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the history hidden in front of the supermarket

My love of words did not begin with me. In Carson, California there lies an aged bronze bust of José Rizal. While my parents and grandmother intuited a deep relationship with the statue, I found it amusingly placed right outside of Seafood City, a Filipino supermarket. It wasn’t until my father voiced his historical importance that I understood the real impact José Rizal had on the Philippines. While I already knew that he campaigned for greater autonomy from the Spanish colonizers, I didn’t realize that because of his clever, yet transparent flourish of his penmanship, the common folk finally found themselves heard by Spain. This made him different from the war generals and politicians who declared sanguinary war. Rizal used the power of words to influence others. Rizal inspired the people around him because they could resonate with his diction. Rizal was the first among my kind that pursued freedom by writing rather than fighting. I aim to honor his passions by vocalizing the needs of the silenced. So, I changed how I viewed the world. If the statue was more than first appearances, then so were people and so was the American system. By joining the Georgia Educational Justice University, I was able to learn how they earned the confidence to protest with walk-ins and make speeches at school boards, which served as a stepping stone for me to volunteer at a local hospital to be adjacent to the people working and suffering under our abused healthcare complex. Using that knowledge, I cultivated an accessible and candid community known as the Life Savers Club, brought in connoisseurs of specialized fields to teach students what is typically reserved for a select elite, and served as a speaker for them to communicate their grievances regarding medicine. Upon returning to the burnished bust, my eyes were no longer blinded by the intoxicating smells of the convenience store luring passerby in; for one person with a strong voice was able to challenge an empire and serve as a catalyst for independence for generations to come.

Sophia Bernabe is a senior in high school from Fontana, CA and aspires to be an anesthesiologist.

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Published in issue 5


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