-Gandhi. Artwork by thinkpeace intern Remy
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.
Rep. Jackie Speier and thinkpeace girl Diana
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!
step up, girl!
These past couple of months I often heard people refer to “the season of giving.” The holidays seem to bring this out in people more than at other times. It made me wonder, why is there only one season for giving? Why limit ourselves? There are opportunities to give every single day, 365 days a year. Sometimes I think people equate giving with money only. Sure money helps a lot but money won’t keep an elementary school kid from being teased or a middle school kid from feeling lonely or a high school kid from feeling overwhelmed or a college student from feeling lost or a new mom from feeling exhausted or a father from feeling pressure or a teacher from feeling unvalued or a grandparent from feeling forgotten. Perhaps the most important thing we each can give is, simply, kindness.
Still, thinking kind thoughts, wonderful as they are, is not enough. Your smile, your compliment, your acknowledgment of another is action, real action that you can take that will impact another. Similarly, thinking about poverty, homelessness, gender violence, global warming, etc. isn’t enough. It’s a place to start. The issues sound so big and we’re left feeling that there is nothing we can do that will really make an impact. There is this pervasive belief that we’re all too busy. We’re already pulled in a thousand directions– who has time to take on world hunger? Sometimes I hear from other parents that kids need to be kids and have more time to play and shouldn’t be burdened with the harsh realities of the world around them just yet. So they play a lot of sports and a lot of electronic games. I love play! Love, love, love sports! And I still think we have time to care about others and give. Recently I was watching my son and his friend laugh together while sitting side by side on the couch playing games on their devices. I so love hearing the laughter but after an hour of this they seemed caught in a zone. I asked them if they wanted to take on a challenge. Knowing me and my ways, they were instantly suspicious! They took a chance and said, sure– bring it on. I placed 5 food items in front of them and asked them to create a winning appetizer. My son’s friend hasn’t cooked much and began to get agitated. He had no idea what to make. He stared at the ingredients for a long time. 5 random things. We started to talk about food choices and how many we have and how we take it for granted that meals come easily to us. Most of us. I asked the boys if they had any idea how much money the 5 ingredients before them might cost. They were shocked when we figured it out. We started to talk about the poverty line and how people can possibly manage to live on $1.25 a day in this country. They asked how kids living below the poverty line get lunch at school. Fact is, more than half of American kids who attend public school rely on a meal at school for the only one they’ll get. As my son and his friend talked and had fun while creating their culinary masterpieces they were thinking about hunger and poverty. Then we talked about action, what could they do, how could they give of themselves to someone who is cold, hungry, homeless in our own community. And so it begins…
There ARE things we can do. Kids can volunteer at local shelters for certain needs. You know that laughter coming from the couch of two boys playing electronic games? What if those boys went to the shelter with some hot chocolate and sat with someone there and played with them for an hour? It’s a simple act, requiring no real money. What if that smile shared felt so good that they went back again another evening? I can honestly tell you that giving from your heart is just as addictive as video games or the adrenaline rush from a perfect shot on the court. We can play and learn. We can play and think about others. We can play with others who don’t have much of a chance for play. We can play and give.
It’s the little bits of good that each of us can do that truly can overwhelm the world. Every day, every season…
P.S. the boys made the most delicious crostini with toasted marshmallow, basalmic-infused sun dried tomatoes!
Are you having one of those days? It’s not fun to wake up early for school. It’s a drag having several hours of homework at night. Chores are a bummer. Losing phone or computer privileges bites. Bad hair days are really not okay. Brussels sprouts and fish for dinner? Ew. Feeling left out by friends who didn’t ask you to go to the mall with them is a pretty rotten feeling. The question is, how can you lift yourself up and out of the blues?
Would it help if I told you how lucky you are? Girls in developing countries can’t attend school because they are busy carrying water or food for their families for up to 15 hours a day. 143 million school-aged kids aren’t in school. Chores are a way of life, literally. Many wonder where the next meal will come from, if at all. As we bite into a stinky brussels sprout perhaps we could be thinking about the cup of rice a teen in Africa might be fortunate to be eating. As we drink our milk we might take a moment to be happy we have a disease-free beverage. And when we wake up cranky about another day of school, we could roll over and take 5 minutes to appreciate our warm beds and safe homes. But is all this enough to turn your day around?
What will really make you feel good is to do something for someone else. It doesn’t have to be something big. Taking a box of your old Hot Wheels cars or Barbies to a local shelter will make you smile. Making cupcakes with friends for a bake sale to benefit kids with no homes in Haiti will make your heart feel full. Standing up for a picked on kid on the bus by simply sitting with her and talking about music will make you both sing. These kind of “feel good” moments will take you out of yourself for a bit, lighten another’s day, and give you back more than you could ever imagine. Make today a good day!