Have you ever felt all stirred up about something but not able to get the words out? Have you watched classmates stand up and speak out and think, “dang, I can’t do that”? Have you wanted to be an activist but in your own quiet way? Truth is, we aren’t all comfortable grabbing a megaphone, getting up on a soapbox, or simply speaking up at all. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t necessary to a cause and can’t invoke the change we hope to see! Let’s talk strategy for the regular girl…
SHOW UP. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”—Desmond Tutu
Recently a super shy thinkpeace girl who feels anxious in crowds was determined to step out of her comfort zone and take part in one of the Women’s Marches. She was passionate about the need for women to collectively raise their voices in mass numbers, sending a clear message that our voices, minds and bodies matter. She knew she needed to be there. But the anxiety was almost too much. The solution? She needed a plan. She needed a small group around her to keep her feeling safe. She needed an exit strategy, just in case it became too much. And she needed a poster that spoke for her. SHOWING UP matters.
During the UN climate negotiations in Paris, youth delegates were not able to carry signs advocating their beliefs. They came up with an alternative idea to symbolize their interest in the need for zero carbon emissions: they painted a black zero near their eye. No words were spoken and no signs were held, but the message was heard loud and clear.
GET CREATIVE. Are you a songwriter or a poet? Are you a photographer or a dancer? You have a unique way of expressing yourself that can powerfully reflect upon a social justice issue! Using your creative expression of your values and beliefs can light a spark in someone else. Post your work. Put it out there for others to see. This form of indirect activism has an impact.
WRITE IT OUT. A lot of thinkpeace girls are more comfortable writing about causes they believe in than speaking out loud. Recently one wrote a fiery op-ed piece on campus sexual assault and racial hate crimes. Others write for their school newspapers on issues ranging from why feminism matters to the importance of community service to the need for responsible gun control legislation. If there is a local, statewide, national, or international issue that sets your heart on fire, write about it! Speaking out, in written form, can prompt important dialogues which lead to action and change.
WEAR YOUR CAUSE. thinkpeace girls recently held a community event for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Many conversations were started that day due to a variety of tshirts worn by facilitators and participants. One said “We are Selma” which started a conversation about Black Lives Matter. Another said “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” which prompted a discussion about human rights violations. Many thinkpeace girls wore pink pussy hats in January to Women’s Marches and some are busy making brain hats to wear for the Science March on Washington in April. This is an extremely meaningful and easy tool for igniting conversation about your cause. Posters, phone cases, shirts, buttons, and hats are small ways to show your position, often prompting good dialogue.
HOW ABOUT A LATTE? Sometimes the most powerful thing we can do is simply talk it out with one other person. You don’t have to talk to the entire community to be an effective activist. Every single person matters. Every vote, signature, and commitment matters. Often people need an opportunity to hear another point of view. All too often we get stuck in pockets of agreement, whether on social media or our friend base, where we are all of like mind. It really helps to talk respectfully with someone with other views and listen, really listen, to one another. Ask someone who might have a different perspective than you to grab a coffee or hot chocolate with you and dive into the deep end. What ever you do, don’t run away from the hard conversations. Turn toward them. Soften your heart. Hold your ground. Listen. Speak your truth. Listen some more. This is a great way to practice peaceful activism!
READ ALL ABOUT IT. We encourage you to read as much as you can from reliable sources. Do your homework. Fact checking does matter. There’s this idea out there that media can’t be trusted but we believe that there are in depth reports, unbiased research, and scholarly writings that are not only worth your time but imperative to your activism. Fake news is dangerous and you need to be educated on how to discern fact from lies. We suggest this article to help guide you: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/12/05/503581220/fake-or-real-how-to-self-check-the-news-and-get-the-facts. “If you see your friends sharing blatantly fake news, be a friend and kindly tell them it’s not real. Don’t shy away from these conversations even if they might be uncomfortable.” Know that what you think and what you say is based on fact.
You can choose to be an ally for others facing injustice. Your presence can offer a safe place, simply by standing next to someone or walking down the hall with someone. Recently riders on a NYC subway took out hand sanitizer from their bags to erase swastikas on the subway walls. Take initiative! Look around and see what you can do. Your quiet activism will inspire others like you to spark fires of their own, and this ripple effect will help transform the world. So regular girls– the ones with quiet voices and pounding hearts– let’s do this! Take what stirs you up and ACTIVATE! And, as always, know that your global girl community stands with you. You are not alone in this business of difference-making. We are here cheering you on!