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Be The Revolution Recap

Author: Monty Hughes

After heavy deliberation, I did a trust fall with my friend and colleague Hannah Findling and signed my Saturday off to an activism training, “Be the Revolution.” I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I arrived curious, early, and more than a little caffeinated.

Immediately I began connecting with other activists from all sorts of backgrounds and spheres of action. It felt exciting to share such a spontaneous space with so many like-spirited people from different corners of USC and beyond, and the event hadn’t even started yet!

Throughout the afternoon, I became a stronger changemaker, expanded my knowledge of movement building, and found comfort in the uncomfortable through a host of guest speaker presentations and novel workshop activities.

During my most-powerful experience of the day, attendees were invited to hold eye contact in complete silence with strangers, which prompted laughter, wide smiles, and even tears. I would never have imagined such a seemingly inoffensive and simple activity could produce such a rich and varied array of human emotions, including my own (a.k.a. uncontrollable smiling). Though not the best icebreaker activity to employ at every activist meeting, I found it uniquely effective at creating nearly instantaneous connections among total strangers. I guess there’s some truth to the whole eyes are the window into the soul thing!

Throughout the training, our host Jay Ponti also discussed change-making strategies and principles, like “outside tactics, internal beings,” that emphasized the importance of self-care and healing trauma for activists. I was ecstatic to see self-care explored in an activist training because of the burnout crisis plaguing activist spaces, which I’ve witnessed firsthand in political campaigns (where self-sacrifice is, unfortunately, part of the job description). Jay continued to share about the importance of collaboration across movements and the detrimental effects of infighting as well, drawing on personal stories from the Bankexit movement and Standing Rock.

We further explored four changemaker archetypes– including analysts, promoters, supporters, and controllers– and how our identities within one or more of those categories influence our behaviors and effectiveness as activists. I was genuinely shocked at how accurate the characteristic behaviors of my archetype were in describing my own traits and tactics as an activist, especially as I analyzed myself honestly alongside other attendees belonging to the same category.

Toward the end of our Be The Revolution training, we were fortunate enough to hear from a Native American spiritual leader and former co-chair for the Global Indigenous People’s Cause at the United Nations, Shannon Rivers. During our conversation, Rivers explored the Doctrine of Discovery (a 15th century framework for Europeans to claim territories uninhabited by Christians) and its continued use in denying Native American claims to land. We also learned about ways to be an ally to Native American activists.

After wrapping up some fountain-side conversations outside the temporary home of our weekend workshop, I confidently rode home feeling like a more capable and self-aware activist. Sometimes while caught up in the dizzying scene of activist spaces, I’ve forgotten how critical it is to step back and look inwards for the sake of the cause and one’s own well-being. This training served not only as a critical reminder of this but also as an invaluable space for connecting with other activists, building a more robust arsenal of change-making tools, and analyzing how our efforts fit into bigger movements for change.


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