To begin: UMBC is not a socially conscious school and we all know it. The overwhelming majority of the student population here lack any sense pertaining to awareness of issues of injustice. Separately (and to be fair as well), many students are not simply not aware of the activist student organizations that do exist on campus. This lack of awareness about on-campus activism opportunities was one of the many inspirations for me to create the Council of Activist Clubs here at UMBC. The goals for the Council’s existence were as follows: 1) to integrate student activist organizations by fostering partnership and increasing student activist org community awareness, 2) to exist as a resource for activist organization event planning and event funding (which are conjoined with the sub-issues of both event repetition on campus among student activist organizations and low event attendance) and finally, 3) raising awareness about activism at UMBC in order to increase organization membership and social consciousness among the general student populace. It was important to me that some kind of connecting body of representatives from the activist organizations on campus exist because I believe that young people will be the ones to change this world for the better.
Activism was always something I did “on my own” or with one or two friends. However, in last November of 2014 I began to engage with the UMBC Women’s Center and attend some of their events. In doing so, I learned that activist organizations such as WILL (Women Involved in Learning and Leadership) existed here on campus. I was overjoyed to meet so many amazing women who shared similar passions with me. Yet, as I became more and more involved in on-campus activism, I noticed a significant and troubling disconnect between the various activist organizations on campus. I as well noticed a certain level of disorganization when it came to event planning along with issues of event repetition, as mentioned earlier. Co-sponsorship, which is an extremely important resource to have not just in activist movements but for any club or organization, was almost non-existent amongst the activist organizations that were even aware of each other here on campus.
When I began introducing the idea to various activist organization leaders and faculty members, it turned out that I was not alone in my frustration. Many members of activist organizations, faculty and organization leaders desired for the same issues to be solved and were on board with assisting me in forming the Council of Activist Clubs. I began by recruiting “representatives” for the Council, with the vision of the leaders of the student activist organizations being the forerunners for promoting co-sponsorship between their separate organizationss. I recruited representation from WILL, QUMBC and (the now-defunct) Critical Social Justice Student Alliance in the beginning, but now membership has grown to encompass the REACH Initiative, the still-forming Student Union and others.
As for what we accomplished: We set up meetings with clear goals to make the Council of Activist Clubs an effective resource by using various web tools and co-sponsorship. We created a UMBC staff-point person directory for event planning along with an activist org leader directory. We made a Facebook page on which to communicate and share updates on our various organizations and have made individual and collective efforts to support each other’s projects within the separate organizations. We made plans to hold a Social Justice Forum/Mixer in the upcoming fall semester for all the activist organizations and the student populace to come out and learn about the different activist organizations that exist on campus in order to accomplish our original goals of increasing co-sponsorship and raising awareness amongst the student body. Most importantly, we are officially registered as a student organization at UMBC! We have designated officers for the Council who are composed of both org leaders and student activists here. Our governing policy follows that of the horizontal leadership school of thought: leadership is not named in terms of President, Vice President, etc. but rather as designated task manager titles such as Resource Manager, Event Coordinator and Media Manager. We also tabled at UMBC’s Eco Fest to raise awareness about the Council and had volunteers from the Council who were more than willing to table the event, for which I am grateful. As well, the Council has a plan for continuing of leadership for the upcoming fall semester.
However, there were some problems in setting up the Council: the Facebook page for the Council was constantly having members added to it who did not come to meetings and had no concept of what exactly the project was, some representatives from the activist organizations did not attend meetings without explanation and it became harder and harder to keep people on track with the agendas during meetings for the Council. It did not work to have meetings with large groups of people, which went against my original intent for the Council and we still had difficulty recruiting student activist organizations/spreading awareness about the Council’s existence and the presence of activism at UMBC in general.
I learned for certain that activism is extremely hard to do effectively when working in a group. Though social change is impossible with only “lone wolves,” it can in some cases be extremely counterproductive to work with a larger group of people who are not always in consensus. However, there are people who make efforts for change easier: I’d especially like to thank Emily Frias and Sarafina Harper for stepping up in the Council. As of right now, the Council of Activist Clubs is officially registered as a UMBC student organization. There are some minor summer trainings and qualifications to be done over the summer by the officers, but for all intents and purposes, the project was completed. As I will be studying abroad next fall, I leave the Council in the capable hands of those who were selfless enough to step up into leadership positions: Brianne Best, Prachi Kochar, Emily Frias, Sarafina Harper and Jessie Lawson.
Link to the Council of Activist’s Clubs Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/436294466528201/