Listening To The Voices Of Activists In Chaotic Times: What Activism Means To Activists


Author: Emili Ema Sedlar

In times like today, where human rights issues are jeopardized and ignored by many people, it is not so difficult to define activism and the core of its function in democracies. Thankfully, many well known media outlets from across the world have written about the legendary Women’s March and Immigrant March that took place in 2017; many elementary schools, high schools and even universities mention Alicia Garza as today’s most important icons in representing Black Lives Matter and why it needs to be discussed with everyone. Also, there are many people today that even talk about the meaningful campaign messages the Black Lives Matter organization has created. It is crucial to mention their most powerful campaign „I can’t breathe“ in which many people shared photographs, statements and speeches about the unjust that goes on every day in the United States. Lastly, we cannot possibly forget the heroes that openly criticize Trump’s administration for separating thousands of families, damaging the true image of what a true democracy should mean, becoming a negative example to many countries that seek true leadership and solidarity.

Just in the United States, in each march and protest, the media has recognized compelling and influential messages that many activists have written, thus thanks to the power of social media, people have used these messages as their profile and cover photos or even as a tool to create a serious message to their friends.

This article will highlight leading activist and the reason why they protest in a specific field today.

Kim has been a teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools for 13 years. This year, she will be transitioning into a policy and advocacy role full time, in order to fight for educational equity in different capacity. „ I first engaged with advocacy work by organizing with Baltimoreans for Educational Equity (BEE) about three and a half years ago. I’ve found that work to be the most inspiring and impact-full work I’ve done, which is why I’m so excited about moving into this type of work full time“, explained Kim.

Furthermore, when Kim describes why she is an activist in the field of education, she explains that this topic is essential since she believes that every child deserves a quality education regardless of zip code. Beside education activism, she is also a passionate activist for immigrants rights, LGBT rights and women’s rights.

When it comes to the origin of her activism, she tells her of how her grandmother played a major role in activism, thus illustrates how it all happened. „ When I was eight, my grandma took my sisters and me to a rally to protest the US involvement in the Gulf War. She explained the significance of the little film containers flooding that rally that were meant to represent oil barrels. They read „no blood for oil“ and she talked to us about the pros and cons of the US involvement in Kuwati“, she highlighted.

Kim’s grandmother was an influential activist, advocating for peace, social justice, environmental issues, women’s and homeless rights, the rights of native people from her hometown in rural Pennsylvania. „She was named Erie’s Woman of the Year by the American Association of University Women in 2005 for her active commitment to women’s rights and her tireless support of the civil rights movement and voting rights for all. She was an active member/supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters, American Association of University Women, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Lake Erie Coalition, Erie’s Drop-In Center (preparing meals for the homeless), Planned Parenthood and so much more“.

To Kim, when it comes to activism and how to discuss about it with colleagues and friends, it is important to have a two-way conversation in order to see others’ views and experience. In addition to this, she points out how she is constantly in touch with other activists and they regularly share news and important ideas about a movement. „The crucial component to these conversations is to be curious about the alternate viewpoint and to elicit personal stories and beliefs. I try to make connections between their lives experiences and my own, otherwise it’s too easy to dismiss alternate viewpoints by just viewing the other side as the enemy rather than a human being“.

Kim recently attended a rally organized by Planned Parenthood and clarifies how the protest means a lot to her since they’re a strong organization that fight for reproductive and human rights. „I spent many years as a young woman broke and uninsured, which wasn’t so scary initially; I was young, healthy and seemingly invincible. But then I remember finding out that I was pregnant. And I remember then-boyfriend and I being totally reliant on Planned Parenthood for care. And I remember finding out that it was an ectopic pregnancy, which is a critical condition. So as a woman who was once broke, uninsured, very scared and reliant on PP for life-saving treatment, I will always be inspired to rally or march with Planned Parenthood in the hopes that other young women won’t have to make decisions about life-threatening conditions without having options“, ended Kim.

Nancy Duncan spends her time watching TV, going to the movies, concerts, hanging out with friends and her son who is 38 years old. Duncan is an activist in the fields of HIV and Women’s Reproductive Health rights. „I have been an activist for 20 years. When I started to do better on the new ARV meds that came out in the mid nineties and I began to become healthy, i felt as though i needed to become more involved with HIV funding, advocating and being a voice for those who couldn’t speak out and now I work with the Ending the Epidemic Committee in my county. My motivation has always been to help the lives of people living with HIV have a better quality and access to all the services they need“, revealed Duncan.

Duncan is always in touch with colleagues and other fellow activists through Facebook, in which she is able to post, see and describe protests that will be held in some cities. She hasn’t had an argument with anyone about these issues, but has passionately worked into helping people living with HIV through advocacy and street outreach.

In schools, Duncan regularly talks about how activism can bring great changes to the future, thus how they should always be aware of the people that are active in those fields. „I do talk about it in schools to make young people realize that all of this will affect their futures most and if they don’t want to lose certain privileges and services, it’s important to speak out“, demonstrated Duncan.

From the Author: 

Hi there lovely people! 

My name is Emili Ema Sedlar and I am a journalist from Croatia. It is such an honor to be volunteering for Women’s Rights News and bringing out new ideas about today’s issues in society. I am a college student, majoring in journalism and communications. In the past few years, I have been an activist in the fields of education, HIV, immigrants’ rights and women’s rights, focusing mostly on stories that are unique and different. I have published my journalistic works on many Croatian news sites and for over a year, I’ve been a writer for Positive Women’s Network-USA.