We Will Emerge

You can read Kelly Sue’s contribution to We Will Emerge here.

What is We Will Emerge?

How can we be better when this nightmare is over?

That was the question Dave Eggers and I asked, as we emailed back and forth in April before George Floyd’s murder. We had the admittedly audacious hope that we could come out of the coronavirus crisis as a better people. We arrived at the phrase “We Will Emerge” and asked writers and thinkers to use that as a springboard. Dave encouraged me to take the reins from there. I thought I’d be lucky to assemble about two dozen friends. Along with PEN America, we ended up bringing together 111 writers, activists, academics, poets, and public servants in a collaborative project to imagine a blueprint for a post-COVID America. The voices represented in “We Will Emerge” were so willing and passionate that the project kept growing, fueled by a sense of urgency.

We admit this endeavor can be seen as a delusional exercise as we continue to endure a crushing pandemic that has killed over 180,000 Americans and crippled our economy.

But this moment has also inspired the largest demonstrations in U.S. history, bringing together people from around the world to march for Black Lives Matter and against police brutality and systemic racism.

This pandemic has been an X-ray for America, revealing us bare, from bone to cell. We see clearly our warts, sins, and virtues; our failures and successes; our angels and demons.

In the absence of presidential leadership, we look to our elders for wisdom, and we are reminded of the poignant words of historian Robin D.G. Kelley, who once asked, “What shall we build on the ashes of a nightmare?”

“We Will Emerge” is a humble attempt at building a vision, one that is entirely fueled by hope. However, this is not an empty gesture filled with saccharine pleasantries.

If we are to emerge, we must confront and remedy the sins of our present that have disproportionately ravaged Black and Brown communities, gutted low-income families, emboldened violence by a militarized police, exacerbated income inequality, mainstreamed dangerous disinformation, exposed the dysfunction and corruption of our institutions, and revealed the fragility of our democracy and the necessity of our shared community and humanity.

You will hear voices of pain and anger, a righteous rage demanding a reckoning. You will hear voices humbled, grateful for life and love, acknowledging a desire for human connection and hugs. You will hear calls to action, recommending policy proposals to cure inequities and injustices. You will hear yearnings for play and laughter, for delicious dining experiences, for generosity, for forgiveness, for another chance to make it right.

Hopefully, you will hear voices of an America that can still be and become better.

—Wajahat Ali

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