The 2016 Election was a watershed moment. It was a moment when many of us realized we had a powerful voice and could no longer keep silent about the world around us. A moment when we refused to let history books write off the great American democracy experiment as a failure. THE moment when activism stopped being what others do and became something we were called to do.
Excuse me? I’m not an activist. Yeah sure, I vote in all the big elections. I even follow political news pretty closely, but I’m not an activist. Sound familiar? The thought of jumping in and trying to make a difference can be terrifying and overwhelming.
<h2>So where do you begin?</h2>
<strong>Find Your Community</strong>: The day after the election Van Jones hosted a FB live video and told everyone to take time to find your community. Supporting those adversely affected by national, state and city governmental decisions and legislation is going to be hard work and you can’t do it alone. You need the support of other like minded individuals who will not only have your back, but are fighting for the same things you believe in.
Sometimes we are lucky as close friends and family members share our beliefs and passions. Other times we can feel like a very lonely blue dot in a sea of red. The one upside to this election has been the emergence of spontaneously formed online communities that offer a place to come together free of internet trolling. Regardless if it is virtual or face-to-face, the richness of discussion and newly formed bonds of protest make these groups a unique place on the internet.
<strong>Learn From Others</strong>: You don’t need to recreate the wheel. There are many organizations across North Carolina that have been doing this work for a very long time. They are experts in what they do and are always looking for volunteers to help support their cause. The NC NAACP has successfully protested with Moral Monday marches, bringing attention to issues of justice and discrimination. Equality NC has been fighting for equal rights for LGBTQ community and has been a leading voice in the fight against HB2. These are just two of the many North Carolina based organizations that are working hard to help disenfranchised communities in our region. Follow their lead.
<strong>Practice Self Care</strong>: Make sure you give yourself permission to have some downtime. The adrenaline rush that comes from protesting at the NC General Assembly or quietly packing lunch bags for Backpack Buddies can be both addictive and exhausting. You can’t rage against the machine all of the time nor can you let your heart break thinking about the kids who go without meals every weekend. It will take too much of an emotional toll, so embrace self care.
Women are not very good at this as we are expected to constantly give of ourselves. In a very interesting discussion on The Hairpin, Sara Black McCulloch perfectly sums up why this is important: “Self-care is a way to at least strengthen yourself, find some inner core so that you’re ready when life comes at you.” In six short weeks, I’ve realized that life comes at you pretty fast in the activist world.
<strong>Don’t Be Afraid</strong>: To me this is the most important thing to remember. There is no wrong thing you can do if your heart and intentions are in a good place. You can take a big step or a small one; all that matters is that you are willing to participate. Stronger NC can provide the tools, but all the tools wouldn’t matter without you!