Wearing black T-Shirts with bold, white “#Health4All” written across their chest, a dozen Asian American, Latino, and African American youth started a cross country journey from D.C. to Texas. Along the way, they walked across the Selma to Montgomery Edmund Pettus Bridge.
They were part of the Dream Riders Across America. A group of undocumented youth and allies, from California, Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Arizona united to travel across the country to share their migration stories and raise awareness about issues that impact their communities.
To me, this act embodies the collaborative strength of the Dreamer movement and the #Health4All campaign. These efforts are about solidarity and they are undeniably rooted in history. These campaigns aren’t just about those that are directly impacted by not having lawful status or lacking access to affordable health care, but they are part of a broader movement driven by youth to change the realities in which we all currently live.
Fifty years ago, youth in Selma, Alabama banded together to advocate for a basic human right, the right to vote. A youth led organization, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, used their drive and courage to organize African Americans and other allies to march across this bridge. Last week, Dreamers walked the same path reminding America that they do not have access to another basic human right, the right to affordable health care.
The efforts of the youth in Selma were met with violence and institutional opposition from local law enforcement and federal courts. Yet, they used their energy and dedication to keep the drum beat going and to undo this injustice. Eventually, they were successful and they galvanized the nation into action that resulted in the Voting Rights Act.
Throughout this effort, allies marched hand in hand with Africans Americans, not because they themselves lacked access to the voting booth but because they fundamentally believed that an effective democracy exists only when every American is able to participate. In this same way, our youth and their allies continue to march hand in hand for #Health4All because they believe that our health care system will be just and effective only when everyone is able to participate.
Last month, in a historic move, California approved expanded access to health care coverage for undocumented children. For the first time in their lives 170,000 children will have access to comprehensive care and check-ups. This is a monumental victory but we still have to recognize that the parents of these children and the parents of many other Californian children continue to remain shut out from affordable health care.
California led the country with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and California is now also leading in ensuring that everyone is included in our health care system. As our communities continue to fight for health and justice for all Californians, we will continue to draw inspiration from the symbolism of the Dream Riders walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and other allies will stand united in fighting for health and justice for all.