Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz's Response to “Standing Up for Our Neighbors” Essay Winners

Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz, editorial and creative director at YES! Magazine, responds to the winners of our Fall 2017 National Student Writing Competition.
Tracy's Response to Fall 2017 Essay Winners Primary Image

Dear Adithi, Alexandria, Aly, Amber, Logan, and Ruby,

For the fall issue of YES!, I wrote an essay, “What Japanese Internment Taught Us About Standing Up for Our Neighbors.” It was about something that happened 75 years ago, President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 that suspended civil liberties and imprisoned an entire class of people based on race. I wrote the essay because watching President Trump’s various executive orders banning Muslims from entering the country and rounding up and deporting Mexicans and was making me feel scared and angry.

I wanted to explore nidoto nai yoni. What it would take to “let it not happen again”? What can people do differently today to protect vulnerable neighbors. While my essay considered the importance of courageous community action, the essays I read from the YES! Student Writing Competition focused on individual strength. All the winning entries identified with oppression on a significantly personal level, as each of you heard a call to stand up for yourself as well as those in similar situations.

Ruby Rose Coney Wynne-Jones stood up for the unnoticed young people who struggle with dyslexia. And as a bisexual teenager, Alexandria Lutinski asks for others’ understanding. So does Aly Terry, who wants us to know that bipolar disorder affects 5.7 million Americans, and that they need our protection and patience.

After struggling with his own depression, Logan Bailey Crews took action at his high school to change attitudes there about mental illness. He’s doing that by creating a community of support, a particular version of standing up for his neighbors. And at her university, Amber Huff is giving just that sort of support, befriending a troubled student of color starting a new life, someone that others prejudged unfairly.

When Adithi Ramakrishnan felt her “otherness” in a visceral and public moment of racial discrimination, her response was personal. She is redefining her idea of protesting injustice. “For now, dissent means living my culture as boldly and loudly as possible.” 

I thank all of you for sharing your stories. You have broadened my own understanding of what it means to stand up to oppression.

In gratitude,





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