For our project, we addressed issues affecting marginalized groups of people. We brainstormed about how to allow people to voice their issues and allow the community to gather and hear from those who have been marginalized. As a result, we created S.O.S., an open mic night series. Our original goal was to have three nights, each focusing on different social-injustice themes . This was important because there are many different groups of marginalized people in American society, and each group faces different issues. For instance, LGBT people fight for marriage equality and bathroom rights; whereas, women fight against the wage gap and for the access to birth control.
After working through the logistics of hosting these events, we decided to host one open mic night. This decision deviated from our original plan, but necessary because our group only had time to host one event. We decided to focus on women’s issues for our event, but left it open for the audience to direct the conversation. After going to the Student Life office in the Commons to see how much it costs to rent a space and sound equipment, we learned that we would have to go through a department or a student organization to rent a space, so we had to readjust our plans. Eventually, we contacted the Women’s Center, and they agreed to lend us their lounge for our event.
Taking about 20 minutes to set up the lounge and food, hosting the event was easy. Unfortunately, only eight people attended, so we couldn’t have a true open mic night, as there wasn’t enough material to make it happen. Instead, we decided to have a conversation about current events that deserve the attention of activists and talked about their implications. Raising awareness is one of the most important functions of activism, as you can’t change something if you don’t know that it is even happening.
What worked in our activism project was we were able to give students a platform on which they felt comfortable in sharing their perspectives and opinions. All the students who attended shared and engaged with each other on multiple topics. Everyone respected each other’s opinions and were attentive to whoever was speaking. Our event was successful in giving those students who attended an opportunity for their voices to be heard.
What didn’t work was the marketing. We had eight people attend, which was a lower attendance than we had hoped to have. We also weren’t able to secure any heads of departments or professors to speak at our event. Our open mic night turned into a group discussion. We knew this was a possibility, but could have prepared more for this outcome.
A change we could make is to market the event months in advance on social media, in the newspaper, and across campus. We would be more active in booking guest speakers. Instead of just sending an email, we would actually meet with the professor. Because our event turned into a discussion, the flow of conversation was awkward. Next time, we would have an outline of topics to discuss, with a group member leading discussion and asking questions for the group to consider.
Being a part of a group that was working towards a common goal was the most rewarding part of this experience. Although we are all busy students, it was comforting to know that our partial contributions could all add up to a bigger and more important experience. Learning that small contributions can also be considered activism (not just going to protests, or sit ins, or marches) has motivated us to take these smaller acts seriously, and to encourage others to do activism in any way they can. One of our members came late to the event because of an exam, but she still felt with advertising and posting flyers around buildings that she was helping to spread word of a safe space for others, which is what was really matters.
Although there was not a huge turnout at our event, another part about activism that changed our perspectives was not seeing failure in situations that don’t go as planned. Instead of an open mic night, there was a discussion; which might have felt less impressive, but still just as rewarding. Our relationship with activism changed in this way because we were able to gather with a group of people and discuss how the world was impacting us. This is something I wouldn’t have considered activism before this semester, but it truly was a small act.
On the first day of class, we talked about the multiple definitions of activism. We all came to the conclusion, that their isn’t a definite definition to activism. It depends on the person or people. In our case, our understanding of activism could be defined as an action shedding light on important issues. With our work, we have changed our definition of activism to fit our project’s objective and purpose. Our activism, was first the action of providing an opportunity for people to speak out about important issues that have affected. The second part, was calling attention to the people’s issues by giving them the platform.
Through this project, we have learned how much work and time go into activism. From coalitioning to consciousness raising to marketing, many hours and hard work is needed to successfully complete a project. Also, as activists, we must be aware of contemporary issues in our world, as well as their historical roots. We chose to host a general event about women’s grievances, so that all of our consciousness could be raised. We also learned that marketing our event has implications on the type of crowd that comes out. The biggest take-away from this project has been that activism takes time, effort, and passion. These projects are not something that can be thrown together at the last minute. In order to have a successful and quality project, careful planning and in-depth research on the issue is needed.