End your day right with this amazing speech from Dream Defender Phillip Agnew

Transcript below the jump.

I grew up poor. I never had what everybody else could have. But I remember a teacher telling me, “Phillip, some people are so poor that all they have is money.” And so, I remember growing up and my father teaching me about faith. That faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. And I remember my father telling me stories of when one or two is gathered together, there is power. And I remember the stories of old, so today I’ve come to tell you all a bit of a story.

It’s the story of a country called America. It’s a story of a house built on the backs of slaves, fortified by years of labour by the lesser of these, the least of these, the forgotten, the invisible, the marginalized, the criminalized. The house of America is always in need of renovation. And every few decades, there comes a generation that walks into the house of America and says, “There’s a hole in the roof.” And every few generations there’s a generation that walks into the house of promise and says that I can’t quite see the vision out of the windows of the house of America. And every few years, even forty years ago, a generation came forward and said that the house of America smelled of the stench of the sewage of racism. And so it was 40 years ago that a generation of Americans – black, white, Latino, Jew, Palistinian, Mexican, gay, straight – came together in the biggest renovation project America had ever seen. And they patched that roof. And they fixed that toilet. And they cleaned out those windows so that we could truly see the vision of America. They fixed the creaky stair and the banisters so they didn’t lead up to a glass ceiling but up to the roof. And sadly enough, after lemonade was had and ice tea was shared, we moved back into the house. And for the next forty years, anyone who came into our house and said, “It looks like the roof is leaking again,” they were sent into the basement. Anybody who came into the house and said, “The kitchen doesn’t smell like hope and prosperity anymore, there’s hate and venom coming from the kitchen,” they were sent to the basement. And anybody that sought to come into the house of America but had to come through the back door, they were met with hate and sent directly to the basement.

And so we’ve come here, not as black, not as white, not as brown, not as gay, not as straight, but as Americans. Because for far too long, we’ve lived in the basement. And for the past 11 days I’ve been with my brothers and sisters, who have come from the bottom, come from the basement, and now we’ve decided we’re going to sleep on the floor. We’ve decided to wait and to petition our lawmakers to help fix this house. Come flip this house. And so we’ve come to ask everyone here, Democrat or Republican, to put on your toolbelt. Because the roof of racism needs fixing. It’s leaking, and the leaky faucet of the school-to-prison pipeline is starting to flood our basement. And our front lawn is soured by racial profiling. In our dining room, the discourse is hate for hate. There is no love to be found around our kitchen table. And so we’ve come today not to ask for a contractor. Because young people today know that America is a do it yourself project. And the only people that can fix this house are the people that started from the bottom. The only people that can fix this house are the people that lay on the floor in the State House. And in the house of America you’ll find a room of Floridians ready to rise up. Next to the room of North Carolina where they rise up every Moral Monday. And in that house you’ll even find the crying faces of black boys from Chicago Illinois ready to rise up.

And so today we come together in the biggest Habitat for Humanity project this world has ever seen. So we ask the Governor to call this session, and rewrite your story, because I’ll tell you that the Florida room is a bit dirty. And I can tell you this because I’ve slept on the floor. I can tell you this because millions of our generation have started from the bottom, now we’re here. And though Rick Scott may try to convince us otherwise, that we truly are the best kids in the world growing up in the baddest of cities. And today we come together to fix this house and ensure that Disney is not the only place where dreams come true for young people. This is not a Black issue. This is not a brown issue. This not an anything in between issue. This is not a straight issue. This is not a gay issue. This is a human issue. And so we must come together as human beings. We must come together and ensure the most American of values: those inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And so I ask all of you to join us, and lay out a welcome mat once again. And say come all ye heavy laden. Come all ye burdened. Come all ye marginalized, there’s no need to run through the back door because the door is open for you. There’s no need to cry anymore, for we may endure the night with joy. So we’ve come together with a vision for a better Florida and hopefully for a better America.

I started this with a story to let you know that the story of the Dream Defenders, the story of young people, our story is being written today. As we speak. With every step, with every night you lay on the floor, a chapter is being written. With every time you raise up your voice, a chapter is being written. With every time you stand inside an area with someone who doesn’t look like you, and see humanity in someone across the aisle, a chapter is being rewritten in the history of our country. So let’s do it together. Let’s work together. There’s a lot of work to do, but we’re the only people who can do it. So thank you all for being here, not just for me, and not just for our heroes who have fought for years, but for our future generations of Florida. Because the house of today we inherited. But the house of tomorrow we can build to be stronger, better, faster, on solid ground. And really be the America that we all dream of.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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