UCB Panel on Action and Activism
November 19, 2016
Keisha Zollar – comedienne-activist, UCB teacher and performer
Lizz Winstead – founder of Lady Parts Justice, co-creator of the Daily Show
Maritiza Montanez – UCB performer, writer, improviser, activist
Nicole Silverberg – writer, comedian, associate editor at Reductress
Erica Johnson – improviser, actress, legal observer at the National Lawyers Guild
Robert D. Jackson – actor, community activist, educational consultant
Erica – Greater need of legal observers to ensure protests don’t get out of hand. Legal observers attend protests and are intermediaries between police and protesters.
Lizz – Watch for the continuing erosion of reproductive rights. In Indiana and Texas, women will be criminalized for accessing abortions. Lives will be threatened even more. Cases going to the Supreme Court might give states the chance to ban abortion.
Maritiza – Look at the refugee crisis and reactions to immigration reform.
Nicole – Communicate through channels that are available. Overwhelming feeling that we don’t know what the priorities are and we don’t know what to ask for when reaching out to politicians/reps. Crowded field of causes is something that needs to be dealt with.
Robert – Helping men of color through education. The time is now to figure out what that means for you. Where are you being marginalized? Ask yourself how can you contribute to your community and your family.
Keisha – encouraging students through workshops and classes to educate themselves; push students to present it in funny and interesting ways. These issues aren’t new; they’ve just boiled up. We have to take these moments to educate ourselves on policy, discrimination, action and history. It’s too easy to normalize. We cannot let apathy happen. We’re talking about human rights, so many complexities around it but we’re all experiencing a direct attack on human rights. Increased anxiety and PTSD continue in a vast number of communities, we are going to see hate speech, hate crimes, we are going to see dangerous policy. We are going to see increased potentiality for aggression via police.
Nicole – Watch out for activism exhaustion. After one event, people get excited and sign up for too much. Within a month people with goals of participating will withdraw. Other issues: NYC is not built for climate change. Price hikes are a problem where people get priced out of livable areas.
Maritiza – Economic fallout of underserved communities. Homelessness is an issue that we do not address well here (in NYC). If we’re the place (LGBT centers) that people flock to, we don’t have the resources to properly take care of people. Get involved with a single organization. Get to know them and what makes them work as an organization.
Lizz – Figure out what's fueling your belly; that will sustain you when you want to work. Work with people who don't look like you. It’s awesome to be the pack mule in someone else's fight. Things fall through because logistics/operations fall through; we have to help that.
Keisha – This will require sacrifice. We will all have to sacrifice. If we want to see change - time, money, energy, being on the front lines - we will have to sacrifice something if we want to see real change. It’s hard to make sacrifices, but it’s also cathartic. The more consistent it is, the more we can potentially see any movement. I know I can sacrifice more. I can give more. That and self-care are not the same. What is sacrifice for me - I have to renew that conversation every month. The faster we can get comfortable with sacrifice the easier we’ll move forward.
Lizz – Sacrifice is its own journey of self-discovery. It’s incredibly rewarding when you can bring whatever you do to someone else who’s hurting. Finding a place you can go to and be on the ground doing something is key. Just giving money isn't enough and at all fulfilling.
Robert – Use your strengths to your advantage to help a cause. How does art fuel this conversation?
Erica – Play to top your intelligence. Be activists at the top of your intelligence. With the NLG, police were trying to represent on their own cases against protesters. Instead of just disturbance, police would add more charges to justify the arrest. We need more awareness, educate ourselves and get out of our comfort zones.
Nicole – Task oriented activism - make a call, petition, etc. Change is a habit. See what’s being done on a daily and weekly basis. Know what we’re doing here and abroad. Subscribe to bipartisan publications, reading the news, get into the habit of knowing what’s going on. Once you know how to talk to representatives and participate in effective ways, it becomes a part of your life. Second, knowing who’s operating on a local level in government. Who are the political stars we can get behind - making a progressive platform to affect change locally. Last thing, address apathy and exhaustion. There are propaganda tools being used on us, people are bidding high. People are talking about internment camps that they know the majority will disapprove of to push us out of our comfort zone, because it’s less severe than the initial offer. Don't just look at things and think this isn't normal or this feels weird - constantly check in with yourself and make sure that you aren’t being duped.
Keisha – We are used to instant gratification. Rights took decades. This is going to take time. We have to remind ourselves that we may never be satisfied in our lifetime, but that is not an excuse to stop fighting, to stop moving forward.
Lizz – Started Lady Parts Justice to give people a chance to put art in. State legislatures are very important - lots of civil rights are within states. We make funny videos on things that the media doesn’t cover - a lot of horrible laws in every state.
Maritza – Make videos, do shows that contribute to a cause. Make everything you do an engine to drive yourself and others. Hire people from different backgrounds and gender identifications. Everything you do reflects you, but also empowers other people. We’re here for community; what can we do as a community. Phone banking - given scripts about how to handle calls. Show up for racial justice. Don't just sign up for newsletters, read them; there are actionable items.
Keisha – How you shop is important. Buy from people of color, from women, from LGBT. We underestimate how powerful that is. Buy black. Be more intentional with your shopping. Making donations in the name of people.
Robert D Jackson