It is a powerful thing to affirm to the eyes of a watching world that though you might be the first, you will not be the last.
It is a powerful thing to believe, to be in a position to enable, to decide is worth fighting for.
Every headline about firsts - first woman, the first Black person, the first LGBT person - is an implicit acknowledgement that we have collectively enabled a broken system for tens and hundreds of years. Because the first of the headline is never the first to have been good enough, talented enough, brave enough, enough enough. What they are is the first to have found a way through a system that broke and bent and ignored and worked to erase all who dared before.
In her book “Year of Yes”, Shonda Rhimes describes the experience of the “F.O.D.” - first, only, different:
“We are a very select club, but there are more of us out there than you’d think. We know one another on sight. We all have that same weary look in our eyes. The one that wishes people would stop thinking it remarkable that we can be great at what we do while black, while Asian, while a woman, while Latino, while gay, while a paraplegic, while deaf. But when you are an F.O.D., you are saddled with that burden of extra responsibility— whether you want it or not…I was not about to make a mistake now. You don’t get second chances. Not when you’re an F.O.D. Second chances are for future generations. That is what you are building when you are an F.O.D. Second chances for the ones who come behind you.”
Lift as you climb. Honour those who came before you. And if you are to be the first, fight like hell not to be the only.
contracts keep us social compel us now
to disorder the disorder. Peace. We’re out
to repair the future. There’s an umbrella
by the door, not for yesterday but for the weather
that’s here. I say weather but I mean
a form of governing that deals out death
and names it living. I say weather but I mean
a November that won’t be held off. This time
nothing, no one forgotten. We are here for the storm
that’s storming because what’s taken matters.
— from ‘Weather’ by Claudia Rankine