Organize and Engage! A short reflection on activism
My name is Laura, I am an anthropologist and activist turned documentary film maker.
I believe in the power of communities and social movements. I want to advocate strongly to get involved and to be a critical part of this society.
Because this is how this movie was born: from 2015 on, I felt overwhelmed with what was going in Europe. With the desire to get active and put direct contact and mutual learning first, I co-founded the solidarity group justPeople in the Netherlands.
We went to an emergency refugee camp that was tucked away in a forest, prepared with coffee and tea. Just to meet people, get to know each other and organize.
Still, this remains a very empowering experience. So, if you feel powerless and you have the impression like your government is not putting humans and their rights first: organize and engage.
Ultimately, this brought me to Lesvos. Together with the support of many friends, old ones and new ones and a Crowdfunding campaign that allowed me to bring a camera. Out of this came this movie, with my experiences to share with you.
keeping in contact with the justPeople collective: Skype Session Lesvos - Nijmegen
How to get involved
Firstly, look around you. Talk to your friends, find local groups. Surely, there is already anti-racism groups, or maybe there are some people who you know might want to enjoy organizing movie nights, making posters, meeting people. Use your creativity and have fun!
Secondly, it might be supportive to go towards the places, where people suffer a lot right now. There is still a lot of people on the move and a lot of them are stuck on the way in miserable conditions.
However, it is very important to reflect on what you do and why.
If you want to or not, you create a web of power relations, that are very problematic. Are you going to be one of the people handing out clothes and food? And if so, is this a repetitive action of, again, putting the people on the move in the position of "I give" - "you take"?
Frankly, it is often impossible to avoid this situation. Because, of course, if you see hungry people, you want to share your food. But this can also be painful: you are stuck in a dilemma.In the camps, people are stripped of their dignity, by making them stand in lines for food all the time. This is just one example, but it repeats itself the whole time: refugees are disciplined to not self-organize. To not make their own decisions.
And if you come in there, helping people to fulfill their basic needs, you are just one more element in this machinery.
For this reason, I recommend initiatives of which I know they work not for but with the people they support. Who strive towards autonomy, self- organization and dignity.
Third, be aware that going abroad for help comes with a culture shock as well as an emotionally very challenging experience. Seek support and think about ways how to deal with the confrontations that will come up.
Don't go for less than two weeks, because this is the minimum of time it will take you to get used to the ways in which things on the ground work.
Forth and finally, never forget you can also do a lot of things from home, you can do awareness work and fundraisers for the ones on the ground.
Have fun and give back what is given to you.
Raise your voice!