Sharing politically-charged articles on social media is one form of social activism, but it’s clear many women in South Florida want to do more. That’s the reason more than a hundred women and a handful of men gathered at the Pride Center on Thursday, March 16 for Nasty Women – Women’s Activism 101.
Those in attendance heard from several speakers on a panel:
Equality Florida’s Cindy Brown, Planned Parenthood’s Carly Cass, Community Advocate Jessmarie Gonzalez, Educator T Peña, Spoken Word Performer May Reign, Community Organizer Jasmen Rogers and Social Justice Educator Lutze Segu. The Pride Center’s Roya Amirniroumand moderated the discussion.
The goal of the evening’s discussion was to talk to women about the various strategies available to help them become involved as activists in meaningful ways. What took place was a free wielding conversation about women’s rights, oppression, trans rights and race.
The conversation kicked off with the panel giving advice on how to start as an activist.
“Know who your elected representatives are,” said Cindy Brown of Equality Florida. “Know their position and how they voted. The most effective way to reach out to your representative is face to face. Visit them in their offices in Tallahassee or Washington, DC.”
Community Organizer and Black Lives Matter Activist Jasmen Rogers advised women to find their focus by asking themselves what they feel compelled to do.
“A lot of people want to join us,” she said. “We need writers, cooks, photographers, journalists and more. “We need a lot that doesn’t involve civil disobedience. Ask yourself, ‘what can I do? What do I want to do? That will help you figure [out] how you can contribute.”
Educator Lutze Segu told the audience to think locally.
“Give money to grassroots, local organizations,” she advised. She also encouraged new advocates to revisit past movements of activism. “Queer women, trans folks, black and brown women have always been resisting. Just because you are waking up to it, doesn’t mean it’s new.”
Educator T Peña says new activists should start small.
“It’s easy to get overwhelmed,” Peña said. “Figure out what you’re passionate about. Break that down to a molecular level.”
One main message that was in the undertone of the evening – there is universal experience of womanhood. For example, Cindy Brown suggested attendees should not unfriend those on social media who may disagree with them politically.
“It’s important for us not to shut ourselves off to the opposition,” she advised. “Understanding where the opposition is coming from can help us have a conversation.”
But Lutze Segu disagreed.
“We don’t need everyone to get it,” she countered. “Some people are going to be bigoted and homophobic. Peace to them – most Americans are mainstream and can be converted.”
Guidance on ways to deal with the onslaught of social media opinions came up a lot during the conversation.
“Sometimes I shut out social media to avoid burnout,” T Peña said. “The constant barrage of news can put you in a depressing place.”
“I take a day out of the week that I spend with my son,” Jessmarie Gonzalez said. “Surround yourself with a great group of friends for support.”
Planned Parenthood Organizer Carly Cass relies on her friends but offers this advice. “When you are with that group of friends, limit the venting.”
The conversation eventually moved to the future with the panel discussing their goals for the next year.
“My goals are to inspire the youth through literacy,” said Author, Entrepreneur and Spoken Word Artist May Reign. “Activism does not look like anything. It doesn’t wear a head wrap. It doesn’t wear a leather jacket with an afro. We need people in the control room, the boardroom and on the block.”
Carly Cass plans to invest in grassroots candidates. Lutze Segu wants women to spend the coming months reading and studying other social movements. “If we know our history,” she told the audience, “We know we can survive Trump.”
Race was another recurring subject that came up often during the discussion. Cindy Brown asked what she could do to be better advocate for people of color.
Lutze Segu responded. “I think white folks need to do a reckoning,” she stated. “You are complicit in white supremacy. You benefit from white supremacy. You don’t want to make a black or brown person your cultural tour guide. Talk to other white people about oppression.”
Other topics included ways cis women could be more supportive of their transgender sisters and supporting organizations like Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter, Miami Workers, SAVE and The Pride Center.
Audience members said they supported having regular meetings to discuss activism – the question is will it help everyone get on the same page.