37661586933766158693Six months ago, I sat down with family and friends to decide whether or not I should run for city council of Newark, N.J. The decision was not an easy one. I knew that if I were going to run, I would need three things: passion, persistence and — most importantly — hope. Passion and persistence were easy to come by. Anyone who knows me knows my love and commitment to the city of Newark. But hope is something entirely different. People often throw it around in a perfunctory manner. They use it as if it is a knee-jerk emotion to struggle and sacrifice. Hope, however, is much more than that.

Hope is a survival mechanism; it is the one thing that pushes you when everything else tells you to stop. Hope is what gave my forefathers and foremothers the inspiration for each step under the North Star as they escaped the bondage of slavery. Hope is what gave my grandmothers and grandfathers the courage to bear the bite of dogs and the blows of hoses as they marched for justice. Hope is what woke my mother up every morning as she worked three jobs to give me a better life. Thus, hope is not something I take lightly; it is something that I cherish, something that is only worth as much as the resolve it is backed up with.

In Newark, N.J., hope is a rare commodity. If you walk down a corridor in Newark, you are bound to see dozens of faces, all with a sense of hopelessness that is so great it could bring some to tears. As a 20-year-old city council candidate, a son of Newark and an African American male, I, too, struggle to find hope. I live in a city where more than half of children under the age of five live in poverty, I live in a country where a third of black males are expected to be incarcerated and I live in a world where 1.4 billion people are forced to live on less than a $1.25 a day. The problems of my city, this country and our world are dire, and the hope that galvanized our ancestors to overcome oppression and atrocity seems to become more distant each day.

I wrestled with this notion of hope for a while — right up until the day I launched my campaign website. I was on my way home from a run in the park when my elderly neighbor stopped me. It wasn’t hard for her to get my attention, as she spent many hours of her days guarding over our block with the force of her word and wisdom. When I reached her porch, she told me, as she usually does, how proud she was that I was doing well in college. She told me about her grandson who had just had a birthday and had outgrown his bike. Being the observant person she is, she asked if she could buy the bike that was locked to the side of my house, a bike that I had not used since I got my first car during my freshman year of college.

Without hesitation, I told her that she could have the bike free of charge, and after I fixed a few things and oiled the chain, I brought the bike right over to her. Her face was beaming as I handed over the four-year-old bike. She thanked and hugged me — which I found unnecessary since the bike was so old and ratty. But then it hit me: For my neighbor, all that it took was a small act of kindness to put a smile on her face, to restore her hope amid a neighborhood ravaged by violence and drugs.

As I reflected on the exchange, I realized that, for many people in my neighborhood and in my city, hope was not something sold wholesale but found day by day, hour by hour, through small acts of kindness that restore faith in humanity. Later that day, as I sat with my field director, about to launch our website, I realized that the hope for our campaign and my hope for the city has to come about in the same way as it did for my neighbor, my family and dozens of Newark citizens. I knew that if we were ever going to restore hope to the hopeless, we would have to do it person by person, act by act and house by house.

The hope for our campaign is something I look forward to finding every day as people join our movement, resonant with our cause and believe in our vision. And though our campaign will face a multitude of challenges in the next 14 months, the great words of an anonymous author, whose name I will never know, “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.”

RASHAWN DAVIS is a junior in the College. He is running for Newark’s city council representing the city’s West Ward in May 2014.

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