It’s hard out there for a student activist

As a student activist, I am familiar with the perpetual struggle of being the little guy trying to make a big change. 

Activists of any age want the absolute best for their cause, but there is a certain expectation and trust that goes along with it; we depend on others to care just as much about the cause in order for our ultimate goal to be reached. It pains me to cover up fundraising with cupcakes and car washes, because I want to believe that people are donating for the cause, and not for a treat or clean car. The reality is, it takes something personal to be invested–to give your time, your money, and your effort. It takes more than your heart being “touched by tragedy” to take that step and any other steps necessary to pursue the solution to a problem.

I have been a devoted supporter of Invisible Children ever since their infamous KONY 2012 video in March 2012. KONY 2012 touched hearts by humanizing atrocities committed in an entirely different region. However, what became the most viral video faded like any fad and faced monumental criticism. Being an Invisible Children supporter, I’ve watched people tear apart the efforts of young activists; “slacktivism” or “clicktivism” as it may be called. The Facebook event for Cover the Night in April had 400+ people “showing up” in my closest city. By the time it came around, the hype had ended, and it was just me and one other student hanging posters around town.

The message most people discredited and overlooked was that of advocacy. Don’t take sharing a video as inaction. Sometimes we’re too busy with the expectations of being a good student to do more than change our profile picture or share a video. We don’t always have the resources to take a bus to Washington, DC and rally in front of the White House (but when we do, it’s awesome). For a problem to be solved, people have to know and care about the problem. As an inner photojournalist, I was so moved by the message of advocacy the KONY 2012 video had sparked. We’re just a bunch of kids. We don’t have much money to donate, or political influence. We cannot just strap on a gun and go fly to Uganda and find Joseph Kony ourselves. 

But we still care. We find a reason to care. While I attended Invisible Children’s Fourth Estate Leadership Summit in Los Angeles this past August, I was happy to see over 2,000 others still dedicated to ending Lord’s Resistance Army violence in central Africa. It was then I experienced the moment, when you know and feel exactly why you’re involved (even if you’ve been involved for a while) and that reason is no one else’s reason but your own.  

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We in America have the ability to shut it all out and continue on with our lives, but we also have the ability to do something about it; to spark action, to stop a war, to get our political leaders on board. We can tweet and send letters to our officials, we can start clubs here on campus (look out for the new Invisible Children club), we can fundraise like pros, we can and already study for degrees, and eventually, we take that trip across the world and that job with our favorite non-profit — for whatever social justice issue we’re passionate about.

If you’re looking to change the world, don’t get discouraged. If you were inspired to make that change, it’s possible to inspire someone else to help you make that change.