By Carol Spearman, Becketwood Member
Many of us at Becketwood have been physically active in causes for much of our lives, perhaps at civil rights and antiwar protests. Some of us marched and others committed to action that led to arrest and incarceration. As we age our ability to be activists at the level of the past is waning. Our energy, our health and our physical disabilities may make it difficult, if not impossible, to accept the challenges of the past. We are still concerned about the issues, old and new ones, but perhaps we feel less able to fight for change, to demand peace and justice. Many of us have read numerous books on the racism issue, participated in discussions and faced our own contributions to systemic racism. We feel frustrated, unable to see a way to contribute to dismantling the forces holding inequality in place. Others are overwhelmed by the looming disaster of climate change and the inability of our neighbors, our communities and our leaders to take action to mitigate and prepare for the crisis. Whatever our concerns, it is important to direct our action in new ways about the issues that keep us awake at night, that haunt our dreams and raise our blood pressure.
Tuning in to Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson on the Westminster Town Forum, a couple of weeks ago, inspired me. Her entreaty to do more than we are doing, to bring everyone to the table — young and old, people of color and women — to address the issues in new ways was a call to action. I am inundated by requests by political groups to choose my top priorities, but I want our leaders to see how our concerns connect to each other, not as separate competing issues. I want them to view human rights, the climate emergency, health care, the food system, economic injustice and racism in an integrated, holistic way. As individuals, however, we need to find the priority that drives us to action.
Dr. Johnson put it in language we can all understand — what are you passionate about? Is it surviving the pandemic, global warming, soil regeneration, clean water/air, food deserts, loss of habitat/species, social injustice, economic disparity, private prisons, immigration, lack of health care for all, systemic racism, the pipeline, wind and solar energy, electric cars, growing more food, planting trees, saving the rain forests and barrier reefs? And the list goes on. Current literature helps us understand the systemic racism issues, including Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson and Stamped from the Beginning and How to be an Antiracist, by Dr. Ibram Kendi. Drawdown, Kiss the Ground (also a film), Food Fix by Dr. Mark Hyman and All We Can Save, curated by Dr. Johnson and Dr. Katharine K. Wilkinson give us the tools to understand the integration of issues and the way to move forward on climate change. We must each find our own passion where we feel we can make a difference. For me this is the food system, which is causing soil, water and air degradation and contributing to a costly health care crisis, food injustice and negative educational outcomes. I have learned how significantly the food system affects our environment, but also how changes in the ways we grow, market and transport our food can bring positive outcomes to the planet, our health and the economy. I understand that I can make a difference by my food choices, where I buy my food, what food I choose to eat and how it is packaged. I can contact legislators about the food system, follow organizations fighting for change, sign petitions and share information. I can also work with others on committees and with community groups to work for change. And I can do all of this from my comfortable armchair!
I was captivated by Dr. Johnson’s use of the word, ‘Superpower.’
Although it is not in our usual vocabulary, we have become familiar with it from interaction with young people in our lives. Dr. Johnson recommends that we identify our Superpower and activate it to make a difference around the issues we care about. You may have talents in gardening, writing, teaching, playing music, singing, acting, preaching, facilitating, taking notes, researching, calling, e-mailing, designing materials, or using social media. You may have contacts with accountants, teachers, religious leaders, hospitals, airlines, farmers, grocery stores, cooperatives, neighborhood associations, food companies, nonprofit organizations and private businesses who you can reach with your superpower. You also have relatives, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews who can benefit from your knowledge and talents.
Now for the next step — spring into action. That doesn’t mean leaping out of your armchair but do reach for your phone, your computer, your pen and paper and do something beyond what you are currently doing. Here are a few suggestions:
- Volunteer for a committee and offer your ideas for programs, help with designing promotional material, researching topics, writing blogs, making contacts.
- Form a new group or join one that is planning events where playing an instrument, singing and acting can be used to convey a message. (At a climate change event in the past, a group sang popular melodies to rewritten words and amateur actors put on a Emmy award-winning skit, all related to recycling and climate change issues.)
- Write blogs, articles, letters and life stories about your issue for Becketwood members, newspapers, congressional leaders, corporations, and family members.
- Expand your use of social media by following groups you respect around your issue and sharing their information with others on e-mail, FaceBook or Twitter. (With one simple press of Share on Facebook, you can reach your friends with vital information, asking them to do the same, maximizing the impact.)
- Sign petitions and share them on social media.
- Give to your cause and share the opportunity to do the same on social media.
- Form or join a community group, around your passion.
- Share your knowledge and research on issues with committees, individuals and family members.
- Volunteer to facilitate or host meetings to discuss your issue.
- Organize letter writing and phoning campaigns.
- Examine how your investments and your purchases bear upon your concerns, make changes and share your decisions with others (can be done from your armchair).
- Read books and watch films to give you a greater understanding of the integration of issues and share your new knowledge with others. You can start by checking the books listed above. If you haven’t seen the large White Board on the main level, please check it out for more ideas about the books and your health on one side, and Armchair Activism, more specifically around food, on the other side.