In 2017, millions attended women’s marches all over the world, countless others stood against sexual assault in the #MeToo movement, and members of The Active Citizen strived towards building a better world. While it’s no secret that the year came with major setbacks for equality and human rights in the US and abroad, the efforts of active citizens are what keep the fight against these alive.
Here’s a list of New Year’s resolutions for activists in America to keep that effort strong and direct it towards change.
1. Donate 3–5% of your monthly income to a cause you’re passionate about. Donating time to an organization feels great and does make an impact, but donating money allows for that impact to grow even when you don’t have time to spare. Some great organizations to support include Planned Parenthood, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), The Mazzoni Center, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) or anything you care about or know could use some extra funds!
2. Vote in literally every election you are eligible to vote for. Lack of voter turnout for some key groups in 2016 is the reason that Trump is president. Midterm elections, which are this year, could strongly influence Trump’s ability to pass legislation for the rest of his term. Our votes this year are more important than ever.
3. Organize! Individuals have the power to make a lot of positive change, but it is groups that have truly driven the course of activist history. Whether you decide to schedule a weekly brunch with other POC at your workplace so you can support each other when someone experiences racism, or start a Facebook group to advocate for the addition of a handicap accessible ramp outside your school, there is strength in numbers for achieving your activist goals.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead
4. Spend more time working with your family and friends to help them unlearn problematic views. Lots of activists work extensively with the public (which is obviously amazing) but tend to ignore the harm that members of their family (especially older ones) have with their sometimes racist, sexist, homophobic (etc.) views. While it can be really uncomfortable to have these conversations, it is important, especially because the older members of our families tend to have more power both in and outside of the home to enact their views.
5. Read more. Whether you read history books about the French Revolution or daily news on Al Jazeera, an understanding of where we have been, the types of things people have done, and what’s happening today can help inform more impactful, productive action. Books like We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The Color of Law, that have made waves in the US activist community, are a good place to start.
6. Work both in the system and outside of the system. For activists who tend to focus heavily on political action, consider attending a meeting for a more radical movement (radical feminist spaces for example), to understand the different ways that activists work towards the same goals. For those of you who typically focus on more radical movements, consider becoming more politically involved — perhaps by volunteering for a candidate you support. For sustainable change, lots of different methods of activism have to come together. Understanding those methods can help the movements you support, and also help you know what it is that you can add.
7. Take care of yourself. Activist burnout is real. Unless you take care of yourself and your mental wellness, you won’t be healthy enough to take care of anyone else. Here are some resources to help you get started.