2020 has been a year of change as corporate employees, activists, and governments grapple with pandemic, social unrest, and economic uncertainty.
For this reason Cashay and its sister sites MAKERS, HuffPost, Yahoo, and BUILT BY GIRLS partnered to create Resilience 2020, a live-streamed town hall event where thought leaders gathered to discuss how to persevere through these challenges.
Resilience 2020 brought climate, racial, immigration, and pay equity activists under one virtual roof to discuss how to persevere and make inroads to a better future.
“I have to start today by saying that I didn’t know how I was going to lead the session today because I, too, need resilience and hope between the passing of Justice Ruth Badger Ginsburg, to no justice for Breonna Taylor, I am in need of this conversation today, just like many of you,” said Ja’Nay Hawkins, the moderator of the activism panel and the head of partnership development and diversity, equity, and inclusion programming at MAKERS.
The panelists included climate change activist Alexandria Villasenior, diversity and inclusion advocate Michelle Kim, Get Out The Vote for Latinas advocate Mitzy Gutierrez, and Ronan Dunne, CEO of Verizon consumer group and a mentor for youth leadership.
‘Turn your climate anxiety into action’
As global temperatures have risen 1.4 degrees since the early 20th century, climate activists — many of them part of Generation Z — have taken matters into their own hands.
Alexandria Villasenior is one of these. She co-founded Earth Uprising, a youth-led climate change organization that leads action groups and climate strikes to raise awareness. In light of recent California fires, she recalls how the public wasn’t wearing the right protective equipment against smoke.
“I think one thing that was very upsetting was that there isn’t a lot of public information about how to keep yourself safe before,” Villasenior said, whose hometown is in California. “We’re going outside and not wearing the right masks, a lot of people didn’t know how to seal up their houses properly or to make sure the smoke can’t come in.”
It isn’t enough to be upset, she said. People need to take action.
A year ago, she and other children climate activists filed a complaint to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, a United Nations body dedicated to ensure human rights for children. They stated that five countries — Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Turkey and France — violated children’s rights by their inaction on the climate crisis.
“A complaint is a way for young people to see how their rights are being violated, but also to hold our politicians and our governments accountable,” Villasenior said, who started her activism at age 13. “It’s not just a climate crisis, it’s a health crisis.”
Take private conversations out in the public about change
Another on the Resilience 2020 roundtable was Ronan Dunne who said people in the workplace and outside of it must be part of what can be uncomfortable discussions about challenging issues. Everyone must be involved.
“It’s hugely important that we establish real context to the white privilege [so that] it is properly understood and acknowledged, rather than simply people choosing to exclude themselves from the conversation because they believe it’s got nothing to do with them,” Dunne said.
Dunne said he has encouraged Verizon employees to have courageous conversations through employee resource groups and to be vocal about challenging issues, noting that the company also has partnered with the United Nations on global citizenship.
“We are explicitly supporting our range of social justice cases, and I mean explicitly supporting, not writing the vanity check and handing it over,” Dunne said. “I mean, sitting down, participating with leaders in those groups and communities, and understanding of what it is that we as corporate citizens need to do to not just check the evidence that we have to worry, but how perhaps we have been part of the problem.”
‘Pay attention to how much we're asking of marginalized communities’
Queer activist Michelle Kim joined the conversation to emphasize that many queer and immigrant families have to endure multiple tragedies and traumatic inequalities in the United States, and that those who don’t must be compassionate and dial back their expectations of resilience.
“I think what the pandemic and all the systemic inequities are revealing right now is just how unequally spread the demand for resilience is among marginalized people,” Kim said. “I think that we need to pay attention to how much we’re asking of marginalized communities.”
For instance, current events in regards to police brutality may put people of color in roles to educate their non person-of-color peers, but this can lead to emotional exhaustion.
“I am dealing with my own need to heal, while also fighting and creating space for me to do that through weekly therapy sessions,” Kim said. “I am [highly] privileged to be able to afford access to therapy and so that’s one way I’m showing up for myself and also making room for my team.”
Make online activism as effective as possible
Although the pandemic has kept everyone indoors, Get Out The Vote for Latinas advocate Mitzy Gutierrez said this shouldn’t stop people from showing up online.
Gutierrez, who is an undocumented immigrant and in the DACA program, has immense gratitude for all the opportunities. She is giving back by registering people to vote online.
“So obviously we can’t go door-to-door knocking out these days, but like Instagram and Tick Tock are so big so just like me and my coworkers created a Facebook page and we share as much information as we can,” Gutierrez said. “We want to reach out to others who don’t have any information about the pandemic through social media.”
Ground yourself in your surroundings and others to replenish your energy
If you want to create real results, watch your own energy to avoid burnout, Villasenior said.
“Activism sometimes can feel so overwhelming, so the first thing I recommend to people are techniques to stay motivated and to ground yourself in what you’re doing,” Villasenior said. “Find out why you’re doing it.”
To reconnect with her vision, Villasenior goes out in nature to ground herself with the earth. By sitting within nature and appreciating its beauty, she remembers who her climate activism will impact the most.
She also recommends to connect with other people who resonate with your mission. Whether it’s the fast growing Black Lives Matter movement or a march for environmental justice, she always finds motivation in others.
“We ground ourselves [by] getting back involved and stand with other young people,” Villasenior said. “That’s a way that we stay motivated because we have the support system of other youth who are in this for the same reason you are.”
Read more information and tips in our Planning section