What does one think of when you hear the word activist? Most of the time the word evokes thoughts of protests, marches, hippies, in some contexts jail or prison sentences. Others consider activists to be extremists who are usually angry and abrasive. Shockingly this paper will show you that these visuals are not necessarily true.
“A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.”
― Barack Obama
The human rights and activism world are speckled with big names such as Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Victoria Mxenge, Shamima Shaikh and Rosa Parks among many others. It is interesting to note that these were ordinary people who chose to do extraordinary things and as a result changed the world as we know it today. These individuals simply choose to say NO while the rest of the world said yes or remained indifferent.
What Is Activism?
Activism in the broad context of the word refers to “various ways in which individuals or groups of individuals can effect change within society through, social, economic, political, or environmental change.” The thrust of activism is to bring about change in society. The building blocks of activism is a realisation that society is marred with injustice and that individuals choose to look at someone and say you are different and thus we will treat you differently. Society chooses to create systems that create injustice based on difference in beliefs, race, sexuality and gender among other variables. Activism thus, is a stand against such institutional injustice.
Who can be an Activist?
Activism can be carried out by any individual and is not restricted to professional activists, organizations, political parties, or public figures. Some of the popular forms of activism include political campaigning, economic activism, street marches, strikes, sit-ins, hunger strikes, boycotts and the use of social media, language and art. What is important to realise is that activism is really in one form or another an act of defiance by ordinary citizens and their core they sought to communicate a message of resistance to the existing status quo and bring about change towards a desired state. WE CAN & SHOULD ALL BE ACTIVISTS. So, whether one is a policeman, a lawyer, a teacher, doctor, student or whatever vocation that one finds themselves in, we should all choose to be an everyday activist.
“In all my work what I try to say is that as human beings we are more alike than we are unalike.” ― Maya Angelou
What is an Everyday Activist?
Everyday activism has been defined as the habit of working socially conscious choices into everyday life. It can be described as "changing the world one habit at a time."
An individual makes many conscious and unconscious decisions in a single day ranging from what to eat, what to wear, what to share or read on social media platforms, who to converse with and the language to be used in doing so. All these decisions have an effect not only on the individual, but on their immediate and distant environment. Research shows that peaceful demonstrations and marches are effective and powerful in bringing about change, however much more powerful are long term behavioural changes that will bring about long term changes.
The principle underlying everyday activism is that an entity (an individual or organisation) that supports certain principles for example, gender or racial equality, should go beyond mere discussions around the phenomena and incorporate these principles in its behaviour and actions.
MOVING TOWARDS PUTTING BELIEFS INTO EVERDAY ACTION!
67 Minutes for Mandela
The United Nations honoured Nelson Mandela by declaring the 18th of July as International Nelson Mandela day.
Mandela spent 67 years of his life fighting social justice and establishment of an equal and just society.
In his own words Mandela said:
“It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”
67 minutes asks that every human being devote 67 minutes of their time – one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service – making small gesture of solidarity with humanity and taking a step towards a global movement for good. The time is now to answer the clarion call towards everyday activism. Mandela Day should not end in mere gestures of good will on a particular day, but rather turned into everyday action, turning everyday into Mandela Day!
What Can I do?
We at The Justice Desk recognise that not everyone can be in the field fighting against injustice, however we encourage that everyone puts their best foot forward in fighting injustice in their different spaces.
1. Take action – volunteer, petition against unjust policies
2. Inspire change – speak out in the face of injustice
3. Make every day a Mandela Day
4. Find out about volunteer opportunities or pledge some of your time https://www.justicedesk.org/support-us
5. Donate to a cause https://www.givengain.com/cause/9315/campaigns/18093/donate/#start
In the end we all have a responsibility not only to ourselves but to future generations to make the world a better place. Future generations will judge us for the deaf ear that we offered to societal injustice and the silence we gave and the blind eye that we turned to those who need us most.
Take action today and become an everyday activist!
Yours in Justice