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SPEAK UP

Civic Engagement

“It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

While doing research on social activism for the upcoming event, SpeakUp: Civic Engagement and Social Activism in the Arts, I came across many stories that moved me. Examples of how everyday citizens like you and I can make a difference.  These stories also reinforced my core belief that it is always best to:

  1. become educated
  2. take action
  3. speak up on issues of common concern for any cause for which you feel passionate

My own social activism skills, honed at the age of 12, at St. Rose School had innocent beginnings. On May 4, 1970, hearing the news of the shootings at Kent State University, I organized an impromptu peaceful “sit-in” on the playground during lunch hour.  Many in my eighth- grade class sat on the blacktop that afternoon, holding hands and offering silent prayers for those killed. We knew enough to feel sad that unarmed students were shot for protesting the Vietnam War. In response our principal, Sister Gertrude, punished our civic action and tried to silence our voices by cancelling a graduation breakfast. Lesson learned; we gave up some scrambled eggs but gained the knowledge that our voices could be powerful tools to call attention to important issues!

As a student at Kent State University, I witnessed a friend (and straight A student) unjustly prosecuted by the university for handing out leaflets protesting a proposed tuition hike.  His noon leafleting rally; a simple call to action for other students to become informed about the proposed tuition hike that would affect us all, was met with outright hostility and threats of suspension by the administration.  Because he was outspoken politically, he was singled out unjustly.  He persisted in his right to protest; was tried by a college review board and subsequently vindicated.  Since then, he has gone on to have a brilliant career as a labor historian and activist, teacher and social/political justice educator and author.  He still uses his voice to speak up for others who do not have one; and encourages us to do the same -  to rally a call to action for issues that affect us all.

I am sure you have a similar story of signing a petition, being part of a rally for out of work employees, being an advocate to pass legislation for animal rights issues or in support of a recycling program. Perhaps you have attended summits and workshops on the issue of global warning, or participated in peaceful rallies and picket lines for out of work employees. Whenever you have used your voice to speak up for a cause that will affect the health and well-being of all of us you; issues of universal or common cause, you have taken a powerful step through civic engagement and social activism.  

Together Protect Peace: Wick Poetry Center

Together Protect Peace: Wick Poetry Center Speak Peace Project - Ta Thank Khue

Historically, artists have also used their voices and their works to educate, promote and expose issues of social, medical, political, economic and global importance for all of us. On May 1 

and 2, CPAC will be presenting two events that will provide a forum for discussion on this topic.  On May 1 Stephanie Bleyer,  social activist and arts engagement consultant, will “highlight effective practices for community outreach & engagement based on action-oriented case studies. Artists of all disciplines will learn how to produce staff and fundraise for engagement campaigns for artwork that contains social justice content.”

On May 2, Stephanie Bleyer along with other local artists and practitioners will present case studies on “Civic Engagement in Practice.”  Using stories from their own artistic process, the panel will focus on what one person can do to facilitate and empower change on issues locally, nationally and globally through their art. The informal panel and individual meetings with artists afterwards will focus on ideas and strategies for taking action and empowering your voice through your artwork and process.

I hope that you can join us on May 1 and May 2 and in the meantime, remember to Speak Up - use your voice - one person can and does make a difference!

More Links and Resources

Categories: advocacy, Artists, arts, civic, community organizing, connect, creativity, experience, issues, plan, public policy, resources, Storytelling

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