Dearest Anthony Soltero

By Wayne Au

Dearest Anthony Soltero,

Even though we have never met, I cannot let your passing go unmarked. I wish we could have known each other, could have shared stories with each other. Of what little there is between us, here is what I know:

I know you were 14 years old.

I know you were in the 8th grade in De Anza Middle School in Southern California.

I know you helped organize your peers to walk out in protest of the racist anti-immigrant legislation.

I know you were called into the assistant principal’s office for your actions.

I know you were threatened with three years of jail time.

I know you were told you could not participate in 8th-grade graduation.

I know you were told that your mother would be given a $250 fine for what you did.

I know you went home and shot yourself in the head.

I know you died on April 1st.

I know that since I learned of your death, I have felt deep grief. Grief at the needless and terrible loss of an organizer, a fighter for social justice, and grief at the passing of a young flame ready to ignite the world.

I know I have also felt intense rage too. Yes, I rage against your principal, and I rage against your school. Those are the easy targets. But in my heart, I also rage against these times. These times of war. These times of poverty. These times of anti-immigrant. These times of anti-environment. These times of more inequality and more pain. These times killed you, Anthony Soltero. These times are the real enemy.

But, even though I have cried in despair over your death, I have to remember, you also died for hope. The walkouts led by you and other students like you all over Southern California were beautiful, just as the massive protests around the country against the anti-immigrant laws were also beautiful. New activists like you are being created every day now, and their birth is partly due to your own courage and commitment. For that we all must give thanks.

Just know this: I am standing at your desk with you. I am leaving class with you. I am taking to the halls with you. I am pushing away the school doors with you. I am stepping off the curb into the streets with you. I am reaching out into the world with you.

You are with me. Thank you.

Your friend, comrade, and brother,

Wayne Au