May 25, 2006

The Activist Formerly Known As

I was shaken awake in the early morning, sometime before dawn. Sweat droplets were sliding down my forehead and I could barely breathe. I had had a nightmare. And I could still see the images clearly: picket signs, white boys with dreads, megaphones…

I had dreamt I was an activist again.


Ok, all joking aside, I must admit that I do not look back on my "activist days" so fondly. Why you might ask? Well, it will take a few hours for the complete explanation; but I’ll give you a concise, top-ten version to save you time.

So, here are the top ten reasons as to why I dropped out of my local activist scene:

10) (when I have it) I like to spend money on material things and openly talk about it;

9) I have a superficial side that enjoys flaky conversations (not involving the current state of glocal socio-politics);

8) If I could afford it, I would buy a condo (and a car);

7) I will work for the man in order to pay my bills;

6) Too many male activists wanting to fuck the revolution (if you catch my drift);

5) Too many white activists with bad politics (and hair);

4) Too many Che wannabes;

3) Too many white activists fighting for the rights of poor, people of color instead of building with communities of color who are already fighting that damn fight themselves;

2) Want to engage with my community, and other communities of color, in ways that meaningfully speak to our people (that do not isolate/alientate them).

1) Not interested in preaching to the converted; interested in social justice/change through ways that may not be deemed as “radical” by activists.

So, there you have it. I am uncomfortable with the term "activist" due to certain experiences that led me to become more than disillusioned. I have thought about reappropriating the term, but for the most part, I'm not sure if I want to even associate with it. I feel it's more important to just do your thing without labelling yourself. Self-identification as an "activist" is problematic. Why would you feel the need to label yourself? Just do what you do, and don't worry about the name and the image.

Having said all that, I know there are so many amazing people doing some serious social justice, community work at the grassroots. I couldn't have more respect for these individuals who bust there asses and do the work that is so damn necessary. These are the people who do not have the superstar-activist complex. These are the people who you may not have heard of or even noticed.

And what about the "everyday people" who's existence and presence is resistance in essence?

So I don't know about the term "activist". I just know there are some of us who continue to fight everyday in different ways. This resistance in complicated, but real.

These are just some ideas I'm throwing out there. I realize this is definitely a post that requires a part II. Further explanation is necessary (or is it?)

Until then...



Blogger brownfemipower said...

sigh...this activist shit it just a pain some time huh?

the reason *i* struggle with it, is because i don't commit myself to something unless i can give it every last ounce of blood i have--but sooooooooooo many people out there commit to every damn thing under the sun, and as such, can't give anything to any of the shit they've committed to. so you wind up getting fifty people saying their coming and if you're lucky, two people actually showing up. and those two people can't stick around too long because they have to make it to a different meeting. oh, and they can't make it to another meeting for two months because their gonna be out of town. oh, and then when their back in town their writing twenty books and have three papers that are due, so they will only be able to commit to things very sporadically. girl, that's half the damn reason i started working on the internet, cuz i just can't take people and their over committed asses anymore.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Pomegranate Queen said...

overcommittment is another issue for sure - that was me a while back...that burns you out and then you can't continue.
and all those meetings...i think if I wasn't working on my thesis, I was at some meeting...and they'd go on and on...not that they weren't necessary, has to be strategic with time and energy...that's crucial for avoiding burnout factor

what i found was that some people were committed but there was a serious lack of self-reflection...lack of analysis on approaches...and I'm not trying to be all "academic" about it, but there had to be some reflecting to go with the "actions", know what I mean?

for example, why don't we have more people of color involved with our anti-poverty can we address this issue? etc.

or how might we be isolating/alienating certain people through our actions?

anyway, I could go on...
I'm not saying that going to rallies and organizing events isn't important (it is!) but I'm not sure if doing those things without some analysis on things is the way to go...

sorry, I sound jaded or's not that...I'm getting involved again, but in different ways...not sure if I'd like to call myself an "activist" and I don't think "activists" would see me as such anyway.

thanks for your comments girl!


12:53 PM  
Blogger brownfemipower said...

i know whatcha mean about calling yourself an activist--i don't really call myself an activist either--but that's where my *lack* of self reflection comes in, cuz i'm not really sure *why* i don't call myself an activist!!!!! :-)

i think i just consider myself to be doing my life's work--and an "activist" implies that it's more a job as opposed to a lifestyle you know?

oh, and on self-reflection, girl, i'm feeling too much of it the other way--all we *do* is sit and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk...on the one hand, it's really good, and i'm so happy that we're doing everything we can to stay tight and be more aware and confront each other--on the other hand, i think it's sorta an excuse so that we don't actually have to get off our overcommitted talking asses and *do* something, you know?

ps. i totally see you as an activist--but i see you as an activist like me--living the life rather than doing a job...*and that INCLUDES the life of having a job and loving spending some cash if you got it!!!!! :-)

1:04 PM  
Blogger Pomegranate Queen said...

see, i guess we're on the same page...I agree that I am an "activist"...kind of like reapprorpiating the term or something...

I just associate the word with certain kind of people I know and have done "solidarity" work with

and yes you're right - sometimes there is too much reflecting and analysis going on and it gets in the way of "doing" stuff - although I also see reflection as "doing" stuff...but I know what you mean, there has to be a balance.

by definition, i'm no longer an "activist" or an "academic" - yet I feel that i'm both - and I know you know what I mean.

anyway, all of this has really gotten me thinking about stuff - I'm glad this is the topic for the upcoming carnival - i'm interested to read what others have to say.

1:17 PM  
Blogger fiercelyfab said...

don't know where I fit--I do use the word in writing more than anything.

Other than that I feel you on what you're saying. Personally I do non-profit work though I'm really happy about what I do, it is my paying job and it does great things in the community confined to this very restrictive system. I do wish the system was very different and we didn't have to exist.

Currently I'm doing a re-evaluation in what I want to do--give my time to, and I do know of over-commitment. It is hard, because it is the same damn people being asked for their time, energy and money.

Yeah...when I talk about the things that I do is more to deflect other areas in my life like real personal stuff and the state of how I feel. But saying look it is fucked up what's going in and this is what we can do. And that's living, doing these things because we feel we have to not because of ego. Though I do think we need to share what we do, be analytical of our privileges and contributions to oppression. And personally I do believe people need to be recognized...we all have our set of skills and talents and they should be used, shared and when necessary applauded we have to nowadays with stuff being as hard as it is.

My two cents.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous visha(kha) said...

i sometimes feel the same way about the activist scene, PQ, then i remember all the cool, strong, talented women of colour that i've met at demos and meetings who've become solid friends. if i have to withstand a few smelly white boys in camos to meet more such women, so be it.
hmmm, and i was going to ask you if you wanted to go to the No One is Illegal barbeque tomorrow... maybe not!

1:04 AM  
Blogger Pomegranate Queen said...

thanks for the comments Fab, I hear what you're saying.

visha(kha), lol, no i won't be going but only because i've got another thing going on - i did want to support this event...smelly white boys and all!

2:33 PM  
Blogger skyscraper said...

so on point, so on point. thanks, girl.

"And what about the "everyday people" who's existence and presence is resistance in essence?

So I don't know about the term "activist". I just know there are some of us who continue to fight everyday in different ways. This resistance in complicated, but real."
-- golden words, seriously! i can't stand that the mainstream activism (social movement) is defined strictly as marching with revolutionary *liberal* slogans and being a voluntary martyr under police brutality.

i also can't stand when i hear that a social movement oughtta have a formal history, firm dates of origination, leaders, hierarchies and all that bullshit.

what about us? what about those who resist the whatever oppression they're subjected to, by simply being alive. by not giving up, by not killing themselves, by not selling out. by continuing to bear the cross of discrimination, subjugation, hate, intolerance, violance as a queer, person of color, woman, single mother, disabled individual, any kind of a non-mainsgtream socially normative group??? who continues to be proud of their identity, continues to raise children, to work, to build, dares to speak, write, organize, just dares to breath?!

each and every one of us are all a small but powerful and very potent social movement inside, as long as we know what's up. and as long as we are true to ourselves.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Pomegranate Queen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:26 AM  
Blogger Pomegranate Queen said...

WORD UP sky. That is EXACTLY what i'm talking about.

12:28 AM  
Blogger fiercelyfab said...

sky submit that!!! put this comment as a blog entry as it is...or if you want to expand on it, cool too.

2:42 AM  
Blogger Free To Be... said...

I am hearing all ya all and I'm not sure where I fit into the grand scheme of things. I am definitely turned off by my experiences with the trustfund babies that can dedicate their lives to everything that Skyscraper was talking about. Can you blame certain groups for not wanting the white martyr to stand beside them for their own purposes instead of the true cause? For this reason I am content with where I am at and it makes some sense as to why I myself don't address political topics in the company of certain others. Honestly, I don't want to hear a history lesson. This was an issue I was recently touching on in one of my entries. It is great to get insight on this because sometimes I feel like I'm the jerk for even thinking this! Thanks for bringing this up...

12:47 AM  
Blogger Pomegranate Queen said...

FTB - I'm gonna check out the entry you're talking, i'm curious to see what you said...I kinda felt like a jerk posting this because afterall, it's important to have all kinds of people involved in various movements and struggles...and there are different ways to get involved...but it's the issue of "solidarity" that troubles me, i've also posted about this a while ago...
false assumptions of solidarity, and then there's the whole "activist superstar" issue and then then there's the whole "what's at stake for certain people" - anyway, i guess it's about being real and bringing these issues up and i'm glad to hear everyone's comments!! :)

11:19 AM  
Blogger Free To Be... said...

PQ thanks for linking me!

FTB the entry is basically why I choose not to blog about political topics. I feel safe in certain arenas and others like I mentioned don't need a lesson in history!

5:19 PM  
Blogger skyscraper said...

yay, thanks for this amazing, fruitful conversations, pq (and all other incredible women here)! to reiterate what somebody already said here, it feels good to find this consensus and not to feel guilty for feeling the way a lot of us apparently do about this hypocritical, "real" activism, while having our individual, mini-*activisms* ignored and shat on on a daily basis.

12:31 AM  

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