is not a spectator sport. It requires that
we roll up our sleeves and get busy defending and championing
our rights, demanding justice and denouncing injustice,
declaring and affirming our beliefs, and supporting
the causes we are committed to. Our activist acts can
be solo affairs-a one-woman picket line, a letter of
protest-or mass demonstrations. They can be silent or
shocking, performance art or in-your-face confrontation.
To encourage and reinvigorate your ordinary and outrageous
acts, we've asked some folks who know how to make waves
to share some tips.
Check back often for new
activist tips--we'll be adding more all the time.
the media by being a conduit of good stories," advises
producer Michael Moore. "People should go to the
newspapers and radio and TV stations, and find the one
person--and trust me, there is that one person--who cares
about these issues and wants to cover them. Be a source
of good information. You'll see your issues covered."
do an awful lot for yourself, but not necessarily by yourself,"
remarks Chris Chafe, political director of the 250,000-member
Union of the Needle Trades, Industrial and Textile Employees
(UNITE). "Our whole message is that our union is
a vehicle for getting involved. We encourage members to
also become active through their churches, civic groups,
school boards, neighborhood groups, and PTAs."
person says no, go find another person," advises
Donna Thomases, founder of the Million Mom March against
gun violence, which was held in May. "Nobody came
to us asking if they could support our effort. iVillage
didn't come to us begging to do our Web site. I made phone
calls and pursued it and pursued it until I got to the
|Fun is "therapeutic
and contagious," says "Frida Kahlo," one
of the masked avengers of art-world discrimination who
call themselves the Guerrilla Girls. Their mission is
to expose individuals and institutions that exclude artists
of color and women from collections, exhibitions, funding,
and the culture at large. "We use irony and humor
to make fun of the oppressor. It's a great way of disarming
them. Besides, all of our therapists told us we had to
do something constructive with our anger. We are only
acting on our doctors' advice!"
and music and dance and political theater we used in Seattle
and Washington, D.C. [at the WTO demonstrations] are some
of our most valuable tools as activists," says Juliette
Beck, coordinator of the global democracy project at Global
Exchange, an international human rights organization.
"It creates a magical experience on the streets.
Instead of turning people away, you draw people in. Art
helps unite people."
out by chance that the largest government-sponsored animal
testing program in U.S. history had been set in motion
by Al Gore," says Jessica Sandler, a federal agency
liaison for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
(PETA). "We had a six-foot-tall rabbit follow Gore
around to as many campaign stops as we could. We followed
him on vacation [and] had the rabbit circling around in
a rowboat with a sign that said, Gore: burn bunnies, lose
votes. Everybody covered it. As a result, Gore's representatives
started negotiating with us. We started with the rabbit
in early spring of last year and had an agreement in place
necessarily get more with honey than with vinegar,"
says Larry Kramer, founder of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition
to Unleash Power). "It helps if you have sufficient
troops to play good cop, bad cop, where part of your cadre
is pleasant and part is unpleasant. ACT UP was so successful
because we had street troops outside the building while
smart, well-informed people negotiated inside."
|"In the sixties,
our first job was simply to try to convince people that
women should have equal rights, that segregation was wrong,
that the war was wrong," says Michael Moore, producer
of Roger & Me, The Big One, and the weekly TV series The
Awful Truth. "Today, nobody has to convince average Americans
that they're working long hours for little pay with no
health insurance and no job security. They're already
hip to the fact that a certain slice of America down on
Wall Street is having a big party, and the rest of us
are paying for it. On these issues, we already have the
hard part done."
effective strategy for pressuring change in areas like
domestic violence and the failure of the state to take
it seriously, or sexual discrimination in the workplace,
or rape of women in war is first gathering undeniable
evidence documenting that the abuses exist," says
Regan Ralph, executive director of the women's rights
division at Human Rights Watch.
must start at the end," says the Reverend Al Sharpton,
president of the National Action Network, a racial justice
group that organized demonstrations protesting the killing
of unarmed black citizens by the New York Police Department.
"You must remember that you're going out to achieve an
end, then ask yourself how best to do it--while always
protecting the sacredness of your cause. One mistake I've
made myself is putting style over substance."