How to be an Activist.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to reconnect with a friend of mine - an old soul, Ted had just returned from a stint in London where he spoke of the memorable encounters and existential affirmations which had occurred there. I’ve been seeing this more and more; friends packing up and leaving home base for weeks, months, and years at a time, hungry to experience, empathize and grow alongside cultures all over.
Moving away is just as much of a career decision as it is soul-food, as the events of the past two years force our gaze into the proverbial beauty mirror - you know, the one that zooms rather brutally - so that pores, scars and inexperienced flesh hover before us, the plane ticket our scalpel. In an effort to understand, anonymize, or re-invent old parts, we try to zoom out, travel, and reach away from our centre, making the most with what we can find.
One other transformation I notice our generation embracing lies in the ever-increasing drive to speak out in defence of what is right. Instagram feeds, once precious places for all things pretty, pastel and prestige-laden are now hop-skotched with graphics of protest, fists raised in solidarity. Petitions are replacing Tumblr links as the valencia veil of perception is lifted to show the raw, ruddy and rarified skin of humanity we rarely care to see. I like this, a lot. The more I see my friends speak up, the more I want to, and so the circle goes.
In speaking to Ted, we both expressed the typical progression of incredulity, anger and a defiant kind of fire-bellied optimism most liberals in their early-twenties harbour. I felt safe, so I uttered another intimacy, letting it escape from my lips as quickly as a butterfly beats its wings. Beginning as a whisper and levelling out as truth, I told ted that “I sometimes hesitate to speak out on issues that matter to us, issues of equality and opportunity, because I fear that this kind of behaviour will make me less feminine, less desirable as a woman.”
I can recall Ted’s first words in response to this admission as I sat across from him, hands on a well-worn oak table, nursing a now-cold coffee.
It’s true. Though I do not, cannot, let this subconscious snag win, should at least the fact that I have these thoughts be a reason to ask, or press, fundamentally, why?
My point in this passage is simple - do not be afraid to fight for the good guy. Lead with compassion, do not fear that which you do not wholly understand, and do so with gratitude. Practise empathy. Practise kindness, resiliance, and the rituals that make you glow. We do not know everything, nor do the things we have make us any less safe from the rhetoric that threatens to pill, pull and tear at the fabric of our human identity. We are all one, and for centuries have been fighting in the name of this reality. Be as kind to yourself as you are to your neighbour, treat those you love with a true, unwavering respect. I really mean that. Sit back right now and ask yourself if you’re doing that. Life is really special and we should be very good to each other, you know?
By shedding our skin when it matters, we raise the collective good. When we live ensconced in more goodness, beauty shines brighter, progress pushes further, and honestly digs deeper ties.
Do not be afraid to fight the good fight. Do not be afraid to ask questions that scare you about things you do not know. An instagram post, a petition signature, an outstretched hand in the name of equality is not an act of aggression, your teeth are not born. What it is, however, is a soft return towards humanity, an outstretched hand; a smile to a stranger who isn’t that strange at all. You are not harsh for knowing when to speak up. You are not aggressive for knowing when to stand up for someone who needs you. You are beautiful and good and being a wonderful person, and anyone who thinks otherwise will soon realize their error.
Here’s what you can do now:
As you cook dinner tonight, or walk home from school, consider listening to a podcast. This one is amazing, funny, and def not fake news.
Women's March does an amazing job giving you actionable news.
Once a week, we send out an email with a short list of actions to take. This is a public email, so please feel free to share with anyone you think who might be interested. It was created by Michael Skolnik. We hope you will join the movement! The time is now!
Former congressional members on how to resist the Trump agenda, in real time and locally.
Su La Po
Cover image c/o Ted Belton, for Hilary Macmillan FW 2017.