Panelists Urge Increased Advocacy Efforts

Meaningful change can be achieved in many ways, according to the speakers on the “Organize” panel at the OWN IT Summit on Saturday.

The panel, moderated by Jen Psaki, former communications director and senior advisor to President Barack Obama, focused on the ways the panelists organized movements to spread their cause’s messages.

Psaki shared the stage with National Press Secretary for Bernie Sanders Symone Sanders; education advocacy group Champion in the Making Legacy Foundation founder Lucy McBath; MuslimGirl founder and editor-in-chief Amani Al-Khatahtbeh and Director for Youth Programs at gun control group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Shaina Harrison.

McBath said activism is the result of working on causes that excite individuals. McBath founded Champion in the Making Legacy after her son Jordan Russell Davis was killed in Nov. 2012, when he got in an altercation over the volume of the music he was playing.

“Since the death of my son, I have began to really speak out against gun violence and the culture surrounding it. Slowly, over time, I began aligning my skills and my passions with this work. So depending on what your feeling of change is, align your skills and your talents with what you are passionate about,” McBath said. “For me, it was making sure that no one else in this country will suffer from this senseless gun violence as my son has.”

Harrison, who has been involved with anti-gun violence groups since the age of 14, said future activists should surround themselves with people who share their visions and dreams.

“A lot of times the people that we love and that we are surrounded by can help identify the ways we can speed and shape things. Don’t be afraid to use what you know to make some changes in your communities,” Harrison said.

Al-Khatahtbeh, who founded MuslimGirl, an online magazine, with the intent to create a space for the voices of Muslim women, said the internet has allowed a new generation of women to open up and discuss important issues in unprecedented ways.

“Because of social media and the internet, we are able to create a space to have the conversations that we want to have. By virtue of that, people started coming to us. We started to have a voice,” Khatahtbeh said. “You can be an active agent of change in whatever space you occupy.”

Sanders said while social media can be a great tool for building a coalition and growing awareness for one’s cause, it is only the beginning of creating meaningful change.

“Social media is extremely important. It is driving what is happening. We should embrace social media and use it for what we can, but we have to understand that we have got to be more than just ‘clicktivists,’” Sanders said. “We have to be more than just social media activists.”

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