3 Activists You Should Be Following on Social Media

Activism has become more of a social media pursuit than a media-in-the-streets operation.

Hashtags and slogans will play a role in uniting people around the world in favor of a particular cause. It gives many a sense of belonging to something bigger than them, and there comes with it a belief that more and more voices on social media will be loud enough to generate change.

Some of that comes true, like the recent #MeToo movement about sexual harassment, which has led to changes in Hollywood and in the political arena, as serial sexual harassers are being brought out into the light in the hopes of cleaning up the environments in which they lived.

If you are someone who wants to activate against some injustice in your community and you are looking for an inspiration to help steel yourself for the battle and find worthy causes on social media, here are three Los Angeles-based activists that you really should follow on social media, if you’re not already.

  1. Feminism and Women’s Rights: Liz Plank

Going by the Twitter handle @feministabulous, Liz Plank works as a senior producer and political reporter at Vox.com, a popular left-wing media and blog site. She posts often about feminism and women’s rights issues, especially as they intersect in politics.

  1. Race, Environment and Social Justice: Aura Bogado

An outspoken writer who advocates for Native American rights as well as other immigration and social-justice topics, @aurabogado is an investigative reporter at Reveal, and also has written articles for left-leaning publication The Nation.

  1. Transgender Rights, Gender and Race: Kathryn Black

@kat_blaque has gained quite a following as a transgender activist who speaks her mind based on her unique perspectives about gender, transgenderism and race. She has a provocative approach and provides some personal experiences to help make her points.

Whether you want to get behind the #MeToo movement, support transgender or women’s’ rights, or stand up for any type of social justice issue, you can always follow any one of these three personalities or a number of others who have risen in L.A. in recent years and can inspire and motivate you to action in support of a cause which you deem worthy enough to put skin in the game.

Activism is about caring, is about having a passion for something bigger than you, and doing your part of create and inspire change. For a world that seems to like the status quo and “routine,” advocating for change is revolutionary, rebellious, and … let’s face it, sometimes something that needed to wake us out of our spell.  Activism is the un-routine.    

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Who Was Cesar Chavez?

Cesar Chavez, 1927-1933, was a Mexican-American famous for his role as a union leader, labor organizer and Latin-American civil rights activist. In 1962, he found the National Farm Worker Association. After a successful strike with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee against California grape growers, the two unions merged to form the United Farm Workers. Chavez believed in peaceful protests and nonviolent methods to influence change such as boycotts, marches, and hunger strikes. Through his efforts, he was able to improve conditions for farm workers in California, Texas, Arizona and Florida (despite friction with the famous Teamster union).

Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona to immigrant parents but moved to California with his family in 1939. With this family, he traveled up and down the coast working in fields under terrible conditions such as delipidates migrant camps, corrupt labor contractors, poor wages for hard labor as well as racism. He became active in other labor organizations but resigned to focus on developing his own labor union for farm workers. In September 1965, when the National Farm Worker Association joined a strike initiated by Filipino farm workers in Delano’s grape fields, Chavez became a household name. He organized a march on Sacremento in 1966 and brought the harsh conditions of the farm worker into the limelight.

He was also noted for his hunger fasts that he used to prove that non-violent protects can be effective. He organized a huge fast in 1988 to protect the suffering for farm workers and their children, ignorance of farm workers rights and the use of pesticides. Chavez fasted for 36 days, Reverend Jesse Jackson started where Chavez left fasting for an additional three days. The fast was passed to other religious and celebrity figures including Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Whoopi Goldberg, Kerry Kennedy, Carly Simon and Danny Glover.

Chavez died in his sleep on April 23, 1993.

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Celebrity Suicide

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, after the two back to back celebrity suicide deaths this past week, suicide hotline numbers have jumped up a total of 25%. Because celebrities are always in the limelight, people often feel a connection to a celebrity even if they have never met. When a celebrity dies, society as a whole feels a collective loss and the news of a celebrity death prompts people to seek help. Over the past few years there have been a lot of celebrity suicides:

  • L’Wren Scott – On March 17, 2014 the fashion designer and was found dead in her New York apartment.  She committed suicide by hanging her self.
  • Mark Salling – In January 2018, the former Glee star was found dead in a tree in the Angeles Forest area. He died of asphyxia by hanging himself.
  • Robin Williams – On August 11, 2014, the comedian died of asphyxiation by hanging himself from the doorknob in his bedroom.
  • Chris Cornell – In 2017, the rock star was found dead in his hotel room also had hung himself after taking a lethal dose of benzo, barbiturates, and amphetamine.
  • Chester Bennington – Another celebrity who was found hanging in his home in California.
  • Tony Scott – In 2012, this director jumped off a Los Angeles County bridge to his death. Anti-depressants and sleeping aids were found in his body.
  • Jonathan Brandis – In 2003, this up and coming star committed suicide by hanging himself in the hallway of his Los Angeles apartment building.

The list continues on and on. What is interesting is that most celebrities kill themselves by hanging.

If you or someone you know is an emotional distress or suicidal, please call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

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Cuba: Marriage Equality

As the daughter of a communist party chief, not a birth injury attorney, Mariela Castro, whose father is Raul Castro (and the niece of Fidel Castro), is just the advocate the LGBTQ community needs in Cuba. For most of the 20th century, communist parties have been proponents of the LGBTQ community and have been the earliest advocates of their rights. Therefore, it’s about time that Cuba updates their laws to include gay marriage as constitutional. As one of the leading gay rights activist in Cuba, Mariela plans to draft charters and create amendments to Cuba’s 1976 constitution this summer.

Homosexuality was not always celebrated in Cuba especially before their revolution. Many men were targeted with harassment and faced criminal charges for homosexuality. After the revolution, many homosexuals fled to Miami to escape persecution. Some were forced to work in camps during the UMAP program. However, by the late 1980s and the early 90s, the attitude toward homosexuals changed with even the country’s leader Fidel Castro urging Cubans to be more accepting of homosexuals as it was a natural tendency that should be respected.

Mariela has had other successes while being a gay rights activist in Cuba. In 2005, she proposed a law that allowed transgender people to receive sexual reassignment surgery and change their legal gender. This proposal became law three years later in 2008 and now transgender people can become their true gender free of charge. If anyone can get a law to pass to allow same-sex marriage in Cuba, it’s her.

 

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What is the California Dream Act?

The California Dream Act was put in place by California state legislation in an effort to allow AB540 students to apply for financial aid in public colleges and universities of California. In other words, the act was put in place to allow undocumented students to obtain financial aid from a public educational institution. This will help young men and women across the state further their education. Since AB540 was passed in 2001, other bills have been passed that assist undocumented students in gaining financial aid. The California Dream Act, and the bills that have been passed along with it, have made an impact on many, many lives.

What Bills go Along With the California Dream Act?

AB 540

AB 540 is a bill that was passed in 2001. The bill was put into place by Assembly Member Marco Antonio Firebaugh. AB 540 allows undocumented students to be exempt from paying out-of-state tuition at public colleges and universities in California. This bill has allowed undocumented students from around the world to attend college for a reasonable price.

In order to be eligible for AB 540 consideration, the student must meet the following requirements:

  • Be enrolled in a California high school for three or more years
  • Graduate from a California high school or receive the equivalent degree (GED)
  • Submit a written promise to the public college or university where they currently or plan to attend. The statement must include that they meet all of the requirements and that they are taking steps to becoming a legitimate citizen.

AB 130

AB 130 was passed in 2012. The bill allows eligible AB 540 students to receive institutional aid, like scholarships, from a public college or university of California. The aid that is granted must be derived from non-state funds.

AB 131

AB 131 was passed in 2013. This bill allows eligible AB 540 students to receive financial aid while attending a public college or university in California. The aid for AB 131 is allowed to be partially derived from state funds. Undocumented students can access AB 131 funds by either applying for scholarships through the public college or university and/or apply for financial aid from the state. When applying for financial aid through the state, the California Student Aid Commission has set up forms, similar to FASFA, to determine the financial need of the student.

You can apply here: Application for Califonia Dream Act.

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Our Modern Day Black Activists

It’s February which means three things: Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day and the thing that we are the most excited about Black History Month. There have been amazing and life-altering activists that are important to understand and learn. People like Martin Luther King Jr, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglas, just to name a few. But why is no one celebrating the black activists that are fighting for black rights currently?

NOTE: We are not using the term African American because not all black people are from Africa. We fight for the rights for anyone who has felt prejudice or racism for the color of their skin whether they come from Africa, the West Indes or other areas in the Caribbean. 

We’ve put together this list of people who are attempting to make a difference in our country right now and who will one day hopefully be celebrated during Black History Month.

BRYAN STEVENSON

Putting his degree from Harvard Law School to good use, Stevenson founded and now serves as the executive director for the Equal Justice Initiative. He has many goals as a black activist but the most prominent being how the criminal justice system is biased towards the poor and minorities. Some of his accomplishments include handling court cases especially those who are faced with the death penalty and advocating for them. He also handles juvenile criminal cases (criminal cases for those under 18 years old) and advocates for them to not be given death penalty or life imprisonment without parole. The EJL’s goals include ending mass incarceration, excessive punishments and bringing to life the racial disparities in how the criminal courts treat minorities.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER

Back in 2010, Michelle released her book The New Jim Crow which also challenged the mass incarceration of the black community in the United States. She points out that even though the Jim Crow Laws (separate but equal) are no longer a thing, most of the black community lives their life behind bars stripped of their fundamental civil rights that the previous black activists we mentioned fought so hard for. Currently, she works for the ACLU and continues to shed light on how our criminal justice system is biased towards people of color.

MELANIE CAMPBELL

Although she has been a black rights activist for over 20 years, she’s still going strong. Her current efforts are running the Black Women’s Roundtable which provides black women with knowledge, skills, and resources that they need to help face the social issues that are happening in their community. These rounds tables help break down public policy, provide leadership training and contact civic education to empower black women. During her spare time, she works with the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation to help young black voters registaer to vote as wel las encourage them and prevent voter surpression.

As you can see, black activism is still alive and present in our country today. So although Black History Month is important to show how far we’ve come, the reality of the situation is that we still have far to go in order to be fully equal.

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The Silent Asian American Struggle

Sometimes as a white person, the idea of white privilege doesn’t necessarily hit us as hard as we might think. This is not to say we are ignorant of the concept of white privilege or that we believe that racism against minorities is some sort of myth. However, some of the aspects of racism are subtle enough to elude us. Sometimes all it takes is for us to perceive people in certain ways in order for them to conform to those notions as an entire ethnic group – and thus, a new form of racism may be born.

According to a statistic gathered by Clio Chang, 73 percent of the adult Asian American population in the United States was born in another country. First of all, a startling statistic in itself when you consider that, as of 2010, the Asian American population in the United States was over 17 million and has peaked over 20 million as of 2015, according to Pew Research. But, after that, consider the historical significance of the Asian American population. Historically speaking, Asian Americans seem to have one of the quieter backgrounds. African Americans had loud outcries of historical significance during the likes of the American Civil War and in the 1960’s during the fight for civil liberties. Hispanic minorities have had a tumultuous run in recent years, particularly regarding immigration policy and all the racism that has very likely stemmed out of that. Even the Muslim population has faced bitter persecution in the form of flagrant accusations regarding terrorist attacks and this persecution has recently been renewed with vigor in the Trump presidential era in the form of travel bans.

But when we consider the historical struggle of Asian Americans, the history doesn’t seem nearly as turbulent. Yes, there were the internment camps during World War II, where Japanese Americans were rounded up for the sake of “American protection” or whatever the propaganda may have said at that time to justify it. But the history books trail off after that. Is it because Asian Americans had an easier time in the post-World War II era than other minorities? And if so, what did they do differently to avoid our wrath as the racial majority? There was obviously a massive influx of Asian immigrants in this time period if 73 percent of the Asian American population weren’t even born here.

Consider the stereotypes that Asian Americans might carry with them. We’ve all heard the jokes regarding mathematics and music. Clio Chang alludes to the perception of a hard-working people who are known almost predominantly for keeping their heads down. But is this by accident? Chang’s research also uncovered remnants of a newspaper called Gidra that covered extensively the goings-on during the Vietnam War (which also make mention of one or two ugly displays on the part of whites) and the need for the Asian American population to stand up in some form of solidarity.

The fact is that Chang stumbled onto something rather fascinating; there haven’t been many political or social activists of Asian descent in American history. A phenomenon that Andrew Sullivan ironically explains rather well while commenting on airline victim, Dr. David Dao.

Today, Asian Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America. What gives? It couldn’t possibly be that they maintained solid two-parent family structures, had social networks that looked after one another, placed enormous emphasis on education and hard work, and thereby turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positive ones, could it?”

While many of these points may or may not be true, it also brings to light America’s indirect influence upon the Asian American people. And Chang suspects that creating such an identity may have had a long-lasting impact with negative implications that could affect the history and ability to affect history on the Asian American population. It emphasizes a community that, courtesy of an apparent need to appeal to the racial majority, has been threatened to lose its own identity and ability to speak out regarding issues that are pertinent to itself. And while it may have had a voice at some point in time (the Gidra newspaper, for example), the voice has become so silenced historically that those who would benefit from hearing it might, as Chang so eloquently says, “not even remember they existed at all.”

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Hollywood’s Accountability Revolution

For decades, Hollywood has been a place where people go to chase their dreams and make it to the silver screen. Unfortunately, because people are so desperate to make it in Hollywood, there has been a creepy underbelly of Hollywood behavior preying on vulnerable actors, producers, writers, and everyone in between.

Allegations of sexual assault in Hollywood have come up every now and again, but after the stunning (in both number and detail) accusations against Harvey Weinstein, victims of sexual assault throughout Hollywood have been given a platform to speak out against their predators.

It seems like every day we are hearing stories about another powerful person in Hollywood abusing that power – from Kevin Spacey to George Takei to Louis C.K.; celebrities we once viewed as relatable and lovable are now finally showing their true colors. Thanks to the bravery of the people willing to come out, we are getting a better picture as to the huge issues present in Hollywood, and how we might be able to fix them going forward.

For the longest time, people in power were able to leverage situations like auditions and closed-door meetings to assault aspiring actors, models, and other Hollywood employees. Even prominent actors, and strong male actors like Terry Crews, were not immune to the receiving end of inappropriate actions from Hollywood executives.

Now that everyone’s story is public, we can create safer situations for people in Hollywood who are just trying to do their jobs. If we are able to get the offenders out of positions of power (and hopefully out of Hollywood altogether), and change the system so that offenders are penalized instead of protected, we can make Hollywood the dream work location that we currently envision it as.

As activists in Los Angeles, it is our job to help the rights of all of Los Angeles’ oppressed. Even if they work in the film industry, and even if they are rich and famous, we owe it to all victims of sexual harassment in Hollywood to change the industry in every way possible to keep more people safe. Let’s keep those in power accountable for their actions.

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Celebrities Who Have Been Arrested For Protesting

We should be thankful for the countless people who have fought protesting for our rights. Many of those people include a number of Hollywood social justice warriors (and of course they fight for a number of other causes as well). They have the money, power, and influence to do things that not all of us can, and many of them have been arrested for protesting in order to fight for many important causes. Here are a few of the celebrities who have been arrested for protesting.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is still fresh in our minds. Shailene Woodley was arrested while protesting its construction on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. The tribe explained that the pipeline will destroy grounds sacred to it, while others worry over its threat to the water supply in the area. Woodley was arrested alongside many others, but was promptly released from the Morton County Jail in North Dakota.

Who doesn’t love George Clooney? He’s living proof that how old you are doesn’t make a difference to success. You can do whatever you like at whatever age you like if you take the time to try. A humanitarian situation developing in Sudan in 2012 led to his protest and arrest. He described the continued starving, raping, and killing of citizens by the Khartoum government. He was arrested at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington D.C. for his part in the protest, but his efforts did not go unnoticed.

When West African immigrant Amadou Diallo was shot and killed by New York police in 1999, Susan Sarandon and 219 others were arrested while protesting outside the NY police headquarters. This shooting is especially relevant today, as the Black Lives Matter organization continues to grow and inspire others to stand up to police who are routinely pardoned for the killing of African American citizens.

Woody Harrelson is known for many things, and perhaps one of the grandest is one of the, well, grandest. In 1996 he scaled the Golden Gate Bridge to prove a point: the redwoods are home to millennia-old ecosystems that are unique to themselves, and they should be protected at any cost. At the time, a 60,000 acre redwood forest in Northern California was in jeopardy. Harrelson and a number of other environmentalists were arrested after their protest was completed.

Lucy Lawless, best known for her stunning roles in the TV shows Xena and Spartacus and a number of movies, is also known for her continued participation in the fight to save the environment. This New Zealand native was arrested in February of 2012 after she and others protested the drilling of oil from a ship in the Arctic. She eventually pled guilty to burglary, and was sentenced to a $547 fine and 120 hours of community service. We’re sure she found it a small price to pay for fighting to save the world. Thank goodness they had a good criminal attorney

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What is Civic Engagement?

The definition of civic engagement remains a mystery to the vast majority of U.S. citizens, because most of us don’t participate in either the political processes that govern us (aside from sometimes voting, and even that could stand to use more bodies), or our communities. Civic engagement is the act of promoting the wellbeing of everyone we engage with inside of our communities. It’s the quest to discover and promote skills and learning that help us to make a real difference for the communities to which we belong.

Today, such a thing could not be more important. The problem is, if you’re a warrior for social change through civic engagement, you’ve probably already been labeled an evil socialist. Civic engagement is so much more than that, though. The philosophical issue of civic engagement revolves around the individual as part of a bigger machine. Each of us must do our part to ensure the proper working order of society as a whole so that the machine may work more efficiently. These advancements can take place in the realm of civil rights, or the engineering of better ways to live.

If you volunteer at the local soup kitchen, you’re civically engaged. Even a small sacrifice, like lending your neighbor a cup of sugar, is a small civic service that cannot be overlooked. For things to really change though, more of us must seek out ways to better our communities proactively. It doesn’t just happen by itself.

In order to enhance civic engagement, a community requires a forum for its members to discuss new ideas, and a means to quickly implement them as efficiently as possible. Some communities across the country have adopted community-funded projects somewhat like what you might expect from a kickstarter project. These paradigms are being used more frequently, and this has the power to change both our current economic system and the democracy we use to elect politicians to office.

The Internet was a key player in the progress of civic engagement over the past two decades. With the growth of online forums, people have been able to communicate across vast distances in the blink of an eye, and this has helped facilitate faster change on the local level. We learn about better ways of doing things on the other side of the world, and we can implement them here with somewhat less of a hassle.

Other more common forums for civic engagement include school boards, neighborhood associations, and local resource centers. If you aren’t aware that your community has any of these organizations, you might want to find out. You might be surprised the kind of change you can implement when people are allowed to hear new ideas or methods of enacting real change. Such a thing can’t happen on the national level before we get the ball rolling at the local level.

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