At age seven, American Julia Young saw a picture of the black nationalist leader Malcolm X in a food store. She thought he was somehow related to her father since his name is also Malcolm, even though they their skin and ages were different.
Later, Julia Young would learn that the two men did have something in common: Both fought for civil and human rights.
Julia’s childhood set her on a path to activism that continues to this day with her father, now age 73, at her side.
House full of children, pets
When Julia was growing up, the Young family’s house was a noisy, busy place. She had four brothers and sisters and several pets, including dogs, cats, birds and fish. The Youngs also kept an animal not often seen in the Washington, D.C. area: a small goat.
Julia remembers that her parents were very open to having different kinds of animals around.
Future career seedlings
Her father Malcolm was a lawyer who made social justice his life’s work. When Julia was a youngster, he would take her on trips that let her see court cases and legal processes. One of those trips was to a juvenile detention center in the western state of Oregon, far from her home.
“My specialty was sentencing. Julia came to Oregon with me somewhere around 1988 or ’89 when I was consulting with juvenile defenders on a project,” Malcolm Young told VOA.
He said he thinks she saw the inside of the juvenile detention center. One day, Julia made a picture of a sad boy in prison, looking out of the window on the prison door, Malcom remembered.
The Youngs also took part in protest marches in Washington, D.C. Before becoming a father, Malcolm protested the Vietnam War. Years later, the whole family marched against the first Iraq War.
“It was just a natural part of our family culture,” Julia remembered. She noted that her parents treated her and her brothers and sisters with respect. Her parents also expected their children to show maturity. These formative activities became the basis for what would happen next.
Dad, daughter worlds combine
Julia is now an associate professor of history at The Catholic University of America. And she has written a book on Mexican immigration to the United States in the 1920s.
So, it was no surprise to Malcolm Young when she offered to fly to Texas last year to serve as a Spanish language interpreter. She wanted to help immigrant women who are asking U.S. officials for political asylum.
Malcolm was pleasantly surprised when she asked him to join her on the trip for his legal expertise. And so began their father-daughter teamwork at the South Texas Family Residential Center. There, they began helping new arrivals to the U.S. understand the country’s complex immigration system.
At first, the team had difficulty working together. Julia thought she knew better questions to ask immigrants than her dad. But she soon “came to respect him for [his] 40-plus years of interviewing” experience. Malcom’s difficult questions led asylum seekers to give information that helped the Youngs build their legal cases for asylum.
Even with this, Julia would warn her father when she sensed a client was getting uneasy.
Dad, daughter arrested
Now a parent herself, Julia takes her children to marches and demonstrations just as her parents took her years ago. But for one recent protest, she left her kids at home. That was a 2019 demonstration at the U.S. Capitol over immigrant children. Part of the protest included a planned act of civil disobedience.
Julia emailed her dad and asked, “Do you want to go do this and do you want to maybe get arrested?”
Malcolm answered, “The family that gets arrested together stays together.”
He was using wordplay on a common American expression that says, “The family that prays together stays together.”
At the protest, Malcolm and Julia joined a crowd of 200, singing and praying outside the Russell Senate office building. Then the father and daughter entered the Capitol building with a small group. They formed a circle around other demonstrators who lay on the floor in the shape of a human cross while holding pictures of immigrant children. When the group ignored police orders to leave, Malcolm and Julia were arrested with the others.
Julia described it as a strange experience and much more unsettling to see her father being arrested since he is an older man.
At the same time, Malcolm worried about Julia. In the middle of it all, they looked at each and shared a minute of loving care.
Malcolm remembered thinking his daughter wanted to put him at ease and make sure he was fine. “So what father is not going to cherish that kind of a memory?” he asked.
I’m Alice Bryant.
Carolyn Presutti reported this story for VOA. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English.
Words in This Story
pet - n. an animal that people keep mainly for pleasure
juvenile - adj. of or relating to young people who have committed crimes
consulting - n. The act of giving professional advice to a person, organization or company for a fee
maturity - n. the state of being fully developed in the mind
interpreter - n. a person who translates the words that someone is speaking into a different language
interviewing - n. The act of meeting at which people talk to each other in order to ask questions and get information
client - n. a person who pays a professional person or organization for services
cross - n. a long piece of wood with a shorter piece across it near the top and that is used as a symbol of Christianity
cherish - v. to feel or show great love for someone or something