By Emily Lambdin
During these unprecedented times, there are many ways we can make a positive impact in the world by providing temporary relief for current issues or fighting for lasting social change. Whether it’s providing meals to the homeless, sewing masks, or fighting for systemic change in our country’s racial and class systems, YOU can make a difference in your community. Here are some thoughts on how to be an effective activist.
What is an activist?
An activist tries to directly influence social change by speaking out, empowering others, and taking public action such as protesting, lobbying, or organizing for a cause they care about.
How to pick a cause
Faced with so many important causes in the United States and the world today, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to decide where to focus your energy. To be an effective activist, it is important to pick a cause that you are personally passionate about. Consider issues that are present in your local community. For instance, I live in the city of Portland, Maine where there is currently a homelessness crisis. The city has stopped providing shelter and other essential services to the homeless population. As someone who loves this city and wants every person in it to feel seen and cared for, this is deeply disheartening to me. Therefore, I have decided to fight for change by participating in protest, emailing local politicians, fundraising to buy supplies for the homeless, and serving food at the temporary encampments that have formed in the city.
A cause can be as small as fighting for your local schools to compost food waste or as large as dismantling the system of racial privilege in the United States today. Just because a cause is “small” doesn’t make it any less important. Often change starts on a local level in very “small” ways.
Activists are Educated About Their Cause
To be a good activist it is necessary to understand the historic roots and current status of the cause you have chosen. Read books and articles about the cause. Educating yourself on the cause will mean that you understand exactly what you are fighting for and it will allow you to educate others about the issue.
Activists Do Not Stop Until Meaningful Change Happens
Being an activist means continuing to take action until real change occurs. Activists do not just show up to one protest or donate one time; they keep showing up, advocating, and fundraising for their cause until the change they want to see becomes a reality. Change, especially for larger causes, can take years or decades to come about. Because of this, it is important to think about how you can become a lifelong activist. This may mean setting monthly and yearly goals for yourself or it could mean thinking about how to make a career out of activism. For instance, you could become a politician, social worker, or teacher so that educating others and fighting for change becomes a part of your daily life.