Editorial: Be more than a social media activist

You can be more than an Instagram activist.

In January, the Women’s March dominated many major cities within the U.S. and garnered a lot of media attention.

It was an event that will go down in history as a strong point for female unity and protest.

Donald Trump had just recently won the presidential election at the time of the march, and passionate dissenters stood together to speak their minds about the newest leader of our country.

The event itself was highly successful; upward of 5,000 people attended the Champaign version of the march that took place in D.C. and other major cities across the country.

Two weeks ago, local activists hosted the March for Science in downtown Champaign. If you didn’t hear much about it, you’re not alone. There was not as much coverage of the event as there should have been.

While still successful, last month’s event failed to ignite local community support for a variety of reasons. It suffered from inevitable competition with Ebertfest and the Illinois Marathon.

Put simply, the March for Science failed because it lacked energy from a wider spectrum. Professors came out from the University, STEM students painted signs and young families brought their little ones to march in hope of a brighter future.

The Women’s March was an event that appealed to people who were looking to post on social media that they had attended.

The fad of pink crocheted hats and #imwithher pins didn’t take long to fade. After all, there are the invisible “rules” of Instagram like not posting twice in one day and making your feed out to look like the person you want other people to believe you to be.

To be an ally, to make change, your activism must be active. Take your beliefs outside of the social media world, and further Facebook feeds.

Don’t be hollow and paint the prettiest picture of yourself on social media and stop there. You are better than an Instagram activist. 

Today’s news of University police mishandling sexual assaults cases will likely spark anger and maybe even a protest or two.

However, if interest in the topic dissipates after a week, or even a few days, clouded by excitement for summer, commencement or seemingly more pertinent topics of discussion,  then the change that is needed will be stifled.

This piece isn’t intended to shame. It is being written as a reminder of what we are all capable of being: a voice, a push, a stance — part of the change.

Realizing how we can improve is painful, but also necessary. A popular theme within the study of black liberation is the Sankofa bird. It comes from the Akan people of West Africa.

Translated from the Akan language, “Sankofa” means, “It is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot.” In order to move forward as a society, we must go back and understand our roots.

Part of understanding our past is acknowledging where we’ve failed to act when needed.

And today, we must reflect back and realize the ways we can improve, and how to move forward.

We haven’t put in the effort if we are just hitting the “attend” button on a Facebook event. There are more ways we can donate our time, energy and resources to help.

In today’s day and age, words are not enough. It’s time to speak with our actions — passive activism is not activism.