How To: Be An Advocate
by founder, corinne foxx
Activism and millennial go together, like Bumble dates & inevitable dread. You really can’t have one without the other. It’s no secret that our generation is vocal, socially conscious and loves a great debate. Give us a political issue, Facebook and a few motivated friends and you’ll have yourself a recipe for some passionate rhetoric. The political climate in the last year has fed our generation's hunger for debate and activism. It’s hard to keep your opinion quiet on major issues, like, you know, the next President of the United States or universal healthcare.
From my experience, millennial activism was born on the Internet. Memes, statuses, Instagrams, tweets and hashtags were the founding fathers of the millennial movement. We’ve used social media to express ourselves, our views, our likes and, most often, our dislikes about the government and social issues in our country. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a retweet or shared post about something that someone does not like or agree with. It’s become our everyday, normal social media experience.
Scroll…scroll.. scroll… “I can’t believe Trump is doing this!”… scroll… scroll… scroll… “This cannot be tolerated!”
It’s a sad and harsh truth that we are being desensitized to social media activism. While social media is great for sharing and educating our peers, it can be difficult to get our voices heard by the people in power. Despite his ever-lasting presence on Twitter, the President of the United States probably didn’t see your status update liked by your mom. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan definitely didn’t get a chance to read your long-winded Instagram caption. While I still absolutely encourage millennials to utilize every tool available to them, I also would love to see our generation advocate offline and in the real world as well.
Marches and protesting have had a long and impactful history on our nation. From the March on Washington in 1968 to the Women’s March in 2017, we’ve seen the power of numbers and how these demonstrations succeed at making lasting impressions on our leaders. There’s a special indivisible force that everyone can feel, when marching or protesting together. I would imagine that the Women’s March was the first large-scale march that most millennials had ever participated in - it was, for me. I felt supported, inspired, hopeful and powerful in my ability to literally stand for what I believe in. It was a beautiful and life-changing experience.
A few months after the Women’s March, the euphoria began to wear off. I was being bombarded with Facebook statuses, retweets and posts about the issues that I had just marched against. I tried to continue the reposting; but it all became too depressing very quickly. I felt defeated, powerless and discouraged.
Luckily, NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) invited me to join them at their National Convention in Washington D.C. As an ambassador for NAMI, I would have the opportunity to go to Capitol Hill and engage with our nation’s leaders. I was finally given the chance to speak my truth and have my voice heard.
The most impactful that I’d ever felt was standing in my senators’ offices, pitching my opinions about mental health care. The tweets, Instagrams and statuses that I had been passionately posting about on social media were actualizing as real conversations in our nation's government. It was the first time that I felt in control of our government and truly an American citizen. This is what our founding fathers fought for: the ability for the common person to have their voice heard in government. There was no amount of tweeting or posting that could ever have created that feeling that I had leaving that building.
The most important lesson that I learned that day? These are public offices. I don’t have to stand outside and protest. I can set up a meeting and get face-to-face time with my representatives and senators. The experience of walking into Capitol Hill completely disillusioned the scary, intimidating idea of our government. These were real people that I could contact and talk to.
When I left Washington D.C, I wondered why more millennials didn't organize groups to talk to their senators and representatives. I wondered why I’d never thought to call any of mine. The phone number to reach your representatives and senators are listed online for anyone to access. You feel way more in control of your country, by physically speaking to the people in power. I realized that I had fallen into the hole of social media.
While everyone does not have the opportunity or means to travel to Washington D.C, there are more grassroots, community-based ways to influence government:
- Join a local non-profit organization that advocates for your cause.
- Call your senator and representatives.
- Fundraise to generate funds to travel to Washington D.C with your organization.
- Write a letter to your Congress man or woman.
- Write a letter to your Senator.
- Look up speaking events nearby by influential leaders and plan to attend. You may have an opportunity for a meet & greet.
My call to action is simple. We are experts at social media. We have mastered it. It’s time to master advocating offline. If we really believe in change, we have to embrace every tool available to us - including on-the-ground advocacy.