The Women’s March was magical and memorable, and sustaining that level of energy in the time ahead will be critical. We’re in it for the long haul.
It’s time for each of us to consider creating a portfolio of activism. A bit like some people have a balanced financial portfolio, although in this case it would take the form of commitment, care, campaigning and creating.
We each have our loves, our strengths and our causes, and together we form fierce movements for social change. Here’s how we can be effective as activists without burning out. Here’s how we make it fun and also sustainable.
This is the time to decide which causes and groups we want to prioritize, and to educate ourselves about those issues we want to know more about. That’s the commitment piece. This involves deciding what we feel most passionate about and then doing our research to determine which organizations are doing the kind of work we want to support.
We may choose a mix of local, national and regional groups and issues and we may prefer to prioritize small cutting edge groups or bigger organizations that have the potential for great bang, or a mix of these. We may want to balance our support for human rights groups, gender justice and racial justice with those supporting environmental justice. Important here is checking the leadership of the groups – who is on the board, is there a commitment to diversity, gender balance, inter-generational leadership? We need to do our homework to know what we can about the organizational leadership as well as its effectiveness in achieving its mission.
Then comes the question, how do we want to support these organizations? Do we want to write a check or commit to a monthly pledge fund or would we prefer to volunteer time to one group and give money to another. Mapping out our giving on a matrix chart is a way to play around with what feels right at heart as much as in our minds.
It helps to also connect our passion for change in our own country to the broader changes needed in the world. For instance, I want to spend time and resources supporting organizations working to shift power to women for their political participation and voice. That’s why I’m so happy to be working for The Asia Foundation which has led work for women’s political participation in Asia for decades. Now we’re stepping up that commitment to a new level. Since we live in a highly networked world we can use our power and resources to support women across the globe in their own desire for political participation and voice. Imagine an Emily’s List playing out across Asia to get more women into political office, and to ensure women can vote and exercise their voice as activists and advocates in their communities and countries and you’ll understand why I’m so passionate about the work of The Asia Foundation.
Beyond our commitment to organizations comes our commitment to each other. Being a mentor and being a mentee is a profoundly transformative act and we need to set aside time to do this intentionally. I commit a portion of my time each week to mentoring others and to seeking out time with people who mentor me and the practice of mentoring has been integral to my work and to whom I’ve become today. Our activist selves benefit from this generous commitment from mentors to learn and grow and we also need the good energy of paying it forward as a mentor to others.
Care (of self)
We need to invest in our own self-care, whether it be yoga, swimming, reading, massage, facials, meditation, cycling, tai chi or other forms of relaxation and recreation. When we create this space we have time to dream and feel spacious in our lives.
So, when you need to, turn off twitter, social media and the TV and let your chi flow. You’ll be encouraged by the energy you gain by being discerning about which media to read and engage with and by keeping TV at bay.
Choosing what we read is kindling to our activist selves too. I’ve been re-reading texts by Martin Luther King, and My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King and the brilliant, brilliant book, Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After as the third in the trilogy by Blanche Wiesen Cook. If you want inspiration, this is the one. You can order it from your library and that’s another place for care of self and soul. Supporting our libraries is a political act. These are not only sources of knowledge and activism, they are places of rest, renewal and community.
Our caregiving to ourselves feeds our soul and opens up channels to our creativity and imagination. It’s important that we allocate this time in the same way that we do for business meetings. We need to be intentional about our restorative time and then it sends a powerful message to others to also value our time.
I love switching off and putting on my favorite music and doing a swish and twirl with my hula hoop in the mornings. I adore catching the hippy Marin Stagecoach bus to Stinson Beach and watching the surfers and the dogs racing into the surf. And I love returning home to my rocking boat and falling asleep after the sun slips down.
Rest is a radical act that contributes to shifting energy and shaping the world.
It’s important for us to determine which campaigns we’re going to back via petitions and politician letters. We may choose an A list of organizations and causes we’ll back to the hilt and expend a chunk of time supporting. And then we may have a B, and even C, list of others that we’ll support with the time we have available and to the extent that we can.
Our A list may involve us attending meetings and writing those letters to our political representatives while we may choose to support some additional organizations by signing online petitions and campaign letters.
We may choose to prioritize several organizations in our twitter feeds and LinkedIn and Facebook posts. Whatever way we do it, we can make our voice heard through the campaigns with which we engage.
And here too we need to allow enough space for responding to what feels urgent and right. Witness the group of women and men in Nova Scotia who felt called to have their own women’s march that was small in number and so big in spirit that the video clip of their banner march down a country road went viral.
And witness the power of my soul friend, Juniper, and her friend Bellie doing their own campaigning for love and justice.
We need to schedule regular time to create, whether its rad knitting, clay making, writing, painting, sculpture or something entirely different. Rather than be overwhelmed by the negativity of the issues or the decisions that leaders are making, we need to be actively working for an alternative world infused with generosity, joy, freedom, originality, equality and justice. In the same way the women’s march was an opportunity to state our values and what we stood for, so too our creative selves can take their cue from the spirit of positive intent. Singing, weaving, taking photographs, telling stories are all creative acts that take us into a different state and space.
In this respect, the books we choose to read, the music we play, the food we select to eat, the organizations and people we spend time with all contribute to this mosaic of activism in its most profound form: every choice and action becomes one in the service of grace and beauty and love.
So, please join me in writing an activist pledge, and post it to the world. It’s Time.
My I-Pledge is:
Commitment: The Asia Foundation, MADRE, Human Rights Watch, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Care: yoga, swimming, meditation, massage, hula hooping, library time, mentoring, mentee
Campaigning: including Equality Now!, Amnesty, 350 degrees, Global Fund for Women
Creating: writing new book, crayoning, singing, dream classes
So, c’mon. It’s time.
Also published on Medium.