I consider activism a civic responsibility. Right now I’m working on:
- Reducing barriers to entry for participation in democracy. I have worked on Resistbot, which allows you to write letters to your state representatives and your local paper via text message.
- Making healthcare available to everyone. Everyone should have the opportunity to take care of their health and their family’s health without going bankrupt. I work with an organization called Right Care Alliance to advocate on behalf of patients confronting artificially inflated drug prices.
- Fighting racial injustice in the American punitive system. The American justice system overwhelmingly targets, prosecutes, and punishes black people, and then sells prison labor far below minimum wage to corporations—distributing benefits from the disempowered and disenfranchised to the already rich. I have worked with SURJ (training team) on this in Chicago. Another organization doing excellent work on this in Chicago is CPAC. I have worked on an app that helps people incarcerated for marijuana charges appeal their sentences where marijuana is now legal (and lucrative) in the U.S.
- Self-education. You would be amazed how much we’ve been conditioned to accept a biased system as a given. I could recommend you a number of books on this, and I can refer you to other activists who also have excellent book lists.
“Hey, my organization works on one of those things!” Fantastic. I’d love to help. These are the activities I’m definitely willing to do:
- Write code. This is mostly what I do. I’m pretty good at it and I don’t get tired of it (yet). I look for a few things in an open source or service project before I contribute. We can discuss that offline.
- Recruit within my network. I know great people who might like to help you out. I’m happy to reach out to them. I am not good at recruiting strangers on the street—I’m not a conversation starter.
- Translate. I speak Spanish fluently and Arabic proficiently. I interpreted for volunteer attorneys at ORD during the travel ban, and I’ve interpreted for World Relief refugee families at the doctor’s office, the post office, and the DMV. I have some other friends who did this with me, now located across Chicago and New York. I can reach out to them for you as well.
- Jail Support. If your group is planning to attend a protest, I can collect target members’ contact information as well as small possessions, snacks and other comforts, etc. If someone gets held, I can bring these things to the jail for them and await their release. I have my own combination lock box for phones and other valuables, and I can provide references with whom I have participated in protests before. I typically keep my own phone and ID outside the lock box so I can film at the protest if needed and so I can identify myself at the jail without compromising anyone else’s valuables.
Things I might do:
- Participate in a protest. The protest has to be well-organized for my participation to add value. I expect to know who the spokespeople are (by sight in person, not name or picture), what I’m expected to do, and how long I will be needed. I can do both green and yellow roles.
- Some other specific thing you have in mind. Let me know what it is if it’s not on this list, and we’ll figure out if it can work.
- Speak on behalf of an underrepresented group to which I do not belong. I’d prefer to pass the mic to a member of that group.
- Be any kind of organizer. In my experience, these roles (particularly when occupied by young or inexperienced organizers) get so caught up in language and/or administration that they lose focus on the activism. It’s a plus if the organizers of your group are a) from the group you’re advocating for, b) older than 35, and c) experienced in activism.
- Drive. I do not drive often. I cannot confidently drive other people around in a high-stakes scenario. Believe me, you don’t want me doing this, either.