Casa junior Lucia Garay shares stage with star

Petaluma teen shares some of her life experiences alongside Golden Globe winner in women's forum|

Last week, more than 1,000 attendees, mostly women, headed to the Luther Burbank Center for the spring Women in Conversation, a biannual celebration of female voices. During the event, Casa Grande junior Lucia Garay was a featured speaker, opening for Golden Globe-winning actress and activist Tracee Ellis Ross.

“The first thing I did when I found out I would be speaking next to the Tracee Ellis Ross was follow her on Instagram. Miss Ross, I noticed I never got a follow back, what’s that about?” she joked, to uproarious laughter.

Garay is no stranger to public speaking, having addressed thousands during the March for our Lives protest, which she helped coordinate following the shootings in Parkland, Florida. She was asked to share her story about what inspired her to become an activist in her community.

“I am young. But I am no stranger to activism. When I was in seventh grade it felt like I was seeing a new headline every day about unarmed black men being killed by police. I didn’t understand what was happening so my parents started to tell me about kids like Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Emmett Till. Seventeen, 12 and 14 years old. They were my age and they had been killed, some of them by the very people who were sworn to protect them. I still didn’t understand, but I knew I had to do something,” she said.

Garay spoke about her experiences with the Junior Human Rights Commission, the lessons she learned while attempting to bring more diverse voices to the Petaluma Women’s March, as well as her fears about an environmental future that is uncertain at best.

“On October 9, 2017, I woke up, took a shower, got dressed, and was told that school would be cancelled because it was too dangerous for us to go outside. The novelty of it made it exciting for the first few days, after the first week of not being able to go outside and not being able to see the sun through the thick grey smoke, I started to be afraid,” she said. “I watched the fire start to come over the hill I can see from my house and helped my mother pack the car. When it was finally safe for us to go outside with masks, school was still cancelled because the gymnasium and classrooms had been turned into a refuge center. When we were supposed to be in class reading books and taking tests, my classmates and I spent the week trying to distract children from the fact that everything they had ever known had been burnt away and trying to reassure survivors that they didn’t need to prove citizenship to stay at the refugee center.”

She ended her speech by saying, “We need to lift each other up unconditionally for the sake of the human race, because it is our time and we are the only ones who can save ourselves. The problems that face us are large and complex, but I see hope for the future in this room.”

Women in Conversation is held every October and March and is hosted by The Press Democrat.

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