We often wonder why the world is filled with so much suffering. Why innocent people become targets of violence, or children are taken from us too soon. Why prejudice is perpetuated or injustice carried out. In the face of it all, a seed of resistance is planted deep within our souls, waiting for its time to rise. With so many obstacles in this world, there is room for every human being to become an advocate against suffering that raises the voice in their soul.
Your voice has existed within you from the very first moment you felt the outrage of hurt. She’s been whispering her words since your body’s first interaction with intolerance. Since your spirit’s first feeling of wreckage by heartbreak. Discovering what you care about, what your heart yearns for, is tied ever so paradoxically between your pain and your passion.
What moments have moved your soul in a way that has re-shaped the world you’ve always seen?
Those moments can be as profound as World War I was for Crystal Eastman. A lawyer, journalist, and social advocate at the time, she lead in the fight for women’s suffrage, and her long-standing beliefs in equality for all eventually led her to co-found the National Civil Liberties Bureau, now the ACLU. Or, these markers can come as a slower process, like the publishing of Rupi Kaur’s first book, Milk and Honey; a collection of poetry about survival and the experiences of violence, abuse, love, and loss. It was a work conceived years after her middle school essays, being bullied by nasty teens, and the rejection from so many publishers and magazines who didn’t believe in her vision.
If your voice is too afraid to speak, you must start by swearing to believe in her. To love her even at the expense of standing with her alone. That you won’t allow the world to tune the chords of your voice to the way they’re comfortable hearing it. Once you’ve determined what your energy for activism will fuel and garnered the courage to put it to action, take these steps to move forward in using your voice for good.
Whether your goal is to educate others or fight for a cause, knowledge is power. While you don’t have to be Black to advocate for Black Lives Matter, and you don’t have to be an immigrant to defend DACA, you do have to understand what you’re talking about. You must learn from the perspectives of those whose lives are affected by the cause, even if one of those lives is yours.
Chances are, you aren’t the only human who is fighting for the cause, and that’s a great thing! Part of encouraging a movement is understanding what motivates you to show up. Whether it’s collecting signatures, raising awareness, or protesting on a Saturday afternoon, figure out why certain events trigger a feeling of community and power within you. Then, look for opportunities put your motivation to work. This could look like planning or attending a social justice meet up, or joining a local chapter of a national cause.
Share the Wealth of Information
Now that you’ve taken the time to educate yourself, asses your beliefs, and possibly unlearn some of your own bad habits, it’s time to share your experiences and resources. Despite angry rants and less-than-pleasant arguments on Facebook and Twitter, Pew Research Center recently found that 1 in 5 social media users saw something on social media that changed their mind about a political issue or candidate. It may feel a little draining at times, but your words matter. There are ears open specifically to your voice, ears that others can’t get to. That power is spectacular and can be used for change you never thought possible.
You are your most powerful force, and yet as you’ve probably felt anytime you’ve tried something new, starting is the hardest part. But there are plenty of ways to take action as a first step to using your voice. You can contact your local government representatives if your motives are political. You can volunteer your time if your motives are more social. You can donate to organizations at home or abroad if your motives are more economical, and turn your spare cash into an opportunity to create immense impact.
No matter what you do, no matter how many steps it takes, or how long you’re at it before you ever feel any momentum, remember that you are an activist by first advocating for yourself. There was a space carved out in this world that only you fit. Remember that when your voice trails, when it feels like too much, or when the fear is holding you back. You were given a voice because you were meant to speak, so speak, and let your heart find the right words to guide you.
Photos by Em Steffen