Fossil fuel divestment rally

Gonzaga students advocate for fossil fuel divestment at a rally outside Hemmingson on Feb. 13 in Spokane. 

As the United States currently faces a new wave of protests against racial injustice, there are plenty of ways for college students to join the fight against racism and get involved in activism.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever to practice activism safely, both online and in person. 

One way to get involved is to keep up with the programming being put on by the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, Community and Equity (DICE), which will be mostly virtual. However, DICE is trying to put together a few in-person events, which will not exceed groups of five people, according to Makayla Heiser, a sophomore social justice peer educator (SJPE).

To stay informed about the programming taking place, follow the Unity Multicultural Education Center on Instagram @guumec and follow the new SJPE Instagram account: @sjpe_gu.

Activism not only takes place in person, but online as well. Many people use their social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to share resources that relate to activism and social justice issues. Actively seeking out these resources and sharing them is one way to practice online activism.

“When there’s Twitter storms — when people take over a popular hashtag and post about injustices going on  it draws more attention to that [injustice],” Heiser said.

She also encouraged students to go beyond just posting resources on Instagram stories and share across all social media platforms. Students should keep a look out for people to follow who share informative resources of how to get involved.

“It’s really important that we educate ourselves, especially with having the internet access that we do," Heiser said. "It’s amazing how much we can learn and how much we can read from Black authors and people of color and understand those experiences, even if you don’t see it."

"Activism online isn’t just limited to sharing and engaging with resources either. You can start petitions (or find ones that have already been created), if you’re a good writer, writing reflections and sharing them is an option, and if you’re more into programming, making an app and using your skills to get involved in a similar way are options as well," said SR Ross, the program manager for intercultural development.

However, it’s still important to be safe, even when engaging with online activism, Ross said.  

Take your mental health and social media following into account and to be aware of any possible trolls that might be out to argue.

Ross also said that keeping your identity safe when posting is highly important. If your action is major, such as starting a petition or sharing a video you took, be aware of who you want it linked to, whether it’s a personal account or an account you created for the sole purpose of taking part in activism.

At GU, there are also clubs focused on activism, such as Zags Against Labor Injustice.

“That’s probably one of the best clubs to join for student organizing and student activism,” Heiser said.

If you’re looking for other ways to practice activism, Spokane has lots to offer as well. Ross said Spokane has been very enthusiastic about activism. People in the community have been holding protests, most recently for Jacob Blake, the Black man who was shot in the back seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

When getting involved in protests and in-person forms of activism, make sure to not go alone to be safe, Ross said. They also said how important it is to do your research and look at what’s already happening in your community.

“Get in where you fit in,” said Ross.

Heiser mentioned how students can utilize online platforms such as Facebook to organize rallies themselves.

“Get a few friends together, obviously wear masks and social distance, but make some signs and just go by a street,” Heiser said. “I know it might be a little scary to get started on that type of stuff, but it helps the community grow.”

If protesting out on the street wear a mask and practice social distancing. If this is not a safe option for you, there are other ways you can get involved such as bringing supplies to protests said Ross.

If you’re new to activism,  Ross said not to worry. Reaching out to those who organize events is a great idea. People will gladly share what they’ve learned with you.

They also said we can learn from those who came before us and our peers. It is important that we remember that we are not alone when it comes to fighting for justice.

“We’re all learning. I’m still learning, everyone’s learning, it's good to have an open mind and to take that constructive criticism lightheartedly,” Heiser said.

Another great way to initiate activism is to have conversations with people who have beliefs that conflict with your own. Be open to their perspective and talk to them about your own choices and beliefs.

“Honestly, even having conversations with your family and friends is super important to just talk about it,” Heiser said.

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