Activism 101: What is Activism?

What is activism? It gets a bad rap these days. When many people think of activism, they imagine protestors in the streets rioting. Many people are hesitant to label themselves as activists because they feel like they aren’t doing enough. 

For a long time I was this way. I didn’t think I could call myself an activist because I didn’t participate in demonstrations. I thought about the Civil Rights Movement and all the people who put their bodies on the line marching in the streets and getting arrested.

I was too afraid to expose myself like that (and so afraid of getting arrested). I felt like if I wasn’t ready for that kind of sacrifice for the cause, I couldn’t call myself an activist.

But then I started reimagining what an activist looks like. Yes, the people who take to the streets have such an important role in the movement for liberation, but that isn’t the only role necessary.

Activism is “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.”

There are many ways you can be an activist. I started the Activism 101 series to help you learn the ways in which you want to shape your activist identity. Come back for more posts about different ways to stay active. Here are four ways to get you started:

Volunteering

There is a shallow side to volunteering, but there is also great joy found in spending your time helping people in need. There are some good organizations that rely on volunteers to sustain the great work they do. This is great if you have other commitments, or want to work with multiple causes you care about.

Engage Civically 

It is our right as citizens (naturalize, documented, or undocumented) to be informed of our governing institutions and to influence how we are governed. Know who you elected officials are, how they vote on decisions that affect your life, and how to contact them. All elections are important, so use your right to vote.

Community organizing

Everyone has the power to mobilize people in their community to be more informed about a cause. The more people you get on your team to use their voice and make a change, the better. Some ways people organize include canvassing, calling people in a phone bank, creating petitions, or using social media.

Personal choices

You can also engage in activism by the decisions you make in your personal life. You can boycott businesses that exercise harmful practices, or you can simply model the behavior that makes a difference (like living a low-waste lifestyle or practicing radical self-love). It may not feel like you’re doing anything, but being transparent about your values to others can make a difference.

As you can see there are lots of ways to get involve as an activist. Reading the stories of others and sharing your own stories is also a way. If you love to read, check out the rest of Liberation is Lit!

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