A Year In Founders

No matter how dark the present feels, the future is plenty bright

We didn’t see this year coming, but we heard it from all sides. In Signal & Noise 2016, you’ll find the way we made sense out of all of that sound.

There’s no way around it: 2016 was pretty much a garbage year. From large-scale tragedies to highly publicized acts of violence to the disillusionment of the election, the theme of the year seemed to be the question and ensuing response: It can’t possibly can’t get any worse, can it? Oh, wait.

Even so, the Founders generation managed to not only overcome these events, but, in many instances, to use them as opportunities to come together, share their experiences, and lift each other up. We saw this in everyday acts and inspiring efforts, as well as right here on Founders.

Here are just a few of the pieces that inspired us, reassuring us that no matter how dark the present feels, the future is plenty bright.

Reacting to the Election

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To The Frat Bros Who Support Trump,” by Bizzy Emmerson

“This toxicity at the heart of Trump’s campaign has been abundantly evident in frat culture on campus in many ways, but what personally horrifies me is the complicity in Trump’s particularly unforgiving and unending sexism, as evidenced by fraternities’ support of him.”

The Way Men Talk About Trump,” by Jack Dodson

“When I listened to Donald Trump brag to Billy Bush about his attempts to sleep with a married woman in 2005, and his declaration that as a celebrity he can take women by force, I recognized his words as repugnant and what he described as criminal ... [but] I don’t think many men like me were surprised at hearing the tape. I think it reminded us of moments we’re not proud of, and we felt an urge to separate ourselves from the violence of Trump’s remarks. But there’s an issue with drawing a line in the sand and leaving the conversation there: It allows us to avoid any role in addressing systemic sexism and rape culture.”

I’m A Conservative Evangelical Christian And I Will Not Vote For Trump,” by Christian Alvarado

“My voice has often felt suffocated by my conservative evangelical peers who feel it is their ‘moral obligation’ to vote for Trump. But lately there has been another pulse beating through the heart of this campus. In fact, Trump’s recent sexual assault comments were the final straw: My friends and I decided we had to respond by forming a group of concerned students called Liberty United Against Trump.”

I’m The Survivor Who Called Out Omarosa For Defending Trump,” by Ansley Calandra

“I’m neither ‘mentally unstable’ nor ‘hysterical.’ I’m a survivor who was rightfully frustrated when someone representing a presidential candidate refused to recognize my humanity, refused to look me in the eye and answer my question.”

I'm That Trans Teen Who Got Kicked Out Of A Ted Cruz Rally,” by James van Kuilenburg

“I wanted to see Cruz regardless of his prejudices because, political views aside, he is a presidential candidate running in a race that will undeniably change the country. I wanted to hear him firsthand and better understand his platform because that is my right as an American citizen. But when I attended Ted Cruz’s rally on Thursday, April 21, I hardly expected that I would be forcibly removed.”

I Wore The ‘Grab My P***y, I Dare You’ T-Shirt To A Trump Rally,” by Anna Lehane

“All women, young and old, have felt a tangible fear at some point (or many points) in their lives. I wore that t-shirt for every girl who has ever been catcalled. I wore that t-shirt for every girl who has ever felt unsafe walking to her car at night. I wore that t-shirt for every girl who has ever felt victimized and oppressed by comments made solely to tear her down and undervalue her opinions. I wore that t-shirt to let whomever it may concern know that yes, I have a vagina, and that in no way, shape, or form makes me weak.”

Identity

Faatimah Solomon

My Decision To Wear The Hijab Is Mine Alone,” by Faatimah Solomon

“I am sick of conclusions being drawn about me based on nothing more than a piece of cloth I wear, and how wearing it has made it difficult to present and convey myself in the way I want to. My hijab makes me feel empowered and, in many ways, it is a symbol of my feminism. ... I feel liberated and strong while wearing it, and I am unapologetically proud of my decision to do so.”

My ‘Black’ Is Enough,” by Itunu Abolarinwa

“We should not use names to bleach people of their color because their behavior, interests, and beliefs don’t match our personal definition of what it means to be black. To be black or [insert your ethnicity here] is to be a queen or a king regardless of your interests or appearance. ... You define what it means to be black — no one else does.”

I’m An Undocumented Immigrant,” by Erik Vargas

“There is a blind, unjust, conservative belief among far too many Americans that immigrants — specifically those who come from south of the border or anywhere else that’s not Western Europe — are generally bad people. ... These beliefs are often met with relatively little backlash for many reasons, but especially because no one wants to publicly say, ‘I’m undocumented, but here’s why that shouldn’t be a problem.’ But, for the sake of more than 11 million undocumented American lives, I believe it’s crucial that undocumented Americans say just that. It’s crucial that people know that we are terrific human beings. It’s a crucial risk to take.”

I Started A Viral Hashtag For More Asian Representation,” by Bonnie Tang

“While I still have family members who firmly believe that careers in math and science are the only ‘safe’ paths for Asian-Americans to take, this experience reminded me why I initially dreamed of being an activist and creating political and cultural change. I want to be someone whom Asian-American youth can look up to, someone who is speaking up for us and addressing the injustices done to our community, someone who will keep moving forward and pushing for change.”

Advocating for Your Rights

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Black Lives Matter Is The Bare Minimum,” by Camryn Garrett

“It’s not enough for people to say ‘black lives matter’ and then be silent. We need to do more than speak. We need to push for better laws to protect our people and to put pressure on police departments. Nothing will change unless the police system is completely stripped down and rebuilt. The fundamental problem is that so many American institutions were founded with only white people in mind — and they were never changed.”

The Orlando Shooting Was An Act Of Hate,” by Jacob Tobia

“The massacre in Orlando has left the same question unresolved and burning in the hearts of LGBTQ people across the country: Is there anywhere that we can feel safe? ... We can’t let fear and the need for a scapegoat shift our focus away from the homophobia, transphobia, and toxic masculinity inherent to this devastating act; we must not let our focus wander outward, toward nationalist retribution and blame, toward finding ‘our enemies’ and snuffing them out. Instead, let’s call Orlando what it was: an act of hate specifically targeted at the LGBTQ community.”

We Are Running For Our Lives,” by Tariq Brownotter

“This campaign has inspired the entire Standing Rock community and reminded the young people of the power each of us has to make change. I’m running so that Native American girls like me can see that people do care about us — we hold the strength of our ancestors, and they didn’t stop halfway to the finish line. We may be too young to vote in this election, but our cry for safe and clean water will be heard.”

Why I Celebrate The Day I Was Diagnosed With Herpes,” by Ella Dawson

“I don’t celebrate the fact I have herpes. When I honor the day I was diagnosed with herpes, I celebrate the fact that I am still here today. Despite a world that wants to convince me my sexually transmitted infection makes me worthless, I am an ambitious, vocal, and happy badass, and I am alive and well. I’m not proud of having herpes, but I refuse to be ashamed of it.”

The Horrific Aftermath Of Sexual Assault Goes Beyond The Attack,” by Delaney Henderson

“We were all so different and from such different places, but our stories and the aftermath of our experiences were so similar. We all understood what it was like to be violated over and over again — first in an act of violence, then in the denial of and backlash received from it. ... All we want is to find a way to prevent what has happened to us from ever happening to anyone else, and to start a community of survivors to help us bring education and awareness to those who just didn’t know how to help us.”

Pulling The Triggers,” by Kamrin Baker

“It may seem counterintuitive, but I agree that eliminating trigger warnings on campus would ultimately benefit students — especially those struggling with mental health. Challenging ourselves with uncomfortable material means we’re thinking, learning, and developing, and it is our responsibility as human beings and students to embrace our academic role as critical thinkers. But discussing the elimination of trigger warnings and safe spaces must be only one phase of a more systemic examination of how to help students who have suffered from trauma or who struggle with mental health — not the first or only step.”

Teenhood

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I Hate My Brain,” by Anna Koppelman

“My brain is my worst enemy. My brain is the one at fault. My brain is the one that makes me drop the minus sign. I want to ask how a brain makes peace with its own inability. How does it heal from understanding that it — by its very nature — is at fault for its own limitations? My dyslexia has nobody to blame but itself. My dyslexia is the reason for this pain, and this pain is not going anywhere, and all of it is trapped in my mind.”

No One Can Protect My Boyfriend,” by Roberta Nin Feliz

“I am forced to confront the harsh reality that a black man can be killed by the police in this country for basically any reason. But now I don’t just confront it through headlines, or through my own identity as a woman of color, but also in my relationship with a dark-skinned boyfriend.”

Crushing From Afar,” by Anna Koppelman

“It is safe here in the world of fantasy, of crushing from afar. There is no intimacy I cannot control, no fight I don’t materialize. No one knows I sleep with two teddy bears, one in each arm, or what I look like with my shirt off. There is nothing risky, or scary, in living here. In the pizza bagels, in the Wallace, in the stairs. All wrongs done are a figment of my own imagination.”

My Father, The Ballerina Bun-Maker,” by Grace Wong

“Gender roles don’t matter. What does matter is doing what you love for the people you love. And that lesson remains ingrained in me. My motto — ‘equality, empathy, and kindness’ — comes not from the buzzwordy sphere of personal branding, but rather from the floor of the living room, where I found my dad waiting for me with a hairbrush.”

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Check out more from the year in music, culture, politics, and style in Signal & Noise 2016.