asian American, this is probably the most impactful time of our life. We can rise up and become an agent of change, a BRAVE-Maker.”
“as an Asian American, this is probably the most impactful time of our life. We can rise up and become an agent of change, a BRAVE-Maker.”
lbs of Food Sorted
Vicina Youth at Central Texas Food Bank
“As we work, we become united; we help each other without even needing to be asked– a hand to lift a heavy box there, or moving boxes out of their way.”
At first glance, the food bank does not look like a food bank. The building is quite large, and seems to be impossibly clean, which is exactly the opposite of other food banks I’ve been to.
Inside, waits clusters of people. To one side is a troop of Girl Scouts, all around the age of 10, along with their parents. On another side are a few groups of people, maybe families or other organizations similar to Vicina.
Once we’ve all checked in via the kiosks, an employee of a food bank walks up and explains to us the rules of the food bank: no tank tops, open toed shoes, gum, etc. She leads us past a large kitchen and into the product recovery room, where we are greeted by other employees, and told that we are to sort through frozen food today.
We are split into different groups. Six of our students go to help move around the finished products, and the rest of us help pass out food that needs to be distributed to the sorters. Other jobs include banana box lifters and trash sorters.
We work for three hours straight. Although there’s a break room, none of our students go to use it. While we work, background music is played, along with a football game (but most of it is ads). As we work, we become united; we help each other without even needing to be asked– a hand to lift a heavy box there, or moving boxes out of their way.
When we’re done, it seems like no time has passed. We all smile at each other, hearing the employee give us the stats: we’ve sorted through over 7,000 pounds of food, resulting in about 6,500 meals.
Few of us can do great things, but all of us can do small things with great love.
– Mother Teresa
Living in a Fearful World
The world we live in is a world full of anxiety, stress, and doubt. This is not a new discovery, but it isn’t a topic that we teenagers reflect upon often. However, the truth still stands: we live in a world of fear. In fact, a while ago, my dad said this: “I’ve been alive for XX years, but this is the first time I’ve seen the world in so much fear [due to the coronavirus outbreak],” and it got me thinking.
From the very start of our lives, even before we are born, our parents are worried for our life, our health, our future. As we grow up and start making friends, we start experiencing something known as “fear of missing out.” As we mature into young adults, we start becoming anxious for our own futures. When we grow older and have families, we become stressed about our own children’s lives, their health, and their future. And on and on it goes.
Various researchers have determined that one of the factors influencing our decision making (both consciously and unconsciously), is our emotions, fear being one of the main ones. Fear can cause us to overthink, make crazy decisions, and lose options when we put off or avoid difficult decisions.
A few weeks ago, a student who studies in America flew back to the U.S. from China. Although he hadn’t been anywhere near any confirmed or suspected the coronavirus, once the news of his return was leaked to his classmates, parents started calling and insisting that the principal needed to suspend the student from school. This student’s own family members were afraid of the .001% chance of him having the virus that they thought about setting up a tent in their backyard to quarantine him, causing the principal to step in and allow the student to live in her home.
Bless the principal. Pray for the parents.
Although this problem will never be solved, there are many steps that we can take that will help us live fearlessly in a world of fear. Here are a few:
Be cautious but brave
It’s impossible to be completely fear-free, but instead of turning that fear into something negative, be cautious when needed. If you’re stressed out because of the coronavirus, for example, wash your hands often and sneeze into your elbow. Encourage your friends and family to do the same, if they don’t already. However, there is no need to wear a face mask wherever you go and discriminate against Chinese people.
You only live once, so don’t spend your whole life too afraid to do something new. Someday in the future when you look back at your life, I guarantee that at least half of your most regrettable moments have something to do with fear.
Take calculated risks
Of course I’m not telling you to do anything dumb, but wouldn’t you rather die having attempted to climb Mount Everest (with serious training) than dying with no significant achievements in your life because you were too afraid to go out of your comfort zone?
Open your eyes
Don’t be blind to other views. Listen to other people’s perspectives. And if you decide to do something about it, at least get your facts straight.
When the coronavirus first broke out, a group of Chinese (half from Shanghai, the other half from Wuhan) were in Japan, ready to board their flight back to China. They had all been in Japan for a few weeks, before the virus even broke out. However, when the Shanghainese heard the Wuhan people’s dialect, they refused to board the plane and instead demanded that the airline send another plane just for them. When people are this divided, how can they ever hope to solve the bigger problem?
No one is perfect
There is no such thing as perfect, and it’s normal to be afraid. What matters is what you will do with that fear. Will you use it to do something for the good of the world or will you turn it into something harmful to others?
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name;
you are Mine.”
Feb 17, 2020
Pecan Ridge Memorial Care
Feb 8, 2020
Texas Baptist Children’s Home
How Serving Others Has Changed My Perspective
This blog originally was published on Premier Education Partner’s website, authored by Emily Everswick.
Where are you from in China?
I am from Guangzhou, near Hong Kong. My dad and mom both work there, and I am an only child. My dad owns a hotel chain management company. My mom is in investment management, and she works for Lions Club International, as well. I live in an apartment building in China, which is very common there. In my free time, I am a songwriter and singer.
Where do you live in the United States?
I currently live in Chattanooga, TN, and go to Chattanooga Christian School there. For the last two years, I lived in Cleveland, Ohio. I had a pretty good experience there, but there is a big difference because the school in Ohio was non-religious school, and now I’m at a Christian school. I’ve made a lot more friends since I’ve moved to Tennessee.
Who is your host family?
I’m living with a pretty nice family. They have three kids. One is in my grade, and there’s one in 9th and 7th grade. Wilson is a junior.
Tell us a little bit about how you’ve been serving the community.
My mom works for Lions Club Int. So, since sixth grade, I’ve been doing service stuff through them. I do fundraising events. I wrote and sang songs and helped raise funds for it. I also did projects visiting underprivileged families. One impoverished family had a child with severe diabetes, and they couldn’t afford the medications. We visited them and helped decide to fund schooling and medicines. We also did disaster relief, first response, blood bank promotion, and had a blood donation bus.
Since joining Premier Education, I volunteered in New Orleans over the Thanksgiving break. That area was flooded long ago, and we volunteered at a park with lakes with a water storage area in case water comes in the future it will provide disaster prevention. We helped pull vines out of the tree to help the trees not die. We also served at a community service center to help children with fun lessons. We also helped build a youth room with construction. The work was intense. I never did anything like that, but I learned a lot. It was rewarding and felt good. It was all very meaningful.
On another day, we helped in a food pantry called Giving Hope. It is a non-profit organization founded by a businessman who owns car dealerships in the area. We helped organize food, and in the afternoon, people came in, and we distributed items to them. About 350 people came. I felt really tired after that. I have not stopped talking since I left that experience because it made a significant impact on me. I said as many nice things to them as I could to the people who visited the pantry. I tried to make them feel welcome and ask them about their day and try to make them feel comfortable. I can imagine how hard their lives are, and I wanted to help them. I tried to motivate others to be kind to them, as well.
What gifts have you unexpectedly received while serving others?
I can say for sure they are not physical gifts that I have received. But I learned so much. When you severe others, you get things like sympathy and empathy of others and a heart of gold. You can’t buy any of these things with money. My view of the world has also been impacted.
What is your motivation for all of this volunteer work?
I don’t know how to express this feeling. I think that helping others is what everyone should do, but I don’t see that. It’s essential to help our society develop. If everyone loved and helped others, there wouldn’t be all these problems in the world. I’m trying to make it happen.
What would be the ultimate Christmas present this year?
My ultimate Christmas present would be to be able to provide needed water to people who need it in this world. Water can change lives.
“Water can change lives!”
Wilson, we agree with you! And our team at Premier Education is so thankful for you and your heart to help others.
“But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” – John 4:14