Karl Rove Rally

In my lifetime I have been called many things, including intelligent and ambitious. In March, my local newspaper spotlighted me as one of three powerful emerging black leaders in my community. But it was not until just recently that I was labeled a member of "a guerilla group," a "professional grievance monger," and a "thug."

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Author Ti'Juana Hardwell in front of Hope Street Youth Development.

It all started when I traveled from my hometown of Wichita, Kansas to Washington DC to participate in a rally at the house of President Bush's Senior Policy Advisor, Karl Rove. As an active member of my community who has worked on numerous issues relating to improving education for students, I was concerned about the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) is a bill currently in congress, which would allow in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrant college students seeking citizenship. All we asked of Rove was his support for the DREAM Act. It is estimated that there are 50,000-65,000 undocumented students who graduate from U.S high schools each year and have no option to go to college because they can't afford to pay out-of-state tuition rates. That's a sad cost to pay after living, bleeding, and knowing only the American way of life.

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Activists hold signs as they rally outside Karl Rove's house.

The real story behind our visit to Karl Rove is that after numerous failed attempts to contact Mr. Rove in his office, members of National People's Action (NPA), a national coalition of community groups, came thousands of miles from all over the country by plane, by car, and by bus to stage a rally and meet with him at his residence on March 28. We came to take "direct action" because we had no other option.

Prior to visiting Rove's house, we tried through letters and phone calls to get a meeting with him or one of his representatives. However, he refused to meet with us or to send someone in his place. There are 43 senators who support the DREAM Act, but the White House has not taken a public stance on it. We need the White House's support for the bill to get the Senate to vote on it this year.

As we rallied on his front lawn, Rove watched from the inside of his home as NPA members chanted and held signs that read, "Say Yes to DREAM." In the mirror of his eyes, because I came that close to him, I saw a man who was finally coming to the realization that he had bullied the very citizens he serves and now we were standing up to him. Coming not to threaten Rove's family, because that would have served zero value, we arrived only to set up a meeting with him. When those in power decide that they are above democracy, we take democracy to them.

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Karl Rove, inside his home, points angrily at the protestors.

When the police arrived on the scene, Rove was ready to meet. He met with two of our leaders in his garage and told us that the White House's position on the DREAM Act is posted on the website. Since then, we have searched the website and have not found even a single reference to the DREAM Act.

The protest received coverage in the Washington Post and on CNN, but it was a piece written by conservative columnist Michelle Malkin that upset me. Shortly after the visit to Rove's house, I arrived at my home-base organization, Hope Street Youth Development, where I work on improving Wichita schools. Before I got down to work, someone distracted my attention elsewhere. I read and analyzed a poorly written and ill-mannered article written by Michelle Malkin. She attacked NPA and made false accusations that our acts were those of "left wing thugs." Might I now mention that during our visit to Rove's house, never once did we snatch a purse or hi-jack a car. We are a well-disciplined organization -- we are not, as Malkin calls us in her article, "thugs," "a guerrilla group," "a left-wing goon squad," or "professional grievance-mongers."

Being portrayed as such in a society that is supposed to encourage democratic involvement does everything to discourage democracy. Malkin insists NPA members drove thousands of miles to "invade the private property of their victims and intimidate their families." The truth, however, is that for years the very neighborhoods of which NPA members reside are in conditions that victimize us. We are victims of inadequate housing, a lack of educational resources, insufficient jobs, loan sharks, and discrimination. Yet, when we stand up to those government and city officials who allow it, they try to intimidate us and refuse our requests to form partnerships which would surely improve these conditions.

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Hundreds gathered outside Rove's home to get him to support the DREAM Act.

According to some news reports about the rally, NPA's persistent encouragement for Rove to set up a meeting with us caused two children inside of his home to cry. It's unfortunate that that happened, but children crying inside of Rove's house is not something we should solely pay pity towards. I ask, "What about the children back in our communities being terrorized?" Our communities have children too, and unfortunately Mr. Rove did not seem to care about them. Instead, the inactions and greed of a few in power often harm us. Now Rove has come face to face with the very people who are negatively affected by his policies.

It angered me to read and then know that the media will derive negativity when groups of non-violent citizens demand better conditions in their communities. My own spirits were butchered like a pig in a meat-packing factory.

Honestly, I don't care about labels -- liberal or conservative. As someone who cherishes living in America, I'm all about improving my community by any means necessary. When the system doesn't work, NPA tries to fix it. To me, the greatest sin would be to sit back and wait for change to knock on my door and say it's safe to come outside.

It is unfortunate that I live in the same society where there are Michelle Malkins or people who want to see change but don't want to make it. Books such as Malkin's "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals and Other Foreign Menaces to our Shores" talk about the problems in America but don't say anything about how to solve them. Instead its blatantly racist narrative places the blame squarely on the backs of those who want so badly to make America great.

When I consider the policies that Malkin is advocating, it makes me realize who the real terrorists are. It's most disappointing that those are the kind of books that become national best sellers. Those are books that are all talk and no action. Those are books that I would trash because I already know what the problems are. I live with them!

Unfortunately for Malkin, I am 16-years of age with my whole life ahead of me. And with Malkin's misfortune, she will live to see me taking "direct action." She will read headlines that say, "Schools receive funding necessary to better education" and "Communities join together and hold city officials accountable." One can't really want change unless they're out there making it.

Ti'Juana Hardwell is a 16-year-old high school student.

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