Tweeting about #BlackLivesMatter or #SandraBland is a good start. But Rashad Robinson wants more. As the executive director of colorofchange.org, Robinson is fighting to transform tweets into tangible change. At 36 years old, he leads the largest online social justice organization in the country. From ensuring that corporations are representing black people accurately on TV to preventing police brutality, Color of Change is committed to holding organizations accountable for the safety and representation of all citizens.
People with skills in communications, law, and even computer science can make activism their full-time job. According to Robinson, if you have an unending passion, that’s all you need. Furthermore, he explains nine Gloria-Steinem-meets-Malcolm-X skills that are listed below:
1. Be Proficient in Handling Multiple Tasks Simultaneously.
“When I first came on, I wanted to become an activist and build Color of Change into a force on the national stage and usher in a new way of engaging on civil rights. I wanted to transform an organization that was working on one or two issues at a time into an organization that could take on multiple fights locally and nationally. Whether it’s criminal justice, voting rights, or the economy, we want to make sure that those issues are not only addressed but those real solutions are put on the table.”
2. Keep Your Finger on the Pulse of What’s Trending.
“There are moments that happen in our lives every single day that make us feel angry or sad or happy, and those are organizing moments. They give us the opportunity, if we respond fast enough, to add more people to the movement. We can provide people with tangible things to do at the moment. A lot of times, those moments are driven by cultural presence. They establish a presence in our lives, and if we’re not careful, all they’ll do is generate awareness. But what we hope to do at our best at Color of Change is to translate that cultural presence into cultural power that forces institutions and governments to be accountable.”
3. Recognize When You Need Assistance.
“When I came to GLAAD in 2005, I was around 26 or 27. All of the directors who reported to me were older than me by at least 10 years. I was also the first Black person in my role. I was an anomaly. That required me to listen, and seek out help, mentorship, and coaching. I also had to be okay with admitting what I didn’t know.”
4. Realize That Activism Is Sometimes a 24/7 Job.
“Given my age and position at GLAAD, I had to be the first person in the office and the last person to leave. I had to translate my awareness of the issues into a willingness to do my very best. Now, as the executive director at Color of Change, once again, I moved into a role where I was the only one, this time I was the only openly gay person leading a civil rights organization. I was still young at the time too for my job. Being attentive and constantly learning, instead of being scared to follow my dreams, has been my goal for me over these past four years. Consequently, I’m habitually one of the first people in our office or the last person on email chains. All of that has been about a commitment to this work and to be able to see progress.”
5. Must See the Bigger Picture.
“In the aftermath of Trayvon Martin, people were protesting all around the country. We also took a step back to reassess our situation and focus on what we could change to make a significant impact. We settled on the policy group the American Legislative Exchange Council known as ALEC. ALEC had been behind the passage of big Stand Your Ground laws and other voter suppression initiatives. We led a behind-the-scenes and public campaign against ALEC, talking to their corporate sponsors directly and asking them to stop funding ALEC. Then when the corporations didn’t change, we mobilized our members publicly to boycott, petition, and protest.”
6. Start Taking Charge and Don’t Wait for Someone Else to Do It.
“There is a confluence of things causing this uptick in activism in 2015 but we’re also in the participation age. Since we don’t have a leader who tells us what to do, we rely on each other and technology instead. Young people today have a much greater ability to make their voices heard and turn their ideas into realities. Twenty-four years ago when that tape of Rodney King surfaced, someone had to tape it, they had to think about what they were going to do with it, they had to send it to the network, and the network had to make a decision as to whether they were going to air it, they called the LAPD first for comment. We don’t need the support of a big corporation or the media to promote our stories and tell us if our ideas are valid. With social media, every individual can reach out to millions of people. Color of Change began with a single email sent to people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Since then, our organization has grown to 1.3 million members through effective mobilization in times of crisis. All of this technology in the participation age gives us the possibility to be more powerful and have an unfiltered voice.”
7. Don’t Die for the Cause. Serve It.
“I realize that I will not die at my desk. My interests change constantly – some things matter to me a lot at one point and then lose importance, while other issues gain significance. So while I’m working at Color of Change, I know that it won’t be my last job. We are in a moment right now where I can really effect change for generations and that opportunity is something that I feel a real responsibility to make good on.”
8. Choose Your Battles Carefully.
“My goal in the long-term is to win on these issues and drive the type of work that will make a real difference in people’s lives. I realized that none of the people I worked with would identify with me regarding my issues. My job was to find people who shared my views, explain the issues at hand, and work together to bring about change. Everyone who works with you doesn’t have the same goals all the time.”
9. Be Smart on Social Media.
“I do think we’re in this interesting moment where people are on Facebook or Twitter and have opportunities to see what people think and hold. It’s an interesting meld of personal and professional lives. I tell people that Facebook can feel like therapy, but you should only post things if your security settings are in place. According to my goals, I need to take specific actions if I want to effect change. If all I wanted was to vent, then I would know that by now. If you want a promotion or to be in a job that is one step up from your current role, you will need to consider what social media can do to help or hinder your journey. There will never be upward mobility without some sort of sacrifice.”
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