Be Kind.

When you turn on the news, what will you probably see a ton of?

Politics. Violence. Crimes. Fear. 

What do you see not too much of?

Acts of Kindness. Love.

That does not mean that the news never displays it, or that no one is committing acts of service and kindness. However, it is not as publicized or as known as all the “bad” news.

What would the world look like if we started focusing on the “good” news?  What if we all started to give to one another and show kindness through our actions. Would the world look drastically different? Would it look how it was originally created?

It’s Possible.

We can start small. Maybe with a family member or a neighbor. We can help pay for someone’s groceries, compliment someone, or even just by saying “hello”. These things seem like they do not do much, but they definitely can and will.

As we continue to do more and more kind things, we can start to show this kindness to our brothers and sisters around the world. We have the resources to help them, even if that is just our voice. South Sudan is facing conflict with (northern) Sudan. While the Central African Republic is in need of support because of ongoing violence, which began in 2013.

These on top of so many more. Within the United States and out, we have the choice to make the world better by using kindness. Showing LOVE.

Take it from Kid President, “YOU can change the world”.

-A.R

Does Slacktivism Work?

In a world where social media permeates our every day lives, activist and advocacy groups have been more reliant on using social media platforms to raise awareness for their causes. People are encouraged to “like” pages, share posts, or even create videos and take pictures by these groups as support for their cause. Are these campaigns actually successful?

“Slacktivism” is defined by Kristofferson, White, & Peloza, as “willingness to perform a relative‐ly costless, token display of support for a social cause, with an accompanyinglack of willingness to devote significant effort to enact meaningful change.” A simple click, like, retweet, share, can make the slacktivist feel like they have actively contributed to a cause. It is low-risk and low-cost activism. It doesn’t require leaving the comfort of your home and doing manual labor or donating part of your salary to help an organization. However, does slacktivism work? Does a simple like or a share of a post help with these campaigns? 

Kony 2012 was a huge social media movement, perhaps the first of its kind. It set the precedent for creating awareness on social media. The youtube video reached over 100 million views on youtube and had the endorsing of big name celebrities. The movement however, was met with a lot of criticism. While a lot of the facts were inaccurate, Kony 2012 allowed people to easily become activists or agents for the cause by simply sharing the video on their social media platforms. By starting the culture of “slacktivism”, critics argued that it would not enact any social change and could possibly hurt real civic actions such as volunteering, protests, and charity. These acts only make people “feel good” about themselves and will not lead to active citizenship.

There have been other large social media movement such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that have been met with the same criticisms. Although the Ice Bucket Challenge raised over $220 million for ALS research, the percentage of people who actually donated was very small. There were many participants of the ice bucket challenge that did not end up donating. While these criticisms are valid, I believe that slacktivism opens up doors for future activism for those who would not traditionally pursue activism. A simple share or like can come along way in raising awareness.

-KZ

 

I am privileged, not entitled.

I was born to a middle class family of European-descent. My twin sister and I were born into the arms of parents who knew (well, I think?) what they were getting themselves into when preparing to conceive another child. Yep, surprise, ya hit the jackpot and got two, mom and dad! The best things come in pairs! Two healthy babies. One with very little hair – ahem, Alli – but two green-eyed, spunky little humans.

Anyway, I loved my childhood. There is not a moment that I would change about it. We had the neighborhood bike rides, the heated pool, the fluffy golden retriever, the backyard barbecues, the leisurely drives, the candy, the board games. I grew, developed, and learned in supportive households, even before I was sent to school to further such aspects of myself. When my parents divorced, I was indeed too young to understand, but am grateful that they took on this immensely difficult challenge. Divorce is often regarded as a “split” of a family; separate households, separate holidays, separate lifestyles. While some of this has felt true throughout my life, it has never held me back significantly.

I don’t want to discount anything that my parents have worked so hard to provide for me. I am grateful beyond belief for every hardship that they each had to, and continue to, go through to provide for our family. This is something that I aim to do for my children one day, too. (Except in my household, we’ll have many, many more dogs.) This is superfluous, though.

I am privileged.

That word should not make you shiver, or make you think that I am some egotistical gal. Privilege is something that you are unable to influence, so why is it a curse word? Many people refuse to admit and acknowledge privilege. What does this mean for our community and relationships?

Recognizing and accepting privilege takes courage because you know that it is something others wish to have more of. Needless to say, you hold a lot of power by having a lot of privilege. This, however, does not make you entitled.

I did nothing to be born into the situation I am in. I am forever grateful, but I know that I can’t say that I just got lucky and sit idly by, content with just my own well-being. I am no more entitled to a healthy, happy life than anyone else. I feel fortunate that I was not born into a division of my community that struggles with their identity in the larger community, or born into a family that is not fiscally able to provide for anything but my basic needs of life. I was able to worry about my socks mismatching rather than the next time I would eat.

If we forget to recognize that other people are not born into such privilege, we also brush aside the inhumanities that people with less privilege inevitably face. Admitting privilege and rejecting the feelings of entitlement are our first steps to caring. If we are in a position to help those who are unable to control their situation, we should feel inclined to do so, knowing that we would want someone to do that for us.

-LKR

Erase Impossible

 

It seems daunting to try to take on even one issue in the world, but to be attentive and engaged in stimulating change on multiple issues seems almost impossible. How do we get past asking the questions:

How do advocate for something when there are so many things to advocate for?

And, how do we minimize the issues that get overlooked?

The other day I was sitting with my friend and I started talking about various issues in the world, from social issues and environmental crises, and how they are often overlapping. I turned to him and said, “How do we confront the issues of the world when there are so many?”

His response was, “the world is a shit show, but what can you do?”

I was saddened by his response and considered it. It is easy to fall into the gloom of a cynic. It’s like standing at the bottom of a ladder and looking up, the top of the ladder out of sight. Taking that first step up can be the hardest part, but it is going to be well worth the effort.

As a young advocate, I believe there is value in everything we do as long as we do something. The first step to creating change is bringing issues to the forefront where they will be seen. Once people are aware, they will want to engage. We live in an era of international interconnectedness. Social media creates an avenue for advocacy like no other. Sharing one article can reach a thousand people in a week. 

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It may not be the large scale advocacy we all want to be involved in but perhaps just by raising awareness, we can inspire more people to engage in the issues of the world. Then together we can maximize the impact we have when we confront the world’s most impossible problems.

 

-ESC

Use Your Voice

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What comes to mind when you hear the words: civc engagement?

According to the American Psychological Association, civic engagement is “individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern”. How many times have you been told that you’re “too young” to understand a certain issue or that “you’ll understand it more when you’re older”? As individuals that strive to become educated on the social issues that surround us, it is our duty to utilize our passion and drive to build communities that are equipped to evoke positive change.

In light of President Trump’s latest executive ban that places heavy restrictions on refugees and potential immigrants, the HOUSE BILL NO. 2002 has been proposed by the Virginia General Assembly that aims to place a huge burden on refugee resettlement agencies to redundantly report additional information that is already reported to various state agencies. Essentially, the bill supplements the executive ban and will inevitably make resettlement agencies’ work more difficult.

So what?

These agencies work tirelessly to coordinate refugee resettlement and to provide refugees with resources in order to promote sustainable lives. According to Michel Agler, “what refugees need is fame”. By heavily restricting the very organizations involved in making them known and valued, we directly prevent these individuals from rediscovering humanity. What can we do? Utilize your political space and speech and give a voice to those that really need it.

Find Your Representative – Call your representative and let them know that you are against Virginia House Bill 2002. Better yet, have a conversation about what you’re passionate about. Whether it’s about opposing the refugee ban, or how you’re concerned about the extensive climate change, using your voice is not only your right, it is a privilege that so many individuals do not have.

No matter what others tell you, your ideas and your passions matter. Every day is an opportunity for you to use your voice and invoke positive change – what better day to do it than today?

useyourvoice

-KB

“Slack-tivism”

How often do we hit the like button, shared a video, or post about something that seems unjust or unfair? Today on my personal Facebook page, within 2 minutes I was able to see 3 of my friends share a post about decreasing CO2 to save the earth. I also saw that a few of my friends shared a photo of a homeless person with a caption that urged people to help others. In retrospect, these Facebook friends of mine shared this image and this video in hopes to encourage others to act on these issues.

While these tactics are innovative and beneficial, we are contributing to the creation of a world that is largely behind a screen. Social media has become a large component of our world. We use it to communicate, explore, and express ourselves. Although social media is used for personal reasons, it is beginning to reach out even further. Businesses rely on social media to promote themselves and some teachers tweet out homework assignments and reminders. Taken even further, activists are relying on social media to get out information and spread awareness for issues all around the world. This has been shown to be successful in the past, giving large issues a name and beginning the conversation about tough topics.

Although this Internet activism can begin the conversation about some issues and possibly spread awareness, some critique these efforts, calling it “slacktivism.”As explained in an article by Brigham and Noland, slacktivism is “the willingness to perform a relatively costless, token display of support for a social cause, with an accompanying lack of willingness to devote significant effort to enact meaningful change.”

The good news is we have to ability to combat this idea. We just have to take our activism a couple steps further. While it is wonderful to share and post about these issues, there are other important steps in advocacy. We can call and write to our congressman, we can volunteer and donate to these causes.

Most importantly, we CAN advocate beyond the barriers of our screens.

-MAO

Fame.

Do you know who this is?

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I am sure we all know this is Donald Trump.

What about these two?

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No? Neither do I. They are just from a google search of “refugees”.

Let’s take a deeper look into this…

When you think of fame, what do you think of?

Celebrities? People with lots of money? Power?

Well, what if fame was not about celebrities at all. Not about the money. Not about power. What if instead, we put fame on the people with ‘no names or identity’. With little to no money to their name. Fame was for the powerless.

What would that look like?

It could be possible. We have the opportunity.

We could be the ones to make the poor and powerless known. There are so many stories out there that need to be heard. This includes the refugees all around the world. Especially those in the camps, who are literally separated by boundaries such as barbed wire fencing.

We outsiders a lot of times forget that those refugees are also human beings. We distance ourselves from them when they are in these camps. We just put them in the label as ‘refugees’. Despite them having identities and names to them. We choose to turn our heads until we find ourselves secure. Even then we still struggle to want to help these people long term.

What can we do?

As stated earlier, we can bring about fame for refugees and those in need. We can take time to know their stories. Take action in being activists for them. Be their voice because they do not feel like they have one, or are treated as if they do.

We have the awesome opportunity to remind them and the world that they are human beings. That they too were created by a wonderful creator, and in His image. That we all are one and need to work together. That we want to know them, just as much as we want to know celebrities. Let’s help them see they are not alone through our actions.

Spread the word.

Let’s put fame to their names.

-A.R.