by Anastazia Neely, Hampton University
Last month, it was not uncommon to see people doing double takes at me. They’ll look at me once, then again and ask, “aren’t you that activist girl from the paper?”. Ever since my profile ended up on the front page of the newspaper people seem to be paying more attention. But is it getting other people’s attention or what you do with it that counts?
For example, Occupy Wall Street is a cultural epicenter right now. The “occupiers” have been in Zuccotti Park for months and people are standing by to see what happens next. They’re in the middle of the societal eye, but they’re really not doing exciting stuff to stay there. For me, I think it’s good to strike when it’s hot, to get it while the getting is good. Now that I have all these people looking at me and listening to what I have to say, I should say something important and profound, right?
Wrong. I don’t know how I feel about people looking at or listening to me. It kind of makes me want to stand completely still and go totally mute. Unfortunately for my small ego, College Bank Transfer Day was just around the corner I would have liked to hide in. Uneasy about going the road alone, I called on the person in the article directly below mine. He was interested in running an awareness campaign to inform students on the injustices happening in the world around us. I figured our plans could complement each other; he could raise awareness and I would organize the action. But he had actions of his own: a protest! a sit-in! a march!
I wasn’t convinced that College Bank Transfer Day needed all that frenzy. Moving your money from a big bank to a local credit union is an action in and of itself. What purpose does the protest, sit-in, or march serve? I think all of these tactics are great ways to raise awareness, garner attention, and harness power and influence but is this really the way to solve problems? The Million Man March didn’t end erase the “social and economic ills plaguing the Black community”, it just forced people to take notice of the ills, themselves. The feminist protest of the 1969 Miss America pageant didn’t obliterate the objectification of women, it just made society more conscious of gender preference.
The Wall Street occupation hasn’t undone the financial crisis or demanded banks to treat us like people instead of profits, it has just prompted people to think about the issues. Occupy Wall Street won’t last forever, and my five minutes of fame won’t either. As much as I would like to retreat to my own social bubble and contemplate what’s wrong with the world over a free-trade organic soy chai latte, it doesn’t create change. Awareness and action are each only half the battle, and I can’t speak for #occupy but I want the movement to live on even after my “celebrity” has been laid to rest.
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