The Four Virtues of Activism: Words from Sister Simone Campbell

So as I mentioned yesterday, I had the privilege of spending my Tuesday night doing something much more productive than listening to DJT try to con the nation into letting their guard down.  Instead, I attended an activism event hosted at my university.  And I am so glad that I did.

I haven’t felt safe at my university since election day.  I know that might sound melodramatic, but it’s true.  It’s a conservative school and the number of #MAGA hats was pretty terrifying.  I found myself sitting in groups of people wondering: am I safe with you?  Are the people I love safe with you? I was genuinely unsure if the people around me were people who voted for oppression and hatred… or not.  I was unsure if they were the kinds of people who respect people of color, and immigrants, and refugees, and the LBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities… or if they weren’t.  I sat, and for the first time in my life, I really understood what it is to feel like you are unsafe in your surroundings.  I realized in that moment that my privilege had shielded me from this my whole life; this is what marginalized groups all across this nation feel all the time and because I have white privilege, it was just now dawning on me.  I felt sick.  I felt lost.  And I thought of my brothers and my mom and my daddy and my grandparents and realized how little I knew after all these years.  And how quickly I needed to learn and fight.

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from @africanunification

So when I heard about this activism event, I made it a point to go.  I was curious: could a school with such a strong Trump supporting population host a successful activism event?  What was going to be the point of the event?  How were they going to address Trump and his nonsense?  WERE they going to address it?

I was pleasantly surprised.  The event was incredible.  It was everything my spirit needed during what many of you know was a challenging week for me.  Our faculty stood at the head of the room and, in no uncertain terms, expressed the danger that a Trump presidency means for people all over this country.  They stated that we, as social workers, need to get up and get moving; we need to engage in direct action to support the communities damaged by a Trump presidency.  One professor (who I will admit I didn’t necessarily love prior to this) looked directly at us and said, “You were built for this.  You were built for times like these.  This is it.  This is the moment.  You’re ready and you were absolutely built for this.”

I can’t really describe how that made me feel other than to say: I was on fire.  I really felt something awaken in me in that moment.  It’s not like I didn’t know it. But to hear that I was *literally* built for this?  That I have been training for this for 4 years? It was truly incredible and I looked around at my classmates feeling, for the first time since the election, like I was surrounded by a team.

We were also blessed with the opportunity to listen to Sister Simone Campbell give us some advice.  She lifted me in every way that I didn’t know I needed.  To get advice from the Nun on the Bus herself was an honor and I am excited to share it with all of you.

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She talked to us about the four virtues of activism.  I am going to do some paraphrasing and hope to do her justice in the process, so bear with me.

1. The first is the holy virtue of joy.
Too often we get too serious. We get upset and then try to get our friends to join us. We forget to be joyful in the process of our activism. Thinking you’re in charge and that you really need to handle everything can become draining, but when working together, joy happens. Hold onto that joy even in these challenging times.
2. The second is holy virtue of curiosity.
This is the hallmark of all social workers. We need to be curious about other people’s experiences. We must learn about the wallpaper that covers one another’s lives.  We might not like it.  We might even think it’s ugly.  But we must learn about it.
3. The third is sacred gossip.
This is not ordinary gossip.  I repeat, this is not ordinary gossip. What is meant here is that we must tell each other’s stories to lift each other up. We must tell each other’s stories to help one another grow. It’s one of the greatest ways that we can make change.
4. The last is the sacred virtue of “doing your part.”
Some of us try to wear too many hats. We take all the hats and we stack them on our heads and we think that this was work.  But what we fail to realize is, if we keep taking all the hats, there aren’t hats for everybody else. We must leave something on the table for someone else to pick up. Leave a hat for another member of your team.  Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we are in charge and have to fix it all. We must remember: we are but the seeds and catalysts of change. The only way we can grow is if we nourish others in the process.

So, my fellow Resisters, let us go forth into the world, armed with these virtues, to tear down the system of white patriarchy that has given us Donald J. Trump.  Let us do it with joy.  Let us remain curious and remember to share the stories of others.  And let us always remember to do our part while helping others to find and do theirs.

2 thoughts on “The Four Virtues of Activism: Words from Sister Simone Campbell

  1. I think that this message couldn’t have come at a better time for you. You are passionate, educated and evolving in your role of activist and social worker. This couldn’t have come at a better time maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

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