Written by Mbabazi Okafor
Originally published in Black Girls Magazine Teen (BGM Teen)
Reposted here on January 26, 2021
Couch advocate, social media activist - whatever you’ve ordained yourself during this time of social distancing, you haven’t let anything stop you from being the change you want to see. No matter what your passion is, I hope these tips contribute something to your life.
Definitions from Oxford Languages:
ad·vo·cate /advoket/ noun A person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy
ac·tiv·ist /aktivist/ noun
A person who campaigns to bring about political or social change
Organize with others - Separation does not have to mean social isolation. Many organizations have had to adapt their activism by building an online presence in order to rise to the challenges that the pandemic has presented. If you weren’t part of a social justice or environmental local organization before, now is the perfect time to get involved. Connect with an online network of activists and advocates supporting social justice and environmental causes. Keep yourself grounded, with open mind and ears, in what you know is right and are fighting for as you would in any other collaborative venture. Learning from others is a large part of fighting for a cause that shouldn’t and doesn’t have to stop due to distance.
Meet online with your local government representatives - Getting in touch with your MP, MPPs and other community leaders just happened to get a lot more convenient. Professional meetings are being held online regularly, so don’t let anything deter you! Recognise that your local government officials are here to serve the public. Take advantage of the privilege you have and make sure they hear you loud and clear. You may not be able to do it on your own, but that’s where tip number one comes in handy! Organizations like Leadnow have organized meetings with MPs throughout Canada to talk about a ‘Just Recovery’ from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Self-Reflection: take time to inform your everyday decisions - When trying to expand your worldview and create change, it is important to incorporate the things you are fighting for into your everyday life, as well. Stuck at home all day? Your options are likely not as extensive. While systemic change and reform of government policies are the end goal, self-reflection is vital. It is important to recognise the intersectionality of our actions and what we are fighting for. Ask yourself, how are you supporting movements with the choices you make in your daily life? As teenagers, a prime example of this is choosing how and where you spend your money. Take time to inform your decisions. Saving up for a pair of headphones? Do your research beforehand and buy from brands that give back to communities and align with your vision for the future! My preferred company is House of Marley for their commitment to sustainability, quality, and message. They use earth friendly materials, hold continuous tree planting campaigns, and carry on Bob Marley’s legacy and love of music.
Strike and rally online - Along with organizing with others online, taking action through virtual strikes and rallies is a great way to let your community and leaders know that the youth are still here and still care. As we get through this devastating pandemic, we need to let our political leaders and representatives know that this can also be a chance for new long-term growth and policies that benefit all of humanity and all creatures great and small. Take action and participate in campaigns that can make things happen! Keep up! Don’t let your activism become slacktivism - Virtual advocacy at home might seem low energy compared to attending in-person events like we did before quarantine, but don’t be discouraged. Many others likely feel the same way. Do what you can. As situations change, your advocacy can too. Stay in the know by following trusted news outlets and organizations. Continue to read up about your cause from diverse sources and perspectives. Even if you are not out on the streets you can make a difference through educating yourself and others. Plan socially distanced events - If it is safe to do so, you may want to start up socially distanced events like rallies around your local government buildings. Find out online what others are doing to get ideas for your socially distanced rally. In-person rallies are still happening all over the world. If getting back on the streets is an option for you, search for social justice and environmental events near you on websites and protest maps. If there are events happening in your area with safety measures and you are comfortable attending, go ahead! Self-care - It is important to take breaks when you feel they are needed. God created the 7th day for rest, so make sure you leave a little room to breathe. Avoiding activist burn out is part of self-care. Read more about what self-care is and how to practice it in Deva’s article!
Throughout this journey, make continue to put others first as we become the change we want to see.
Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth
(1 John 3:18)
But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant (Matthew 23:11)
About the Author
Mbabazi Okafor is a talented writer, passionate about creating a better future for everyone. She is a member of the Everything Matters Movement, the youth group under Neighbours for the Planet. Mbabazi is determined and driven to take action on climate change and was featured in York Region News in March 2019 during one of her weekly climate strikes in Vaughan. Undaunted by the lack of support, Mbabazi continued to strike weekly and eventually inspired others to join her. Unfortunately she had to stop when the pandemic made it unsafe to continue. Mbabazi also volunteered with Leadnow and organized other youth to meet with MP Deb Schulte to push for a Just Recovery.