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How to Make a Difference: Giving Back to the Community While Taking Care of Yourself

How to Make a Difference: Giving Back to the Community While Taking Care of Yourself

Every day when we wake up, something drives us to get through the day. For some of us, it’s a place of employment, for others it might be hungry kids who haven’t mastered the art of pouring their own milk, or maybe it’s those last 3 units you need to get your college degree. Whatever it is, you dig deep, and you put one foot in front of the other over and over as many times as you need until the task is done. The goal is never just to wake up, but rather to wake up and sustain yourself throughout the day to achieve a bigger purpose. (That is what Passion Planner is all about after all!) 

Activism is no different.  Every day we wake up knowing that a better world is possible, and through activism we put one foot in front of the other, finding ways to sustain ourselves until the battle is won. To keep the movement healthy, we must take care of it, and the only way to take care of the movement is to take care of ourselves! The fight for social justice is a marathon so pace yourself mentally, spiritually, and physically. 

What is Activism

Activism is an intentional action taken to bring social and/or political change to the systems such as education, government, healthcare or environments in which we reside. Activism is where we take our passions, align them with the things we believe in and turn them into tangible acts. 

There are so many injustices in the world that it’s easy to feel like you aren’t doing enough. The problem begins when you move into that feeling and start taking on every single issue. It’s no secret that activism requires a certain level of sacrifice, from stepping out of your normal routine to risking being the only person to speak out against injustice, but know when to sacrifice and when to rest. Balance is key to all things. Activism turns moments of injustice into movements of creating and inspiring social change. 

Different Forms of Activism

There are many different forms of activism. Here are three suggestions for getting involved.

1. Educate Others 

It’s important to know that sometimes the movement lacks momentum because it lacks understanding. Take time to not only educate yourself on the issues that matter to you but share your knowledge and information with others. Sharing knowledge and resources with as many people as we can guarantees our foundation is fuller and stronger.  Start by using our Organizing Activism PDF to brainstorm creative ways to teach and learn about causes that drive you. In addition, you can share information through social media platforms, host community forums, or use technology to have virtual teach-ins that include folks impacted by the issues. Get creative and use as many learning styles as possible to get your message across!

 2. Advocate Through Legislation

One formal tactic you can use to advocate for change is to change the laws in place. We do that through using our voice to write to our legislators and advocate for specific local, state, and federal laws that will help improve our communities. This could look like meeting with elected leaders and sharing your story and/or concerns. It could also look like voting against or in favor of laws that have impacted your community. Check out the impact of legislative change through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and think about what tactics could be used today in the fight for racial justice! History shows us how powerful advocacy is, especially when the people come together in masses. 

3. Disrupt the Systems Through Protest

When formal tactics such as voting, signing petitions and contacting your elected leaders isn’t moving social change, it’s time to make some noise. Marching in the streets allows you to build energy with others who feel passionate about the same issues. Protest is important for democracy as well because we are able to alter the political agenda and make issues that impact us the priority. When we come together in masses, it’s hard to ignore the message. Protesting also reminds us we are not alone, empowering people by showing them that there are thousands of people who think the same things. 

Sustaining the Movement 

It’s important to show up for the movement, but you are only useful to the movement when you show up for yourself first. Realize that you are not alone in the fight for justice, and therefore you do not have to solve the problems of injustice alone. Working in coalitions or partnering with friends and community members who share your passions is key to sustaining the movement. It allows you to take a bigger picture and break it up into something you can hold, something you can balance. One of the beauties of activism is it has many moving parts which means everyone has a role, but you will burn yourself out trying to move all of them. Align your role in the movement with your strengths and your passion and watch all the pieces come together to build something that will change entire communities for the better. 

When giving back to the community in the midst of taking care of yourself, it’s okay to shift and rearrange your priorities. The social justice world can sometimes feel like you are in a constant state of emergency. There are moments that require urgency and for individuals to act immediately, but just as the sun sets and the moon rises in its place, you can also show up for the call and take time to rest before the next. Don’t hesitate to give to yourself what you also give to others because in the beginning it’s you, and in the end it’s you. You are your first home so keep that foundation strong. Self-care is more than personal: it’s political. 

Here are some self care tips to keep the movement going:

1. Unplug from Technology

The news can be extremely overwhelming and at times very depressing. Be careful about how much you take in. Be intentional about shutting it off and checking out to check in. Be informed, but balance it with being mindful of your peace of mind. 

2. Rest and Maintain a Healthy Diet 

It’s no surprise that a good night's rest and a balanced diet will keep your energy at its best. It’s hard marching and chanting “No justice, no peace” when your body is running on E, so fill your energy tank up by sleeping when your body needs rest.

3. Find and Practice Daily Joys

Joy itself is an act of resistance. It’s important to do something everyday that makes you happy. Whether it’s going for a walk, reading for pleasure, writing, painting, watching your favorite show, playing Uno with your kids… whatever it is, do it daily.

The same way the desert needs the rain, you too need to be replenished. Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Music is one of my favorite ways to center myself and catch my breath again. Here are two links to some music that will help you release and reset. 

Next Step

Now that you have the Passion Planner Organizing Activism PDF, it’s time to start brainstorming ways to get active! What's a community or cause you feel passionate about?  If you are involved in the movement, share with us ways you practice self-care in the midst of fighting for your community. Tell us in the comments section below!

Author Bio

Born and raised in San Diego, Brisa obtained a degree in Black Studies and Political Science, She is currently the Civic Engagement Manager Statewide for United Domestic Workers, the Homecare Providers Union, engaging and training union members throughout California on Civic Engagement strategies, such as formal and informal activist tactics, grassroots organizing, and political education on local and stage wide campaigns. She is the lead coordinator for the creation of the San Diego Black Worker Center, focused on building power through organizing Black workers and building an equitable economy for the Black community.  Separately from her career, she is a Mom to a young King and a Singer in the community with her first solo project titled “In Her Stillness”. To learn more about Brisa’s work visit brisalauren.com.
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