Thursday, April 16, 2009

Becoming an Activist

Oftentimes while facilitating on campus people ask me...

"What steps can I take to become an activist?"

I think many people have very different journeys on their way into the adventures of activism. This is what the journey looked like for me:

First I had to figure out what kind of activist I wanted to be. Did I want to be political, in-your-face, artistic, one-on-one, en masse, passive, active, rebellious, extremist, etc?

The way this has hashed out is that I'm a mix of a lot of things, but I don't ever see the point in becoming violent. I also make sure to research groups before I join them in "the good fight" because sometimes it isn't as good as it looks.

I also had to decide what was important to me. That has turned out to be social justice, civil rights, safety, mental health, addiction/recovery, LGBTQ issues, racial issues, and more to come I'm sure?

Now that I had an idea of what I wanted to do, I had to get educated. I have joined several listservs that cater to my activist interests. I read books. I watch documentaries. I talk to people who have been around longer than me so I can get the kind of history that no book can tell you. I talk to my peers and see what they have to offer, which is surprisingly a lot. I keep an edge of skepticism because sometime "excrement" can be heavily perfumed and presented with a plethora of glitter and spangles. I remain teachable. The second I think I know everything I'm fighting a downhill battle.

Now comes the action. What have I done to be heard?

I have written emails, written letters, lobbied congress, talked to friends, talked to family, utilized online social networking databases to disseminate information, attended rallies, become a peer educator, performed in monologue shows, written papers, attended community events on campus, attended community events off campus, attended conferences and conventions, taken part in student organizations, marched in protests of varying sizes, and listened to what others have to say.

I am by no means an expert in activism, but I do know that it has changed my life. I know that when I am old and gray I will be able to look back and see that I did something that made a difference. That I turned anger, shame, sadness, frustration and hurt into passion, action, and results.

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