Regardless of your political leanings, we all want to make the world a better place. Still, it’s so easy to feel powerless. From global issues to local issues, problems seem impossibly big and completely unchangeable. Where do you even start?
Luckily, people experienced in the field have offered advice. “Rules for Revolutionaries,” authored by the senior advisers of Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign, provides 22 rules for “Big Organizing” to magnify a small grassroots movement into a large force for social change. In a similar vein, “Road Map for Revolutionaries” offers practical advice on attending protests, calling your representatives and leveraging social media for a cause. The book also gets into the grittier aspects of activism, such as what to do if you are arrested or tear-gassed. The layout features helpful charts and graphics, which make it easy to get the information you need with a quick glance.
One thing stressed by all activists is the importance of joining up with like-minded people and organizing. You can do this online via social media, but there is also something to be said for finding people in your own community. Chances are, there is a local organization that lines up with your values. If not, you can form one. Many local events also highlight social issues, which provides the opportunity to learn from leaders in the field and connect with your fellow attendees for support. For example, in the Climate Reality Project, which will be held in our Callaway County branch on February 27, Gary Leabman will share his vision for a sustainability revolution. While there are some admirably hardcore environmental activists out there, you don’t have to live in a tree for two years to have a positive effect on the environment. Reducing waste, altering your diet and other simple changes can help you be a little kinder to Mother Earth.
There are many more social issues to address outside of environmentalism, but there is no shortage of role models. In the struggle for racial equality, Martin Luther King, Jr. is perhaps the most well-known. He was supported by his incredible wife, Coretta Scott King, who continued the fight for racial and gender equality her entire life. Many women, from the suffragettes to Ruth Bader Ginsberg (and so many more) have fought for rights that I enjoy (and sometimes take for granted) today. Max Starkloff made immense strides for disability rights by encouraging local governments to remove physical barriers, make public transportation and housing accessible, and pass laws preventing job discrimination.
There are so many areas of inequality to address that it can be hard to know where to start, but bear in mind the interplay between different areas of oppression. This is known as “intersectionality,” a term first used by Kimberle Crenshaw and popularized by activists such as Angela Y. Davis, bell hooks, and Audre Lorde. In other words, victories won against inequality in one area often catalyze victories in others.
There are many big-name activists who have accomplished massive change, but it is important to remember the value of local activism; sometimes the world changes one community at a time. If you are interested in studying the history of activism in Columbia before you become a part of it, on February 12, Mizzou PhD candidate Mary Beth Brown will discuss Mizzou students’ efforts to desegregate the university and the city of Columbia in the 1950s. No matter how grand or modest your activist ambitions, starting with your local community is a great way to get the ball rolling. In the words of civil rights activist Delores Huerta, “Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”