“Hashtag Activism”

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Like many people I know I have reposted a variety of hashtags. I did #Bring Back our Girls for the Nigerian School Girls who were kidnapped. I have posted a photo of myself in a hoodie because of George Zimmerman’s acquittal of the murder of Trayvon Martin. I posted a hashtag “Hands up, Don’t Shoot!” I’ve even let my husband dump a bucket of ice water on my head, videotaped the event, called out fellow Divine 9 Presidents AND sent my donation to ALS. But, I wouldn’t call any of those actions activism. They were trends or fads in support of activism but they were not examples of activism.
Yes, I’m old enough to have participated in some serious activism and one clear aspect of activism is sacrifice! Activists give up time, talent, and money. Activists sometimes place their lives on the line. Activism is not merely complaining or griping. It is principled action concerning some deeply held belief or values. I used to go to a dentist that shared a building with an abortion provider. Every time I went to the dentist–summer or winter, rain or shine, scorching heat or snowstorm–there was a little old lady outside the clinic with her anti- abortion sign. Now it matters not whether I share this woman’s beliefs or ideology. I was impressed with her real activism. Being there every single day had to be a sacrifice for her.
I remember my first bit of activism as a little girl. My church joined with other Black churches in Philadelphia in a selective patronage program. We stopped buying from those places that had not hired or promoted Blacks. We stopped our evening newspaper, we stopped eating our favorite snack cakes, and we no longer purchased Pepsi Cola…for some reason Black people really love Pepsi! Eventually all three companies relented and that taught me something about sacrifice as a key component of activism. Later I would participate in boycotts of Woolworth’s and Kresge stores. Even though the stores in Philly served Black customers ,at their lunch counters<!–more–their affiliates in the South did not and so we marched! Throughout high school I was regularly involved with “movement” politics. Indeed, while most parents tell their kids as they head off for college, ” No sex, no drugs, no alcohol!” Mine told me, “Please don’t be in no protests and get locked up!” Unfortunately activism had been bred into me by those very same parents and I found myself in a demonstration 2 weeks after school began. I ended up with a roommate who had fought to desegregate her summer work place…the Maryland Glass Factory. She and I became lifelong friends around our activism.
Indeed, I partied with the best of them as a collegian, but I always found ways to be actively involved in struggles for Justice. So, the next time you hash tag some injustice just remember a few clicks of your computer mouse or smart phone don’t make you an activist. It makes you someone who’s found a new kind of selfie! Hashtag that!!!

Stay Black & Smart!

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