When Youth Lead, We Follow

Young people are engaging with Living Room Conversations in record number.  We are so moved by their passion and commitment to finding new ways to build our common life together.

Today, we’re featuring Peilin Lu, a rising high school junior who lives in New York. She says that “becoming a part of Living Room Conversations has helped me regain my voice and find the community I longed for, the community that supports me when I ask them to, and especially when I don’t.”

Peilin writes in a recent Living Room Conversations blog post, “I grew up suspended between two worlds. Born in China, I enjoyed having a caring family and being surrounded by people who shared my culture.

However, everything changed when we moved to the United States. That day, I rose with the Beijing sun and slept under the New York moon.

In the eyes of others, I was not Han Chinese, but simply Asian-American. As that revelation dawned on me, fear and insecurity drowned out my voice. I built up walls of silence and encased myself within them, believing that I was safe from any danger.

Unfortunately, my newfound status also introduced me to a companion called racism. From offensive remarks at school to public confrontation on a New York subway, it trailed behind me, taunting and sneering.

I knew the walls would not stand and began to question my silence.  That was when I found my voice in the place I least expected: Living Room Conversations.

It never crossed my mind that a country so divided on political and racial lines can come together and talk like family.

Before entering [my first conversation], I placed a piece of paper over my computer camera, still paranoid that an accidental glimpse of my face would stir unwanted insecurities. To my surprise, I was welcomed with nothing but warm smiles and friendly hellos, prompting me to turn on my camera and remove that piece of paper.

I was shocked when many participants thanked me for sharing my experiences in China. [The staff at Living Room Conversations] informed me that they are always looking for diversity, whether in terms of age, race, or opinion. Upon hearing that, the walls of silence and insecurity began to crack.”

Sparked by that first conversation, Peilin got more involved in Living Room Conversation. She’s gotten trained as an assistant host, joined many conversations, even contributed to writing the new Race in the Time of Corona Conversation Guide.

“Conversation by conversation,” she says, “I began to stand a little taller and talk a little louder.”

Now Peilin advocates for other young people to join her in this growing movement.

She’s inspired and motivated by the leadership of youth-powered movements from past generations.

“Fifty years ago, students flooded the streets demanding an end to Vietnam and organized sit-ins to protest the country’s racial hierarchy,” Peilin says.  “It is crucial for young people to support each other and create a sense of generational unity, much like the student activists did back then.”

Peilin’s story is a testament to the transformational power of community, a power activated by conversation spaces.

In a “conversation on Mental Health, I met Briscoe, another young LRC host,” Peilin shares.

“Her intelligence, eloquence, and incredible leadership was so inspiring and empowering. Briscoe and I have since teamed up to host conversations together and build a youth-led community. For these reasons, I would like to encourage myself and other young people to participate in Living Room Conversations and drive change for our global community.”

Over these bright, long summer days, we’ll be sharing more stories from our young leaders. We hope they fill you with warmth, and get you thinking about the young people in your life.

Is there a young person in your life you can invite into Living Room Conversations?
Is there someone you know who longs to feel connected to community and make a difference?
Is there a youth with whom you could share Peilin’s powerful call to engagement?

After all, according to Peilin, “the first step towards initiating change is understanding change.”

“On the surface, talking to strangers doesn’t seem to create any change. However, by participating in healthy conversations, we expose each other to diverse perspectives and educate ourselves, she shares.

“We are also recognizing our biases and changing one opinion at a time. When we feel respected and listened to, it is easier for us to find a passion for change.”


Shannon Mannon
Newsletter Editor