Tag Archives: activism

Elements of Diversity: How Change Agents, Activists, Advocates, and Other Do-Gooders Seem to Not Get It Right After 40 Years of Trying

by Guest Contributor Hugo Najera, originally published at AmericanPupusa


I am disappointed in the still inconsistent and unfinished definition of the “D” word applied by mainstream spaces and do-gooder change agents. The word is a bad choice to describe the ideal we seek, and the most incomplete to describe the cure my social anger. “Diversity” has been tainted before I got a chance to play for the team, it’s the jersey we wear on the court, and few in the team know this.

This problem came to light when I attended “New Models in Media and Activism” sponsored by Campus Progress. The event was a panel discussion with Amanda Terkel – Senior politics reporter for The Huffington Post, Amy Austin – Publisher for Washington City Paper, Latoya Peterson – Editor of Racialicious.com, and Melinda Wittstock – Founder, CEO, and Bureau Chief of Capitol News Connection about the intersection of women, activism, and social media. The 80+ attendees comprised of about 90% 20-something white females, a sprinkle of Black females, drips of white males, and one Latino Albino (guess). The panel provided good insight, suggestions, and anecdotes on their experiences and contexts, showing a spectrum of voices from Print, Web 1.0, 1.5 to 2.0 media. The event also provided examples of the ineptitude of many change agents to grasp what diversity means in real-world situations. One panelist painfully tried to keep up with the others by saying things like “Well, that’s why women are better at getting along because we communicate better than men, which is why diversity is important” and other lovely words of wisdom. Throughout the event, audience members and moderators mostly framed issues of diversity in simple terms like getting more African Americans and women in the media. A white male student from American University correlated diversity troubles at his school with what was happening in the media, as Black candidates who run for student government president never win, asking “how can we combat that so we can be more diverse?”

Such comments assume that diversity is measured only by the number of Blacks, women, and Latinos in the room, without considering the structural reframing, process, and competencies that can make the term usable. “Diversity” as shorthand for a tally of physical bodies and archetypes is one of the major issues this term faces for validity and understanding. This incomplete definition makes whites feel apart and not responsible, targeted groups into tokens who feel responsible for carrying the burden in get-togethers, and ultimately diminishing collective knowledge. And for those who accompany the word with action, process, and competency, it annoys us when others in the choir don’t sing with the entire range of notes true diversity asks for. Continue reading

Quoted: Chicago Abortion Fund Opposes South Side Billboard Campaign

“[I]t’s clear those who fight against reproductive choice for women of color know nothing of why women choose abortion Rather than create fake concern for a community these people have never set foot in, Life Always should spend their energies helping us address the reasons why women decide to choose abortion.  The procedures we help fund are because out community is among the least likely to have regular access to healthcare, family planning and comprehensive sex education.  Our services exist because our women are among the most likely to be victims of sexual assault…

“Women have a legal right to access abortion services and should not be shamed regarding the personal choices they make.  Abortion is a personal decision, not a political discussion.  We will not be moved moved by this anti-choice attempt to hijack our communities.”

~~Chicago Abortion Fund‘s Executive Director Gaylon Alcaraz

If you want to let Life Always know how you feel about their billboard, you can sign a petition here.

Photo credit: groundswellfund.org

The R Goes (Back) to Harvard: Feminist Coming Out Day 2011

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

I swear the Owner/Editrix is keeping us at the Crimson this month.

First, Latoya participated in a Social Activism panel hosted by the Harvard Black Law Student Association.

On Thursday, March 10–to celebrate Feminist Coming Out Day–I will join Lori Adelman from FeministingLena Chen from the Ch!cktionary, and Sady Doyle from Tiger Beatdown for a panel discussion on activism and the feminist blogosphere sponsored by the .

Our panel is actually a two-parter:  the other panel–with , Julie Zeilinger (The F-Bomb)Cherie Hannouche from the Daily Femme, and Anna North (Jezebel), and Chloe Angyal (Feministing)–will talk about feminist blogging as a career.

Please join all of us at Harvard College’s Ticknor Lounge (in Boylston Hall) from 7-8:30PM for an engaging evening of figuring out where feminism is, how to go from here, and how to do what we love–and stand up for what we believe in–and get paid for it.

The best part: the panel is free and open to the public!  So, if you’re in the Boston area, I’d love to meet and chat with you. For more information, check here.

Quoted: Rinku Sen on Creating Social Change

Real change requires both intelligence and negotiation from the inside, as well as pushing, pushing and more pushing from the outside. I think each of us has to choose based on an honest (that gets easier with age and/or meditation) assessment of where our talents and temperament will thrive the best, where we will be the most effective as who we really are.

But once you’re in either place, you have to commit yourself, at least long enough to see what’s possible. And you can’t complain about the things you don’t have because you’re not in the other role. So, all those elected officials can’t be moaning about how the radical organizations in their community don’t understand them, or don’t give them enough credit, or don’t get how hard it is to make “real change.” It’s our job to push you past those excuses, even if they’re grounded in reality.

And those who chose the outside can’t worry about how we don’t get mainstream recognition, or mainstream money, or mainstream friends. We’re an opposition movement for a reason. This student had the impression that all of our Civil Rights leaders had been assassinated, and I had to say, not everybody died. Being on the outside can be punishing, but many activists manage it for entire lifetimes. And going inside doesn’t always protect you from harm.

Do it from your own angle (I like the racial justice one) and support other peoples’ angles too (the gay, the poor, the female). If you can’t get to your statehouse, I’m sure City Hall will do.

–Rinku Sen, “Change Doesn’t Come from Inside or Outside Pressure–It’s Both

Image credit: pehab via blog.mkf.org

Political Confessions and Questions

by Latoya Peterson

Under the diversity banner and strategy, what you get is a lot of white organizations “reaching out” to communities of color, to get communities of color to carry out the agenda of these white organizations with all their white leadership have developed. — Rinku Sen, Facing Race Plenary Session

Dear readers, those of you who have been with us for a few years know about the long standing issues I have with the American political machine. Politics is intricately tied to movements for social justice, so it cannot be ignored completely – but it definitely feels like a shell game.

There is a post I need to write about Maria Teresa Kumar’s comments at Facing Race, particularly the part where she explains why people of color need to engage in political organization and action. (Kumar runs Voto Latino with Rosario Dawson.) There is a post I need to write about a panel at Blogging While Brown where Gina talked about how conservatives invest in their bloggers as part of their community, which is a benefit liberal bloggers do not receive.

We are long overdue for some discussions on the intersections between politics and social justice. However, I find myself declining to participate in a lot of political discourse. Part of that is just me – I grew up in Silver Spring, MD, right outside of Washington, DC and the gaps between Washington (where those with power and influence work and play) and DC (where normal folks try to live in the shadow of this power) are in my face all day, every day.

But the other reason why I generally avoid politics is best summed up with Danielle Belton’s post on Representative James Clyburn’s black blogger press junket:

In a fiery presser on Capitol Hill Thursday where he at times seemed visibly frustrated, South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn blasted members of the Democratic base who were withdrawing support, money during the Midterm elections. He said those Liberal and progressive critics who get stuck on things like the health care bill not being exactly what they wanted lose sight of the long battle.

See, this is why I’m a registered Independent voter. Continue reading

Three things to do today to take action against Native American bigotry

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Just a quickie – if you have 5 minutes today, do three things.

1) Take action against the ridiculousness of racism against Native people and stereotype extremism that is the DUDESONS on MTV (the Cowboys and Findians episode was the topper of bigotry).  The American Indian Movement in Santa Barbara is organizing a day of action to shut down the show on June 6th.

2) Sign up to be a witness (it’s a virtual thing) to the federal government in Canada for under-funding child welfare services on reserves and the ongoing blatant human rights abuses in First Nations child welfare.

3) Watch this video spoof about the new immigration check point for “illegal” European immigrants on Indigenous land and post it far and wide:

Action Alert: Nazia Quazi

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

We are late on picking up the story of Nazia Quazi, a Canadian woman being held against her will in Saudi Arabia.

The Coast recently ran an interview with Quazi, explaining her situation:

A Canadian woman being held against her will in Saudi Arabia says the Canadian government is not taking her plight seriously.

Nazia Quazi was taken to Saudi Arabia by her father in November 2007. Because of that country’s archaic gender laws, women of any age are subject to male “guardianship.” In the 24-year-old Quazi’s case, her father has taken her passport, and refuses to sign an exit visa allowing her to leave the country…

Her family moved to Canada in 2001, although Quazi says her father has maintained a residence in Saudi Arabia, where he works for a bank, for 25 years. Quazi went to high school in Canada and became a citizen in 2005.

In 2007 she traveled on holiday to Dubai to visit her boyfriend. But when her parents learned of the trip, they flew to Dubai to intervene. Her father took her to India, and then to Saudi Arabia on a three-month visa. But, without her knowledge or consent, Quazi’s father changed the visa to a permanent visa.

Ever since, she says, she has been pleading with the Canadian embassy to intervene, but has gotten next to no response.

“When I try to contact them, I don’t get a positive response of any kind. They always say, ‘we’re still trying, we haven’t heard anything yet, but when we do we will let you know.’ There’s never a real straight-up answer to me, to my face. I’m just waiting for them to do something, waiting for something to happen.

Continue reading

Idealize This | Solidarity Tipsheet

by Guest Contributor Catherine Traywick, originally published at Hyphen

My last column, about the ethical differences between charity and solidarity, was a heavy-handed critique of NYT Magazine’s “Saving the World’s Women” issue. Good criticism, however, ought always be tempered by practical suggestions for improvement. So, for this week, I’ve distilled the opinions of other critics, suggestions of notable theorists, and my own rich reserve of activist foibles into 3 simple (albeit wordy) tips for doing solidarity work the right way.

Tip #1: Realize that, no matter how much you know, you actually don’t know shit.

When Americans set out to work transnationally, we have a tendency to assume that our education, or experience, or even underprivileged upbringing makes us both “insiders” into other people’s struggles as well as qualified to tell them how to address it. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that a poli sci major, a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, and/or a stint as the president (and incidentally only member) of your local Amnesty International Chapter makes you qualified to be anything more than an asshole just shy of completing an undergraduate degree.

Third World activists, as well as scholars studying transnational activism, have long decried the Western tendency to speak for, over, and about people of the Third World under the seemingly benign mantle of “global sisterhood” or “global citizenship” or some other similar ideal that blurs the ethnocentrism of their efforts. The first UN Women’s Conference in 1975 is a well-known example of this conflict: many Third World participants took issue with the feminist manifesto drawn up by white American feminist Gloria Steinem, which had been touted as a common framework for action, but was crafted without input from Third World activists.

Continue reading