Selections from “We Are What They Envisioned”: Letters to Ancestors

“Did you ever look at all the negativity brought throughout time and think that through it all, a brown skinned, puffy haired daughter would bloom through all the adversity?”

Little Brown Girl

Dear Ancestors,

I want to tell you that life here, on your land has gotten easier but sadly, it has not. It’s sad to say, but all those years you spent fighting for the equality of your people and land only made a small dent in the White man’s world. I hope one day Earth will come into realization with man and bring a sense of love and caring among its people.

Let me inform you that to be a brown girl in today’s modern world means you are stereotyped, judged, and looked down upon. This world we live in pushes and kicks us down to our knees, wanting us to live in fear of the white race. I honor your bravery and courage to stand up and fight because nowadays many beautiful voices are locked away and hidden between their own lips.

Oh dear ancestors, please show us what it means to be impactful; show us our true strengths and fill our minds with hope! Being a brown girl doesn’t get easier as the years go on. I fear of not being good enough; I fear to fall into the stereotypes of the white race and not make an impact on this world before my time has vanished. I can’t deny, I have seen myself in the hands of weakness and fear. I’ve felt Pain’s hands choking me, leaving me with no air to breathe. I wake up everyday hoping it gets better, that all will be right in the world and all evil will vanish. I am just a brown girl trying to get through the oppression, get through the hate, and get through the lies told to my face. I hope someday this “little brown girl” can make an impact and help the world be a little less cruel.

Your descendent,

Karen P.


By: Andrea M.

To my Ancestors,

I think of you as I hold a pen in my hand and bleed the ink onto this paper
I think of you as I’m taught by my White, Japanese and Mexican teachers

I see you in the roots of where I stand
Seeing over those under me, but looking up to those above me
I feel your strength and courage inside of me, pushing me to fulfill my aspirations

I think of your struggle
The migration, depression, starvation, poverty, discrimination
I think of how I’m blessed to be here, but I’m even prouder to say I come from indigenous ancestors

Having clothes to warm me when it’s cold, having a roof over my head, those are things I am forever grateful to you for
The fact that I am able to sit in a class and be taught about how you all got here
To be able to speak Spanish without having the fear of being hit with a paddle
To be able to put my fist up in the air in a manner of expression
To be able to say, “I will fulfill my dreams”
I am here and that’s what truly matters

The persistence and ambition taught to those before me are what I have internalized
The positive attributions to our culture are what we embrace and try to teach other so we are not seen as what others try to paint us as
We choose to empower ourselves day by day…. 

…. This is who I have become
Inevitably we’re still oppressed but it’s up to us, what we do
If we bring change to the world or if we sit back and watch others tear it down

I hear my ama tell me on a daily basis to keep my grades up for the chance at a better future
I think of how you made all these sacrificios so I can be where I stand today
Therefore, I will not allow myself to take two steps back
I will take a leap forward for all of us and make a greater change within and around the world

I have a point to prove
The same point James Meredith proved by wearing a “never” pin backwards to mimic his oppressors at his college graduation
The point that anything is possible if you believe in yourself
Ultimately it’s all up to you, if you build yourself up or let others tear you down
And that is what you, my ancestors have broadly inspired me with
The idea that if anyone else can do it, so can I
Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it is impossible

With your ambition, creativity, intelligence and our beautiful heritage in my DNA
I am proud to say I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams

Am I Your Wildest Dream?

To My Dearest Ancestors,

Because of you I have power, strength, and resilience burning in my veins, passing through every ounce of my body. But I’m left with one question for you:

Am I Your Wildest Dream?

Did you ever dream this is how the world would turn out? Turned over by newly found institutions built against us? Would you have dreamt that we would find a way to push past the darkness and come out from the other side with bright light shining in our path? We did because of you.

Am I Your Wildest Dream?

Is my ambition and need to succeed everything you hoped it would be?

Am I Your Wildest Dream?

Did you ever look at all the negativity brought throughout time and think that through it all, a brown skinned, puffy haired daughter would bloom through all the adversity? Who chose not only to look past it, but use it as a fuel to propel her into better days. Harnessing all the positivity and light around her, her prayers finally coming to light as she embraces the dreams and aspirations she’s developed because of the mindset you’ve helped instill in her.

Am I Your Wildest Dream?

Because you are mine.

Hearing your sons and daughters, my grandmothers and grandfathers, reminiscing about all that we’ve endured. The sacrifices and pain was all cast aside because the day you dreamt of has arrived; all your blood, sweat, and tears have lead to a better life.

You sent your daughters, my great grandmother and her sisters, from Mexico to the US at a young age. You told them it would all be fine because you were sending them to a place you truly believed was divine. When they arrived the only mindset they had was an everlasting drive to strive and a constant need to succeed. It’s you that I thank for that.

I hope I’m your wildest dream.

You never would’ve imagined that despite all the pain and struggle, we’d come out on the other side. I say we because without you there is no me. And with me I hope I’ve become everything you wished I could be.

Because of you I know we’re going to succeed.

In the end I know I Am Your Wildest Dream.

As crazy as it seems.

So thank you for being everything you can be.

In my heart, through my veins, it’s going to forever be you and me.

With the deepest love,

Samantha A.

We Are What They Envisioned

By Students of Roosevelt High School
9th Grade Ethnic Studies Class

Available for Purchase

We Are What They Envisioned: Expressions of Resistance, Resilience, and Re-imagination explores how young people must navigate and carry the histories of their ancestors as they walk towards their own futures. Inspired by Octavia Butler, Tupac Shakur, Kendrick Lamar’s song DNA, and the concept of becoming their ancestors’ wildest dreams, this collection of writing by 74 ninth grade student authors reflects on the past of colonization, the present of current family struggles and successes, and the future of students’ own legacies.

We Are What They Envisioned is 826LA and Roosevelt High School’s third Ethnic Studies book collaboration. This annual book series began in 2014 when groundbreaking teachers Roxana Dueñas, Eduardo López, and Jorge López created the Ethnic Studies course “Boyle Heights and Me” for ninth grade students at Roosevelt High School. Previous publications You Are My Roots and This Is My Revolution have been taught as classroom texts in a graduate course at the Harvard School of Education and in Ethnic Studies classes in high schools throughout the country.

Cover by: Lexx Valdez | Designed by: Rachel Mendelsohn


Read more excerpts from We Are What They Envisioned and see photos from the book release party here.

Purchase We Are What They Envisioned in-stores or online at the Time Travel Mart here.

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