Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

What are you doing for others?

“Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” – MLK Jr.

Raise Your Voice

I have always been appreciative of people who use their celebrity to raise awareness and increase activism. Celebrities have a much broader platform to spread their message and in some cases, it’s the first time that their fans have heard of certain issues or learned that they can do something to make a difference.

Musical artists are among those who use their voice in order to educate the public. Among those artists, Lady Gaga has been active since the start of her career in supporting the GLBT community. She has spoken in favor of gay marriage and recently she has taken to the stage on the issue of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT).

I want to share a few videos with you:

Lady Gaga’s message to John McCain — click the link in the description for a playlist of activist videos

Lady Gaga encouraging people to call their local senators about DADT

If you want to help repeal DADT, call the switchboard at the Capitol to speak to your senator: 202-224-3121. You can call at any time to leave a message.

As per Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the organization Lady Gaga is collaborating with, here are the talking points to highlight:

–Tell your senators to vote with Sen. Reid and Sen. Carl Levin in opposing the filibuster, defeat amendments to strike repeal, and defeat any crippling amendments.

–Senators should follow the lead of Sen. Carl Levin who will be managing the defense bill.

–It is critical that the vote on “final passage” takes place before senators leave for the election recess.

These talking points are from the SLDN website. Click the link for more information about Lady Gaga’s involvement & more on the organization.

I hope that you will add your voice to those trying to bring an end to DADT. I know that I will be. Every voice matters!

Change

What I’m about to admit is something I’m very ashamed of: I’ve been deleting unread emails. I’m talking about the emails I get from organizations, the ones I signed up to receive. The ones which I’ve been getting and reading for years. I’ve been deleting them.

It started off as, I’ll get to it eventually. Then my inbox would be full of unopened, unread emails & eventually turned into … maybe I should delete these and start over fresh.

Rinse and repeat.

So then I started to delete them, keeping a few if the subject line intrigued me. But the subject line never intrigued me enough, so those wound up getting deleted. That led to just flat out deleting them as they came in.

There was always something else to do, something else to read, or it was too tiring to try to read after the day I’ve had.

There is always something else to do, something else to read, and there’s always something that requires less brain activity.

But there is a reason that I subscribed to these mailing lists.

There’s always something horrible going on in the world and someone has to read about it, someone has to do something about it, and I care about what is happening. I want to be a part of the solution, not the problem.

I’ve been neglecting things so much lately. (You may have noticed this already if you started reading my blog when I started it … when was that?)

Change.

Tonight, I opened the emails I got from organizations today. Granted, one was a cleverly disguised fundraising email, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the start of a change. In order to become more active again, I need to know what is going on so that I can decide what I’m interested in doing. I’m issuing a call to action for myself, this time recognizing that I might need to take baby steps to get back into the thick of things.

Sometimes you need to take a step back in order to see the path. I’m ready to continue the journey, even though I don’t know how long it will take to reach the destination or what other obstacles might be in my way.

Are you ready for change?

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

We Can Change the World

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

You’ve likely heard this quote before. Maybe one of your high school teachers had it on a sign hanging in his or her classroom, like some of my teachers. Maybe you read it on a pamphlet handed out by a non-profit organization. Or maybe you studied Margaret Mead at some point.

The reason this quote is so widely used is simple: It’s because it’s true.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my years as an activist – and as a sociologist – it’s that a collective voice is such a strong thing. Now, there are certainly an endless amount of examples where collectives have been negative and led to human rights atrocities. Let’s focus on those “thoughtful, committed citizens” though.

In addition to the above quote, another phrase that I’ve heard over & over is “Amnesty works”. Indeed, it does!

Like so much of life, activism can be daunting. There are endless human rights violations and atrocities; there are countless numbers of people who are imprisoned unjustly; there are horrid government officials, political regimes, and military juntas. It can be difficult to look past these challenges to see how one person sitting down to write a letter can possibly make a difference. It might seem impossible that your voice would be heard, let alone taken seriously.

However, you can make a difference!

The reason that we are able to make a difference is that together, our voice is strong. When a government official’s office is flooded with letters, petitions, e-mails, phone calls and the like, they take notice. They know that the world is paying attention. And they know that whatever move they make next will be noticed as well.

So, the next time you’re asked to sign a petition, don’t just say “no” thinking that one signature more or less won’t make a difference. Find out what the petition is for* and if you agree, sign your name. You might not think that it will make a difference, but it will.

One of the many Amnesty victories I’ve seen is that of Ma Khin Khin Leh of Myanmar. You can read about her release here: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/iar/ma-khin-khin-leh-is-free/

Although the campaign for Ma Khin Khin Leh’s release was successful, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar still remains under house arrest. I encourage you to learn more about her imprisonment, her work as a proponent of democracy in Myanmar (formerly Burma), and to write a letter on her behalf.

Short summary (from Amnesty International): http://www.amnestyusa.org/action/special/ASSK_casesheet.pdf

Case history (from Amnesty International): http://www.amnestyusa.org/action/special/ASSK_Action_Guide.pdf

Sample letter (from Amnesty International): http://www.amnestyusa.org/action/special/ASSK_letter.pdf

Please note that if you wish to send a domestic rather than international letter, there is an additional address listed at the bottom.

Although I mentioned that I’m looking for new volunteering opportunities, I will always lend my support to Amnesty International campaigns. Today, I will be writing a letter on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi. Join me, won’t you? Together we can make a difference, we can change the world!

*Please don’t blindly sign petitions or letters! Take the time to read through what you’re signing to make sure that you agree with the position being taken and actions proposed. If you have questions, don’t be shy! Ask the person collecting signatures to make sure you understand. Some issues are complex and you might need more background than what has been provided in the letter. If that person is unable to answer your question (hey, it happens) find out if there is a website where you can find out more. In most cases, the person will be impressed that you want to educate yourself rather than be upset that you didn’t sign their petition. I speak from experience!

Time for a New Journey

For the past decade, I’ve identified myself as first an activist.

At twenty three years old, only a year out of college, I find myself working a job to pay the bills rather than pursue my passions. However, I’m still an activist at heart. With my most recent volunteer position coming to a close, I’m hoping to find a new way to channel my energy. I plan on using this blog to document my progress and maybe even encourage others to volunteer their time or lend a hand to a campaign or two.

I like to think that I was meant to be an activist. It was when I was in 8th grade that my history teacher sparked an interest in me. I studied the women’s rights movement both in school and on my own time. I worked with my history teacher on a project for an organization which was collecting information about local women’s rights activists around the 1850s.

Not only did she inspire me academically, but she also was the first person to introduce me to the world of lobbying. As a class project turned into a small organization, we lobbied, raised funds, and publicized to get a skate park build in my town. Although I myself was not and never have been a skateboarder, it was a wonderful learning experience which gave me skills that I have used in every subsequent volunteer experience.

From there I went on to join Amnesty International at my high school, then at college. During my high school and college days I also volunteered with the Northeast regional branch of Amnesty in two different positions. In part because of my volunteering, and in part because of my two high school advisors, I grew as an activist and realized that this is what I should be doing, it’s what I need to be doing.

For the past year and a half, I’ve been a volunteer rape crisis counselor. My standard line when people ask about it is: Yes, it’s challenging, but it’s rewarding. While the majority of my work in the human rights arena is broad and removed from those who need help, that is not the case with the sexual assault work I have done. I was on the hotline, which means that people (not just women, I’ve also spoken to men – and children) call in when they need to talk to someone. You hear the voice of the person who needs help and you hear them hopefully calm down. Volunteering with the rape crisis center, for me, has rounded out my experience a bit.

Unfortunately, now that I’m working a full time job during work hours, I’ve been unable to keep up with some of the requirements to remain in this volunteer position. Although I’m upset about having to give this up when I don’t feel ready to do so, I’m hoping it’s a blessing in disguise. Maybe it means that it’s time to move on and find something new.

So that’s what I’m going to try to do. There are so many ways to help and now it’s time to explore my options!

What volunteer work do you do? What have you done in the past?