Up until taking this particular class, I did not consider myself to be an activist. Activism from my perspective was only for those who rioted in the streets and made riveting speeches and blog posts and started influential and effective movements. My first step toward feminism and, by extension, activism, began with a political science class I took during my freshman year of college. Continue reading
This past Thanksgiving, a twelve-year-old girl named Rose McCoy took matters into her own hands, and jumped the barricade at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade to protest the SeaWorld float. She held up a sign that said “Boycott SeaWorld” but it wasn’t long before a cop intervened. Although only twelve, she actively participates in other protests along the side of PETA. Continue reading
When I was in elementary school, I volunteered to be a peer mentor for my classmates who have intellectual disabilities. I remember they had outbursts and had trouble expressing themselves with words, so they resorted to using their body language. I remembered this was unsettling to me. But I remembered the term “peer” which we went over constantly in class. It meant and still means to me, “equal.”
So last spring when the opportunity presented itself to help teach theatre to a group of our SUCCESS peers (UMBC students who have intellectual disabilities), I jumped on it. The first class, I saw what they could do. I found how they could produce honest and real moments; that were uninhibited and natural. However, what I saw in the professor and other aids was a sense of “othering” them. Through treating the SUCCESS peers with an inclusive attitude but careful not to discount their learning. At the end of the class I performed along side them in the culminating performance. I was proud of what each person had accomplished, just as I would be in other classes I taught.
So I’d say my activism is two-fold. It is teaching theatre to people who are not normally given the option as well as treating them in a way that sees them as people first. Ability second. My theory is that ability takes many forms and we are all disabled, we simply place more emphasis on those disabilities that are visible based on the physical body or the body’s behaviors. To add theatre, it is a tool for anyone to learn communication skills and confidence. But what I have loved about that experience is my peers’ want to learn and sheer enjoyment in simply getting on stage.
My second element in activism is role modeling for the professor and other student peers; that these people can and should be treated just like everyone else. I am excited to continue in my activism this semester by teaching a second round of theatre for the SUCCESS peers, who are my equals in every way.
I do not consider myself an activist. Though the idea of fighting for change and equality makes complete sense to me, I am not completely motivated to act. I do care, and I suppose that I am capable of trying to do something but am afflicted with the “what can I do” question and general apathy. The cynic in me reasons that I probably wouldn’t be much help, considering the diligence that commitment takes and my crippling shyness and anxiety.
A year ago, I chanced upon Rafeef Ziadah’s poem ‘We Teach Life, Sir’ and was immediately captivated by her powerful words and earnest tone. Many times, Ziadah has been asked why Palestinians teach their children to hate and this poem was her response. Instead of fighting back with anger, she chose to express her thoughts in a straightforward poem.
Ziadah captures her audience all within a four-minute poem, relentlessly showering them with reality as the poem captures the attitudes of thousands of children, refugees and Palestinians. Her frustration and her anger at being ignored is clearly heard through her spirited but eloquent narrative. As a Canadian-Palestinian, she describes herself as a spoken word artist and activist. Ziadah released her début CD, Hadeel, in November 2009, which she dedicated to the Palestinian youth. She stands up to the numerous people who tell her to sit down and tells the world her story and her struggles. Her feisty response to journalists’ questions becomes an anthem for overlooked Palestinian refugees and activists against the people who want them to stick to the status quo.
Listening to Ziadah’s sincere response to critics made me realise how mute I had been, not taking a stand against something that clearly affects me. Her unconventional bluntness proves to me that making your voice heard is the only way to change society for the better. I’ve learned to admire the people who suffer from society’s ignorance and bravely face their opposition. The more I listen to Ziadah and learn about the shared plight of millions, the more I become conscious of how society mistreats people and how something has to be done.
The maltreatment of Palestinians sickens me and it seems as if no one is doing anything to help these people. However, Ziadah’s poem is a confirmation that Palestinians still stand strong and I have so much admiration for people who can still smile despite their hardships and trials. I can no longer keep quiet on pressing matters. I have learned to stand up for the people who deserve respect and a decent life. For most people, going against what society expects is terrifying and yet it is the people who are brave enough to make their voices heard like Ziadah that push society in the right direction. It has become my personal obligation to help the mistreated, the oppressed, and the people whom society has degraded.
Before this class started, I never considered myself as an activist. By reading Grassroots at the beginning of this semester, I’ve learned to look at the word ‘activism’ differently. To me, activism is being able to recognize opportunities for change in our lives. Also, being an activist is being able to make things better for everyone in society. Though I may not consider myself an activist just yet, I am learning to take action in my own life.
One thing that I am very passionate about is marriage equality for everyone. My younger sister considers herself part of the LBGTQ community and I am extremely protective of her. I want her to be able to be herself and not have to hide who she is just because society may not accept it. The only activism that I have participated in is through the means of social media, using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. My sister has a tumblr and frequently blogs about her thoughts and beliefs, whether it’s about marriage equality for her and others, or about her favorite tv show.
I consider my sister an activist. She has always stood up for her beliefs and has learned to take criticism from others if they don’t agree with her ideas. I want to be able to learn from her, and to be able to make a difference in not only her life, but maybe in somebody else’s. Social media is a great way to share ideas and activism with others. I think that starting a tumblr for me is a great idea, because people from all around the world will be able to see the activism in my life and see some of the things that I believe in. As a “beginner” activist, social media would be a good place for me to start and through that, I can build up my way to hopefully incorporating activism into my daily life, outside of my computer.
It seems cliché to say that I never thought I would have an impact on the youth of my community, especially as a teenager myself. When I came out as queer in the spring of my sophomore year in high school, my (thankfully accepting) mother asked me if I wanted to go to a “support group” of sorts. Desperate to meet other LGBTQIA people my age and to wax and wane about the struggles that came with being openly out in the microcosmic world of high school, I vehemently agreed. This group, the Rainbow Youth Alliance, met during the weekly meetings of the Columbia chapter of PFLAG, or the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. As I continued to attend these meetings, I came to realize how many teens made the half-hour trek from the Towson area, a particularly difficult task if one did not have a car and/or accepting parents. Since I also made this trip every Tuesday, I decided to do something about it.
On the first day of class we were ask if we viewed our self as an activist. My initial reaction was no, I am not one. I saw activists as people who were responsible for making broad sweeping change, such as Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Martin Luther King Jr. and many other people whose work made life better for a significant number of people. After reading our book about activism in the workplace and class discussions I realize that I have been an activist. I have not affected change to help the masses, but in a small way I have contributed in raising awareness and funds for the National Children’s Hospital Center.
Several years ago, the credit union that I worked for was a sponsor of the Credit Union 10 Mile Cherry Blossom Run in DC. It is a fundraiser for the National Children’s Hospital Center. A group of my co-workers and I volunteered to work at the 5 mile turn, drink station. We were up at the crack of dawn, it was cold and dark as we boarded the bus for DC. When we got there we had to prepare 1000’s of Gatorade and water cups for the runners. After the race we had to pick up all of those cups that had been thrown down by the runners, what a mess. We were sticky and wet, but we had a wonderful time as a team.
Several months later I left the credit union and I began working for a much larger credit union located in New York, but my job duties kept me in this area. One of the first things that I did was to begin advocating for my new company to support the credit union fundraiser for the hospital. I put together a proposal outlining the organization, and the benefits to my company to become a sponsor. It was a large commitment on their part and they agreed. I asked the board, who oversaw the Credit Union Run, if I could participate in any capacity and they offered me a volunteer position on the marketing committee that worked all year around to plan the events. I spent a great deal of my free time, writing letters and making calls to solicit sponsorship. We developed a website, marketing materials and worked in tandem with the coordinator of the race. I loved every minute of my involvement.
Each year we would go to the National Children’s Hospital Center in DC and meet some of the children and do art activities. My first experience was an eye opener. I have two sons, besides some minor injuries and a few spiked fevers in the middle of the night, thankfully I have not had much experience with having a child in the hospital. I was not aware that some families, including well siblings, spend their entire existence in a hospital when they have a sick child. Many adult family members expressed to me how significant the Children’s Hospital Centers care had been. They accept all children who need medical assistance regardless of whether their family can pay for care.
I spent several years volunteering for the marketing committee. We began by raising a few hundred thousand a year, and that grew to over a million dollars each year. It was a collective effort by many people who volunteered for the organization, but with the help of all involved, including the 12,000 runners (one was my husband) we have raised national support for the Children Hospital Center.
Growing up, I was a sensitive child. I, like most kids, had feelings that could easily be hurt or otherwise change on the fly for any number of reasons. As an adult, I find this to remain true. Though now, rather crying in frustration like I did when I was six, I feel anger and sadness and use the techniques I’ve learned to manage them better than I did back then. The intensity of my feelings when they’re triggered, and how I deal with them, I think is the primary reason I became involved with the idea of any kind of activism to begin with.
When I was a kid, about ten or so, my yuppie hippie dad and my sister, recently out of college and wielding an environmental science degree, which never did get her a job in the “real world,” imparted unto me stories of the evils of litter. Continue reading