Tuesday: Top 6 Better Ideas Than Paying Attention To Celebrity Activists

I so rarely build one post off of another, but today I’m treating you (and myself) to some ideas that have been weighing on me recently. I’ve never been one for celebrity activism as it has never quite seemed genuine to me. I didn’t grow up engaging with a lot of media in my early years so I didn’t form these early bonds and emotional attachments. I love Rihanna’s work for example but if someone wanted to cuss out Rihanna ‘til next Tuesday in front of me, I would remain completely unbothered and emotionally unaffected. So when I see celebrities who are detached from working class and middle class communities claiming to have all the answers, I feel rubbed the wrong way in particular.

In the Caribbean, going abroad for a year or two can tarnish you enough that any ideas you have for social equity are immediately branded as detached and “foreign ideas”. Yet celebrities who may have spent decades hoarding more wealth than most people will ever have in their entire lives feel completely qualified to pick random communities of people and tell them exactly what they should do.

The concept of a “Black community” in the United States strikes me as a little odd because from my experiences, Black communities in California and New York differ from Black communities in Atlanta or Washington D.C. There isn’t a monolithic solution for every Black community and while racial unity and unity of goals can be powerful — for example the “Black Lives Matter” movement — there’s a reason why that particular group of activists is diffused in terms of leadership and specific goals within different cities.

Grassroots activists recognize that there isn’t a one size fits all solution for the “Black community” in America. Celebrity activists on the other hand talk down to communities and preach at them. This has been happening since Bill Cosby preached to Black men about how sagging their pants was a direct cause of racism and it’s happening now with Jay-Z’s comments about “moving past kneeling”. Rather than expend my limited energy writing why these celebrities are wrong, let’s have a little think about what we can do instead to better our communities:

1) Spread awareness about local activist groups

In Saint Lucia, few people are aware of some of the most effective activist groups in our country. United & Strong, an organization for LGBT rights, and Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia, are two groups that many average people have not heard of even if they do great work directed at the appropriate level. These are examples from my environment, but every city and country has their own groups like this one. Take some time to research and then spread awareness by sharing posts, fundraisers, talking to your friends and family members about how different groups are helping your community.

2) Talk to people in need within your life/your community

Often times, we project what other people need based off of our own assumptions and beliefs. If we meet someone who can’t pay their rent, we assume they need a financial literacy app when in reality, they may tell us what they need: a job that pays better. Rather than making assumptions, we can have non-judgmental conversations with people we meet and discover what they feel their needs are.

3) Read news bulletins by community organizations to educate yourself on their needs

Community organizations often put out news bulletins discussing their ongoing projects, their future projects, and their financial needs for the future. You can also find out what organizations need from volunteers or donors. If you read news bulletins, tweets or public posts, you can come across valuable information about what different organizations actually need. Do they need coats for the homeless? Do they need period related hygiene products? Do they need volunteer hours? Doing this also builds the habit of not making assumptions that we know better than those we are trying to help. Privilege does not actually mean you are superior.

4) Study successful activists and community leaders of the past

Studying successful activists and community leaders from our present and past can also inspire ideas for how we can help our communities. I enjoy reading about the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast programs in the United States as well as reading biographies of various activists and community leaders. Rather than giving our attention to celebrities, we can direct our attention to folks who dedicated their lives and time to improving our communities. This doesn’t mean to never listen to music or watch movies, but when it comes to politics, let’s focus on those who made a real difference every day!

5) Create your own solutions to problems in your community

This point relates to my previous one. When you learn from the past, you shouldn’t just be content to memorize facts. Think about how you can apply these lessons to your lives. I know many Christian activists for example who participate in food drives and clothing drives for the homeless and impoverished in society. Every community can use some help and every person is capable of offering something according to their own needs and capabilities. Coming up with solutions to problems in your community and even in your household can be beneficial. For example, if you are producing a lot of food waste, you could start a compost heap. Ideas can be THAT simple. You don’t have to start a revolution to make a difference in your life or the lives of those around you.

6) Donate money or time to organizations that help people in your community

When in doubt for what to do, you can always donate your money or your time to organizations in your community. In Saint Lucia, the National Trust always needs help with beach clean ups. Typically grassroots organizations need money and they determine how best to put it to use. Every little bit that you do will count for something!

One of the troubling things about celebrity “activism” is that we hold two false beliefs. First, we assume that celebrities are superior to regular working class people and they’re blessed with some kind of special insight that we don’t have. Second, we believe that doing ‘more’ is about how much money someone gives specifically. Neither of these beliefs are true. Celebrities are not specially gifted with knowledge of communities where they don’t live. More money isn’t necessarily better if that money isn’t put to effective use. These ideas are designed to strip us of the realization of our individual power and give credence to the notion that more capital creates superior individuals. You can have so much more power in your community than you realize and make a real difference if you direct your energy in the right way. We may not have the power of wealth, but we have power in numbers, and that means a hell of a lot.

Friday: Personal Choice & Feminism

I’ve been officially exercising again, a big change since I broke my toe four weeks ago. It’s been a painful four weeks and I’m not comfortable with the level of inactivity I experienced. As I grow older, I’m beginning to truly realize how valuable it is to exercise and actually take care of myself. The teenage lifestyle of scarfing down Skittles and Swedish Fish without a care in the world is over. Although, I did always recognize that it was unsustainable.

This morning, I woke up to find bird guts and feathers spread all over my office, which kicked me into high gear for enjoying my Friday. So we meet now: workout complete, meditation complete, massive cleaning project complete. The best part is it’s just after 6 a.m. How do people not like waking up early?!

I’ve been mulling over one of my biggest issues with “Hashtag Activism” the past week or so and coming to the conclusion that I really need to be done with the “mainstream” internet feminist topics. This isn’t about people like Tarana Burke and the #MeToo movement, which has a clear impact on not just spreading awareness on a major feminist issue, but has led to justice for victims of sexual assault. However, the few people who focus on issues like this can sometimes be crowded out by people online with generally good intentions who may not have clarity and nuance about feminist issues, so they apply broad brush analysis and understanding to what’s important in their world: whether not liking Sansa from Game of Thrones is misogynist, how many men they can and should have sex with, and other individual problems.

This quote from MindTheGap, a feminist blog from Cardiff, UK, explains Audre Lorde’s intentions when she said the personal was political:

First, it’s important to note that the phrase ‘the personal is political’ manifestly does not mean that everything a woman does is political or that all her personal choices are political choices. In feminist terms, the ‘personal is political’ refers to the theory that personal problems are political problems, which basically means that many of the personal problems women experience in their lives are not their fault, but are the result of systematic oppression.[SOURCE]

Taken out of context, and spread as a slogan decontextualized from the original work, “the personal is political” has come to mean whatever anyone projects onto it. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. I think the issue comes when people with explicitly anti-feminist agendas adopt phrases like this and propagandize anti-feminist beliefs using this phrase. A good example of this is “feminist advertising” of any kind in industries who rely on women’s low self-esteem to push products, yet may sell the idea that purchasing their particular product is more feminist than others. “Eyeliner sharp enough to kill a man”, and all that jazz.

Consumer choices have become “political” to some people, but they haven’t examined how a patriarchal society has impacted the more invisible parts of woman’s daily lives like division of labor in the household. Focusing on individual choices and our personal lives as our primary and individual concerns also removes the community aspect of feminism, where women with greater privilege can ally with less privileged women. If we think our work here is done when we purchase the correct razor, or watch the correct most feminist TV show, we don’t think about other people.

Lately, I’ve been disillusioned with a lot of the feminist conversations online which mostly involve lobbing hatred towards other women for likes and retweets and false communities that do nothing for our human need for interpersonal interaction, and leave room for despotic personalities to control political conversations in groups that they potentially know nothing about. (Not all black people, communities, islands, nations, cities, towns, and families are monolithic, so presumably, one person cannot speak for all of them.)

I’ve been discouraging myself to think of feminism as a form of individual expression. This rampant Western individualism is nearly invisible to people living within and practicing it. As such, I like drawing attention to this individualism within myself and considering whether there is a more ethical approach to social problems. It can’t hurt to consider ways we might be focused on our communities rather than ourselves.

Thursday: Thoughts & Questions On Internet “Activism”

Why oh why did I create a new Twitter account? I used to go days and even weeks without a hint of awareness of “What Y’all Mad About Today” ™️. In an effort to spread the good word about my blog revival, I’ve been indoctrinated once again into the cult of Internet outrage, mad for the sake of mad, or the more delightful alternative — mad at everyone for being mad all the time.

Perhaps it’s a delusion that I fall into the latter category and not the first.

(Let me cook!)

Today I want to compile some thoughts about Internet activism, so buckle up. Comment down below which of these you think I could turn to long-form analytical blog posts please. 😊👇🏼

💖THURSDAY QUESTIONS💖

  • Why are sex & dating the primary fields of our lives where online activism is centered? And, why does class analysis not seem to apply? With regards to gender, race and sexuality, is it honest to say that sex/dating/relationships are where this oppression plays out the most?

  • Many daily arguments on social media can be easily solved by falling back on your culture’s specific etiquette and/or accepting others differences. I follow a lot of etiquette experts on social media and books on etiquette are $7.99 on Amazon. Stop arguing and realize the decisions have been made! If you don’t want to follow what is appropriate, it’s your right, but just know that the standard has been set.

  • Many leftist theoreticians warned against a cult of personality as being dangerous to progressive movements. Yet, it’s rare you hear people who make progressive posts and have a large following publicly acknowledge this. Personal branding — by definition capitalistic — becomes intertwined with activism and creates an unhealthy dynamic around interacting with progressive ideas and values.

  • Social media has many negative effects and currently, we aren’t sure how to cope with all of them since it’s all new. I can’t Help but wonder how our technology use might change to become healthier or less healthy over time. What do you think?

Getting back on social media has brought these questions to mind. What about you? What have you been thinking of lately? Leave a comment below .