The theme of this year’s Inside the Activists’ Studio is “Finding Your Voice in a Global Movement,” and we know how challenging it can be to match your skills and passion to actual change-making. But we also know it’s a lot easier to find your voice with community support, and that’s why we’ve brought together a group of outstanding panelists to share their own experiences this Sunday. As a preview, check out some of their answers below to the question:
How do you amplify your voice for change?
Phil Aroneanu: I’ve been an activist on climate change nearly all my adult life. Since I first learned about the climate crisis from a goofy high school physics teacher, and throughout the next decade, I’ve felt that climate change encompasses a whole range of environmental and social justice issues that I feel passionately about. At first, I wasn’t much of an organizer–my first effort in high school was to organize a “No Car Day” with some friends. We got the local bagel shop to donate bagels and cream cheese, which we handed out to all the kids who biked, skateboarded or walked to school. It felt good, and we got a write up in the local paper, but in some sense it was ineffective. Even if I “raised awareness” about climate change and transportation, how many people who received a bagel would actually think twice about getting in a car the next day? More importantly, it taught me to think bigger than myself; I wasn’t going to solve the climate crisis by trying to change personal behavior. That’s certainly a part of the solution, but to solve the climate crisis, we really need to change the way the world produces and uses energy, which is a much, much larger, multi-faceted challenge.
Changing one mind at a time is nice, but it won’t add up to the severity and speed of the problem, nor become a force for sanity in a politics dominated by the power and money of the fossil fuel industry–the richest corporations in the history of money. It takes a push for real justice–what we call climate justice–to put people before corporate profits. It takes a solidarity model of activism, or as my friend Joshua Kahn Russel calls it, “Power with, not power over.”
That’s why nearly all the work I’ve done since high school has been focused on empowering others to amplify their voices. In our successful campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, those voices included Indigenous leaders from tar sands producing areas in Canada, ranchers and farmers from Nebraska, students from around the country, and ordinary climate activists from around the country. To my mind, amplifying my voice means not putting myself at the center of attention–it means developing leader-full networks who are able to push our agenda together. It’s what separates activists from organizers.
Dasi Fruchter: I’ve learned along the road as an activist that though I am actually quite loud, one voice is not enough. For me, amplifying my voice is about building surprising coalitions across difference that truly empower those struggling for change. No matter how many people will listen to the sound of my voice, they weren’t really going to hear what I was going to say unless they were a part of the amplification process. I’ve seen this play out literally in Occupy Wall Street–in the “People’s Mic”–but more importantly, in all other activist efforts where strong coalitions are weaved together in a gorgeous tapestry of types of people–different textures and layers make for a richer sound that ultimately speaks to the most people.
Karen Abravanel: I seek out and collaborate with organizations that share my values and goals. My voice is louder and more effective when backed by the weight of an established organization. Plus, I can build on the organization’s contacts and access to increase my opportunities to be heard.