Voting is a big issue as we get closer to Election Day. But that isn’t the only way people are making their voices heard this year. Over the past few months, Side Effects Public Media’s Darian Benson has followed four young activists as part of an audio diary project for America Amplified reporting initiative. One of them is Dyna Martinez, an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis student who was deeply influenced by her childhood in Honduras.
"My name is Dyna Martinez. I am 23 years old, and I live in Indianapolis.
At the age of 7, I was sent to live in Honduras, which is my family's native country. In Honduras was when I realized how privileged and how lucky I was to live in the United States.
There were days that I would go hungry, there were days that I was very sick, because I was anemic, and I had a lot of health issues. Just the quality of water is very different. And you realize that the role of government and being involved in your community — how important that is very, very young.
Halfway through high school was when I started getting involved in politics. And that is more of the advocacy side of civic engagement, which I absolutely loved. I helped with the Scott Fadness campaign in Fishers. I was a sophomore or junior in high school. And I was like, ‘Okay, I'm going to stand outside the polls. And I'm going to give people these little pieces of literature so that they can vote for you.’ I had no idea who this man was, or I didn't know what party he was. But I knew that it was important to go vote.
Once I went to college, I became president of IUPUI's inaugural Women for Change student chapter. And that was really crazy because it was after the 2016 election
I remember, there was a student engagement series there for the state of women. And there was this group of ladies telling us, ‘At the end of the day, it's important that you know that you have rights and that your voices are important.’ And one of them looked me directly in the eye, and like I at least perceived it that way, and she's like, ‘It's your time to take up the mantle.’
That really impacted me.
And I've been blessed ever since that I've been able to advocate for young women all across my campus and in the state of Indiana pushing for consent legislation.
On the national level I've been advocating for Latinos to be involved not only politically but to run for office. Because even though I've seen people that look like me now like physically, my culture hasn't been represented, especially in the state of Indiana.
One of the greatest things that my family ever did for me was making me go to the polls with them at a very young age. I remember sitting down with my family and watching the debates. Did I know exactly what was happening in them? Or what foreign policy meant? Or like what our economy was doing in 2008? Absolutely not. I had no idea. It allowed me the opportunity to be educated and to know exactly how our government works. I think a lot of people focus on just the presidency on that executive. But they don't realize that the legislative branch is so much more important, and especially at your state and local level.
That has taught me that even though it's great to be involved in those, like the small microcosm of our communities at the end of the day, anything that has to do with legislation still affects us, right? So it's important to have our voices out there.
Democracy … it's not just the people in power, but it's the people that are being led. But it is a form of government in which all of our voices matter. You just have to be involved. And I think that's what makes it so beautiful, is that your voice counts, maybe you don't win. It's not all about winning, but it's definitely about making a difference."
Behind This Story
Darian Benson produced this story Side Effects Public Media as part of the America Amplified: Election 2020 initiative, using community engagement to inform and strengthen local, regional and national journalism. America Amplified is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. You can follow America Amplified on Twitter @amplified2020.
Read more about what Darian learned in this Q&A:
Q: What did the people you talked to say about the experience of being interviewed for public radio? Each of the four people I interviewed for this project was excited to share their story for public radio. This project focused on younger adults, and pretty much every source agreed that this was a demographic not usually represented in public media.
Q: What surprised you about this type of community engagement. I was surprised by how open they were and how willing to share their lived experiences. All of the interviews were done through Zoom, so I worried that a video call would make it more difficult for sources to get comfortable and open up. However, that was not a problem and they were very eager to share.
Q: Do you plan to go back to this group for more conversations? When and how? I do hope to go back to this group for more conversations, hopefully after the election at some point. I think it would be interesting to do a follow up conversation on Zoom, maybe even in person, pandemic-permitting.