AUTHOR: Ashley Benedict
Yesterday was a truly phenomenal occurrence. All over the world, across countries and continents, people marched as one for a worldwide Women’s March. This march was an effort to show solidarity and unity between people of all genders, sexualities, races, ethnicities, religions, classes, abilities, and backgrounds. It celebrated the power of women and the role that we have had throughout history. It called to action the disparities that still exist in women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, racial rights, education, and so much more. It is the largest recorded inaugural protest in U.S. history.
Yesterday made me proud to be an activist. It made me hopeful for the future. But at the same time, I have this nagging question in the back of my mind: what happens now? For most of us every day activists, the fight continues. We go on with our lives and try to make a difference through our words and actions. We try to educate and advocate. We do what we have always done. But then there are the people who attended these marches, who are unused to organized protests and every day activism. What will they do? Will they continue on in this everlasting battle? Or will they go on with their lives today as though nothing ever happened?
This question haunts me. And I do believe that if we are to truly effect change in this country – in this world – we need to see everyone who participated take a stand, not just for a day, but every day.
So what comes next?
I found this handy dandy list from this source, and I thought that they were some great ideas for those who are unsure what to do now.
- What will you commit to doing after the marches?
- Which organizations get funded and which ones don’t? Why?
- When you donate, how is the money being spent?
- Can you identify the body of work being produced?
- What types of people are given opportunities to speak? People from that community or people OUTSIDE of that community? (I will discuss what “privilege” means in another post.)
- How and why do certain issues become top priorities for who and why?
- Which strategies worked and didn’t work in the past?
These are just a few questions that all activists should ask themselves. It is important that we have these conversations, not only with ourselves, but with other people as well. “Activism is not about how many panel discussions you can do. It’s about centering the stories and voices of people who are MOST affected.”
After you ask yourself these questions, it’s important to focus on both REACTION and then ACTION. Allow yourself to sort through your emotions on these issues, as well as your own personal beliefs. But don’t allow yourself to remain focused on the negatives, because in the end, it will make you feel hopeless. Instead, turn your initial feelings into ACTION. Don’t simply think to yourself, “Wow, this is a horrible thing that needs to change.” If you take initiative to become an active part of your community, you can be apart of the effort to create change. Join a grassroots organization – put in the work. Use your voice to speak up against injustice. Direct the spotlight onto the people who are most affected by these oppressive institutions. And more than anything: organize.
“Marching is a tool, not a goal. If you have no plan before and after the march, it will not be sustainable. It will merely just be a memory and that won’t be powerful enough to overcome ANY racist administration.”
I really do hope that the massive turnout across the world yesterday will be a sign that people are ready to fight for the rights of not only themselves, but for everyone else as well. Preaching equal rights is one thing, but actively fighting for equal rights across the board is another. If we are to hope for any sort of change at all, these conversations have to continue, and so do these massive events. However, we cannot organize with no true goals in mind. Otherwise, we are filling the streets with nothing more than dreams – and dreams are fine and all, but fulfilling those dreams would taste even sweeter, I imagine.
I have learned a lot about activism in the years I’ve been an activist, and I’m still learning. I know there’s more that I could do, and that’s my own personal goal: to do more. Get more involved in my community. Research grassroots organizations and ask them what I can do to help. Use my own privilege to bolster the voices of those less privileged. Move into action.
What will you do?