A government for us must be built by us

By Derrick Toledo, Rio Grande Chapter Executive Committee

I am just a simple shy kid from the rez who never really realized what “pursuing your dreams” meant because I never thought I was capable of much. Mostly because education taught me I’m a conquered people and I’m the bad guy, so I stuck to playing with toys and riding bicycles in my own world with my own circle of friends, because there we were kings. It wasn’t until a few internships in archaeology and listening to elders did I actually realize, it was systemic oppression.

Native Americans weren’t allowed voting rights until 1962. That means my grandma wasn’t allowed to vote for over half of her life. Imagine not being able to vote for the first half of your life! You have absolutely no say about the leaders being elected and you have no way of knowing that they care about you and what issues you still deal with under this oppressive system.

This had to change. This needed to change. That’s why this still shy rez kid got involved.

These past years, I have been the most politically involved I have ever been. Aside from becoming a community organizer where it’s my job to create positive change in multiple facets, I talk to and work with legislators across the country — but more importantly around me and my community. Yes, now is the time to get involved.

Recently, a congressional candidate discussed with me the potential of becoming a Democratic Party delegate for my district because she is all for more indigenous inclusion. I’m always looking for a way to be more involved, so of course I jumped on this opportunity. The process is basically going to a small election within your county and ward and entering your name. All those in attendance will listen to the candidates and what they believe in and vote on the spot. It took no more than a few hours. I won that smaller election and with it a ticket to the primary. After that I applied with my party to become a national convention delegate, and the state of New Mexico voted me in! If it weren’t for the pandemic, I would have been off to Milwaukee. I had to settle for Zoom, but the experience was definitely worth it, because more voices like mine need to be heard.

Things change. I never know if I’m going to succeed, but I know I have to try because voices like mine are necessary. I do it because others much younger than me are watching and need to know what they are capable of. I do it because I am the fruition of my grandma and I’m an example for my daughter who needs to know about her limitless abilities.

This world needs to be built by and for all of us. Vote.

A government for us must be built by us