Ingredients: Activism, Anxiety, and a Dash of Privilege by Courtney Rose

I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and clinical depression in 2014, and while I have it mostly under control, there are still days where I’m paralyzed by irrational fear (I recall a particular evening where I found myself in fetal position on the floor because I couldn’t figure out how to use my friend’s washing machine). I even had a good cry over what to write for this blog post.

So how does an individual with anxiety live an activist lifestyle?

Life with anxiety does mean that we are weary of many things in this world, but often the only thing of which we are more weary is doing something about it.

The thought of marching in a rally (particularly one that could become violent), making a poster, or even writing a post on Facebook can be enough to shut me off from the world.

There’s a lot of evil in the world, but what if someone hears me? Worse, what if they disagree? What if I go viral and now I’m receiving death threats?

Now, here is where I’ll digress for a bit.

I recognize that this line of thinking is partially a result of my privilege.

I walk this world as a white woman, which I realize affords me the ability to successfully avoid activism. I could live out my entire life without “getting political,” and still feel safe, happy, and fulfilled. My life does not depend on me fighting for my basic rights. I am capable of sitting at home, feeling scared to post my beliefs on Facebook, ultimately deciding not to, and carrying on my day without a hitch.

I know there are those who are not clinically diagnosed with anxiety, but live with the very real fear that they will not survive to see the next day. Afraid to wear a sweatshirt, walk on a particular street, or simply be alone. Being silent could turn to being dead.

So in one of my less anxiety-ridden moments, I pondered my thought process: what if someone does indeed hear me, but what if, instead of my slightly irrational fear of death threats, they actually agree with me? What if they, too, have been afraid to speak up because they thought they were the only one who felt that way? What if now they feel empowered to speak or act because they are certain that they are not alone in their thoughts?

And that is my challenge to anyone like me who struggles with anxiety, but desires a life of activism. Refocus: away from those who might stand against you, and towards those who might stand behind you.

It’s not a change that happens overnight. I’ve been working on myself for years to be more intentional about leading an activist lifestyle. And I’m nowhere near “cured.” Rallies still terrify me, and I still hesitate sometimes to make comments on Facebook or broach certain subjects.

I have found the most growth in starting conversations with those I trust-- a kind of activism practice. I identified those people in my life who will react respectfully to differing opinions, and topics that make me cringe transformed into easy, open dialogues. In this safe space of trusting dialogue, you can more easily identify what you believe, and become more comfortable with vocalizing it.

For some (and I include myself in this category), standing up for what you believe will always be scary, especially with realities of division, injury, and death looming in the back of our minds.

As an individual with anxiety disorder, I discounted myself from an activist life, but even those of us living with anxiety can create methods of overcoming paralysis towards activism.

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Courtney Rose studied English & Creative Writing at Longwood University, and her fiction has appeared in Sante Fe Review. She is an aspiring wedding planner, currently pursuing that dream as an intern, and member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace.

 

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Must Read! Thirteen Types of Activism by Roland O. Watson

THIRTEEN TYPES OF ACTIVISM

"The following are the standard types or methods of modern activism:

1. Volunteer: Volunteer on your own or with interested groups to assist disadvantaged and underprivileged people, and threatened species and habitats. In an international context, volunteer to work in refugee camps, at local schools and medical care clinics, or for some other NGO (non-governmental organization). There is a huge network of volunteer organizations around the world, and once you are part of it, once you start volunteering, it is easy to find new and fascinating opportunities.

2. Grassroots activism: Found or join community, student or other groups and then engage in “tabling,” where you set up a table at some social event and hand out literature and talk about your cause. In addition, such events are often supplemented with, or designed around, activist speakers and performances and exhibitions by activist artists.

The objective of grassroots activism is to increase the publicity of, and most importantly the support for, your cause. You particularly want to engage the interest and if possible the involvement of members of the different groups that are being negatively affected. Your goal is to organize them, to pull them out of their complacency and defeatism, and to assist them in their opposition.

For activism to be effective, we must organize large-scale movements to express discontent and to demand change, movements of such a size that they cannot be ignored. But to do this, we will have to find ways to unify the disparate sources of rebellion that exist, including environmentalists, workers, students, ethnic and indigenous rights activists, religious groups, and even the disaffected individuals who listen to gangsta rap and hard core rock. Further, we must solicit the concern of those individuals who one day will suffer the most, if we are unable to solve our problems: schoolchildren. (They must be recruited as well, to help protect the world they are destined to inherit.)

Activists also must recognize that only one thing, historically, has led to large-scale rebellion: the deaths of a great number of people. Rebellion has never been instigated by the destruction of nature (although the taking of land has been a contributing factor in some popular movements). This is a reflection of human chauvinism, that we only get upset when bad things happen to us. For example, this is one of the reasons why the debate over genetic engineering is finally starting to gain some prominence: it involves a threat to people. (The history of the twentieth century included a number of significant victories against government repression, but far fewer against environmental destruction.)

Lastly, there is the problem that activism is usually reactive. We assume, because we are ethical, that other people are as well; that they have a conscience and are not wholly dominated by personal selfishness. Then, when they demonstrate that they are so dominated, we have to react.

To be effective we must build large-scale movements, and we must anticipate this: we must be proactive, and unpredictable....."

Read the Rest of This Important List Here

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Great Read! "13 Books to Teach Children About Protesting and Activism" by Jackie Reeve (from Geek Mom)

"It’s a politically charged time to be alive in the US. Yesterday’s Women’s March brought out incredible numbers of people in cities and towns around the world who exercised what we consider a fundamental right in America. Maybe you had your young children with you, like I did. I realized while we were marching in a local protest that activism can be a hard thing to define to young kids. Keep the conversation going with these books that help explain and demonstrate what it’s all about...."

Read Jackie Reeve's Excellent List on Geek Mom

 

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Collage by Jackie Reeve

INSPIRATION: "Young Activists Who Made History This Year" by Zing Tsjeng (from Broadly at Vice)

"When historians of the future look back on 2017, they'll probably agree with our current assessment of this year: It really, really sucked. From Trump rolling back Obama-era protections for transgender students to his travel ban on Muslim people, each month seemed to bring a fresh hell to look forward to. It's enough to make anyone flee to their nearest forest witch seeking succor and comfort.

Rather than sinking into despair and pulling out the motherwort, however, young people everywhere have taken the events of 2017 as a rallying call to stand up and challenge our increasingly abysmal status quo.

From trans rights activists like Gavin Grimm and Lily Madigan to mental health advocates like Elyse Fox and anti-Islamophobia campaigner Hebh Jamal, the world isn't short on inspiring individuals who made 2017 a little less hellish for people everywhere....."

Read More About These Amazing Young Activists Here

EVENT: "After the March RVA: Activism Convening" Hosted by Richmond Peace Education Center, Feb 24, 2018

Details from the Richmond Peace Education Center Facebook Page

After the March: Activism Convening Free & Open to the Public

What is it?

Timed approximately one year after the Trump inauguration, the After the March RVA Activism Convening is an effort by the Richmond Peace Education Center to bring together those that are and want to participate in work aimed at achieving equality. The convening will feature workshops, community conversations, and movement building/networking time. The registration below holds more information about the workshops and conversations.

When is it? And Where?

Saturday, February 24th, 2018 at Diversity Richmond (1407 Sherwood Ave) from 12pm to 5:30pm.

It is free and open to the public. However, we are asking you to please register.

Who is it for?

Everyone! Anyone who is (or has) been doing work to better the community and those who are looking to get involved in creating change have a place here.

What will I get out of this?

We hope that you leave After the March with a new or deepened network of folks to work in movement with and with new or deepened "real life" skills. In addition, some of the workshops at After the March will continue to be offered by the Peace Center throughout 2018. The intention behind After the March is to be engaged in the long-term, so this is not a one & done convening.

Childcare and Transportation Assistance Also Available

Read More Details Here

or Have other questions? Email our advocacy coordinator, Jelani at jelani@rpec.org

 

About the Richmond Peace Education Center

The Richmond Peace Education Center (RPEC) works to build just, inclusive and nonviolent communities through education and action.

 

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Winter Warmth Drive! Donations Needed in Richmond VA

Heads Up, #RVA!, Richmond area peeps!, please share!

Our Winter Warmth Drive is what we're calling a mirror event, with the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace organizing similar projects across our home region.

Coats, Hats, Gloves, Socks, Blankets, Sleeping Bags!

We'll be collecting these much needed items from January 22, 2018-February 5, 2018.

Thanks to the generous and compassionate people of RVA Hospitality and Tricycle Gardens, we are collecting warm clothing and winter gear to help our homeless and in-need community members get through this snow and cold weather with a bit more comfort.

From January 22nd to February 5th, bring your donations to one of our two collection locations:

Tarrant’s Café
1 West Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23220

Tricycle Gardens
2314 Jefferson Ave.
Richmond, VA 23223

All collected items will be distributed to local in-need families and homeless community members.

Please bring any items you can to one of the collection locations and encourage your friends and family to do so as well.

We can all make a difference.

If you have any questions, please email wfpcentralvirginia.org

NO ONE SHOULD DIE FROM THE COLD.

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IMPORTANT READ: "Finding What Works For You: 12 Ways You Can Be an Activist Without Going to a Protest" by Felecia Fitzpatrick

"When you’re a woman of color, every day, every moment, you’re fully engaged with white supremacy....

While I believe wholeheartedly in protests, acts of resistance, and raising your voice, I have never felt comfortable at physical demonstrations. I often feel guilty about this—especially, when facing the question that’s all over Twitter right now: What would I have done during the Civil Rights Movement? Honestly, I’m not sure how many marches I would have attended. But I still would have taken action...."

"ACTIVISM COMES IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES....""

If we all have the same goal, why not use our skills and passions to create our own specific type activism? Create a surround experience of activism, if you will—through events, civic engagement, donations, dialogue, art, and digital platforms.

Wondering where to start? Here are 12 different ideas/types of activism you can engage in besides attending a physical demonstration:...."

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE HERE ON BLACK GIRL IN OM

 

 

GOOD READ: "10 Ways Youth Can Engage in Activism" from the ADL's Anti-Bias Education Resources

Never underestimate how powerful you are, how crucial your role in creating change, how integral your beautiful spirits to making the world better for everyone.

from the ADL's Anti-Bias Education Resources:

"Our country has a long history of youth-led movements that brought about significant social change. Young people have advocated for child labor laws, voting rights, civil rights, school desegregation, immigration reform and LGBT rights. Through their actions, the world has changed. Because young people often have the desire, energy and idealism to do something about the injustice they see in the world, they are powerful agents for change....

1. Educate others

2. Advocate for legislation

3. Run for office

4. Demonstrate

5. Create a public awareness campaign that includes social media

6. Do a survey about the issue and share the results

7. Raise money

8. Write a letter to a company

9. Engage in community service

10. Get the press involved

READ DETAILS & MORE IDEAS HERE

 

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Oh, Empathy: First in a Series by SarahGrace Gomez

Let’s be honest. 2017 was hard.

When I finished my Master’s thesis, I submitted the document and then I curled up in a ball on my bed and I cried for an hour. Researching racism and using zombies to communicate the totality of death and violence that characterizes racist action left me feeling broken. While I wrote about premature death and the dehumanization of marginalized peoples, cops kept shooting unarmed black men in the streets. Donald Trump was finishing his first 100 days in office.

I cried because I felt like my thesis was a warning of what would come. The future toward which we hurtled felt more apocalyptic than utopic, and fighting for peace was becoming too much. By August, a neo-Nazi had murdered an anti-racist activist in the streets of Charlottesville. By November, they had gathered on the Boston Common twice. By December, I was tired, and supremely over the year as a capsule of America unraveling. I did what the self-help blogs on Buzzfeed and Huffington Post told me to do; I bought some face masks. I got my hair cut. I ate a kale salad. True to the narrative of self-care that has become so popular in these uncertain days, I excavated time for myself. It did not help.

2017 wasn’t just hard. It hurt. When the stakes were so high, and there was still so much work to be done, I was burning out fast, and I wasn’t alone. My entire network of change-makers and justice warriors ached under the pressure of our work, and we were all searching for respite. My friend who works with Crisis Text Line showed me her notes on compassion fatigue, and they sounded exactly like the tips my friend who works in an animal shelter said she and her colleagues discuss. My friend who used to work at a needle exchange suggested we bring in 2018 by doing face masks, putting on makeup, painting our nails, and practicing the kind of self-care we think will work. In comparison to the work we do, the methods we have for self-care feel commodified, one-dimensional, and insufficient.

This leads me to a few questions:

Why is it so exhausting to practice empathy? And how has the language of self-care ultimately failed us? More importantly, how do we make it work for us?

I decided to write this post because I wanted to put to practice the vision we have for Writing For Peace regional chapters. This content was supposed to be a way to not just discuss empathy exhaustion as a huge problem in activist communities, but to also try to find my own peace in the face of my fatigue. When I told my friends, many of whom are involved with Aids Action Committee, Crisis Text Line, Food Not Bombs and addiction harm reduction, that I was going to write about empathy exhaustion, the resounding response was, “Oh my GOD, I so know what you mean.” It no longer was that selfish project of blogging about exactly how tired I was, it became an ethnography of activists who are at risk of losing hope despite all efforts to avoid that fate.

This will be a series of blog posts dedicated to giving activists the space to contend with their empathy, their exhaustion, their forms of self-care, and where they fit taking care of themselves into their mission of saving others. In the new year, I will continue to explore how the rhetoric of self-care has become insufficient in the face of the work we do and the exhaustion we face, and how we can all fight back so we can all keep fighting.

Happy New Year. Let’s learn how to take care of you.

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Who We Are & Why We Care: WFP Member Profile: Stuart Nicholson

Welcome! I am Stuart Nicholson, an actor and fiction writer in Richmond, as well as a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing For Peace.

Growing up in the woods of rural Virginia to a family of farmers, I have always had a strong respect for the land. Whether I was running around on an adventure in the trees or helping my uncle and grandfather plow or harvest the fields, nature was a constant in my early life. As I grew up and began seeing other issues in life, their effects intrigued, and sometimes worried, me. I remember being fascinated by experiences that I would never have and wanting to understand their impact.

I went to school to study acting because I wanted to be able to tell other people’s stories. I wanted to show hardship and struggle in people other than myself. Writing had always been an extension of that. It allows the versatility to tell my stories, as well as others’.

I wanted to be involved with Writing For Peace because I believe writing and the arts have a stronger pull than traditional advocacy. The arts are able to personalize issues in a way that pamphlet and signature activism can’t. Through Writing For Peace, we can show the effect all of these socio-political issues have on the people around us. Despite any differences, we are all members of this Community.

 

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