on quiet activism (and a giveaway)

As part of their "It only takes ONE mom" campaign, ONE invited me to contribute some thoughts on activism for their site.  The following is my submission.  I hope you enjoy it.  And of course, I hope you consider becoming a member of ONE (non-US folks click here).


A few weeks ago, the good people at ONE sent me an email, asking the following question:

"What made you decide to become an activist?"

I'll admit right now that when I read those words, I quite literally choked on my mug of tea.  Me, an activist? I thought.  Aren't activists people who engage in loud protests, long marches, and risk getting arrested, firehosed and tased?  Trust me, as desperately as I might wish the opposite was the case, I've never considered myself that brave.  Surely they had made some mistake.

But ONE really wanted an answer, so I felt like I needed to respond.  In a somewhat uncharacteristic moment of openmindedness on my part, I allowed for the possibilty that perhaps it was I who had too narrow a view of activism; and so, I decided to do some research. 

Pretty quickly, I came across this definition:

Activism (n): intentional action designed to bring about social change

On pondering this concept, something within me stirred.  I might not be a placard-carrying protester, but I do feel strongly about bringing about social change.  And I have for some time.

You see, several years ago, perhaps when I became a mother (but then again, maybe after), I started to become seriously disenchanted with the media in general.  I harbour no illusions about the fact that there are bad things that happen in the world, events about which the media certainly has the responsibility to inform us; however, I couldn't help but feel that often people who have access to the media -- news organizations, of course, but also corporations and even individuals -- were starting to relish the communication of negativity and ugliness.  Crime and gore and wrongdoing, and even sickness and sadness and desperation were quickly becoming entertainment. Magazines and billboards seemed to delight in screaming what was wong with us, and what we needed to do to "fix our flaws."  Reality television, exposing ugly sides of life, was becoming more commonplace than uplifting programming, and even bloggers and Tweeters and Facebookers and other individuals employing social media seemed to enjoy complaining and kvetching and snarkiness to the exclusion of all other expressions, often solely in the dogged pursuit of ever-more followers. 

And inexplicably, we all seemed to be lapping this up.

To be clear, I'm not immune: I do love a good wry observation or a sarcastic joke, and my friends will tell you that I have certainly been known to make my own.  Also, to reiterate, I am not so naïve that I don't understand that negative things happen.  That said, I just flat do not believe that the world is that bad, or people are that flawed:  in fact, thanks to my camera, I believe that the world, with all its people, is still an uncommonly beautiful place.

And so, with intention, I set out to prove it.  I wrote a book called The Beauty of Different, illustrating that people, in all their shapes and colours and sizes and genders and orientations and insights are empirically, inarguably beautiful.  I share photographs every weekday at Chookooloonks, often of small, seemingly insignificant things, because I am fiercely dedicated to showing how beautiful the world really is, one image at a time.  I pursue my goal of photographing 1000 faces.  I travel as often as I can, capturing images of beauty that are different from those which surround me at home, and try to share them as much as possible through social media.  And, of course, I cannot wait to travel to Kenya with ONE, to photograph and share the beauty of that country and its people, not to mention the good that is arising from all the work the organizations for which ONE advocates are doing there.

So, perhaps I'm not an activist in the stereotypical connotation of the word. But in my quiet, persistent, everyday way, I strongly hope to counteract some of the negativity that comes at us constantly by maintaining a corner of the internet dedicated to giving readers hope and the courage -- yes, the courage -- to remain positive.  It turns out I really do believe in acting with intent to bring about social change, if doing so helps people realize that there is good in the world, and more importantly, there is good within themselves, despite what they are being told. 

Besides, I'm also wildly convinced that by simply changing our outlook, we can all help make the world a better, more beautiful place.  In our own uncommonly beautiful ways.

* * * * * * *

In an unrelated note:  today's June 28th, and as it happens, July is my birthmonth.  To celebrate, I had decided that starting July 1st, I would, over the next few weeks, be doing a few giveaways of The Beauty of Different; however, given the subject matter above, it seemed like today would be a better day to start than the first. 


Simply leave a comment below, wherever in the world you might be, and I'll pick one commenter at random to win a signed copy of the book.  I'll do this once a week until I leave for Kenya.

Thanks, everyone!


UpdateOn a related note, the really beautiful Jen Louden is featuring me on her blog today.  Please go pay her a visit -- I'm so honoured that she included me in her wonderful work.


Image:  Photographed with my Nikon D300, 60mm micro lens.  aperture 3.5, shutter speed 1/250, ISO 640.


SongThere's hope by india.arie