Generation React: Activism for Beginnersby Danny Seo
Are you idealistic, energized, and wondering how you too can make a difference? If so, then Generation React is the book for you. Danny shares his hard-won skills and years of experience in a step-by-step guide that makes changing the world a little bit easier. In Generation React he teaches you how to start your own activist group, reenergize an existing, activist… See more details below
Are you idealistic, energized, and wondering how you too can make a difference? If so, then Generation React is the book for you. Danny shares his hard-won skills and years of experience in a step-by-step guide that makes changing the world a little bit easier. In Generation React he teaches you how to start your own activist group, reenergize an existing, activist group, brainstorm creative fund-raising techniques, win media exposure, reform school policy, launch boycotts, make legislators listen, organize a protest, tap the wealth of free information on the Internet and much more!
- Random House Publishing Group
- Publication date:
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- 5.11(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.47(d)
Read an Excerpt
If you're like a lot of people, you'd like to contribute something
positive to society. Perhaps you'd like to revive a neighborhood park,
help homeless cats and dogs, or fight drug abuse in your community. And
even though you know you should be more active in helping to solve these
problems, you never get around to doing anything; it seems like too much
work. But contrary to popular belief, making a difference in the world
around you can be very easy if you do one simple thing: Start with small,
realistic, tangible goals.
To begin: Tune into the television nightly news ("Entertainment Tonight"
does not count) and watch the entire program from start to finish. Ask
yourself: Which stories make me cry? Which stories make me angry? Which
stories make me pay attention? Write your answers on a piece of paper and
ask yourself the same questions when reading a newspaper or a newsmagazine
like Newsweek or U.S. News & World Report. Be sure to take careful notes.
Do you see a pattern to your answers? For example, if the stories that
caught your attention were all related to environmental issues, like an
oil spill in the Atlantic Ocean and an ancient forest clear-cut in
Washington state, then you have a pattern. On the other hand, if your
answers are diverse--a story about gunfire in Los Angeles and an article
about federal welfare cuts--then you need to narrow your focus. Choose the
topic that meant the most to you and make that your project.
Once you've completed that step, ask yourself: What specific issue in this
topic do I want to work on? For example, if your topic is gun control,
perhaps your goal can be reducing the number of handguns brought into your
city's schools. That's specific. But if your goal is to ban all guns in
the United States, your scope is too broad. The more particular you can be
about your goals, the better. Take your time and be thorough. Most
important, be definitive.
Now that you've narrowed your focus to a specific goal, you're ready to be
an activist. But before you take your demands to City Hall, you need to
learn how most activists and organizations get the job done. Welcome to
Ninety-nine percent of all social change is achieved by an organized group
of individuals working together toward a common goal. A small minority of
these groups are large, national organizations boasting millions of
members with big bank accounts. But most of the important work being done
on behalf of "the cold, the tired, and the hungry" is handled by
grassroots organizations and their volunteers. They make a big difference
with their small, individual efforts to solve the bigger, pressing
WHAT'S A GRASSROOTS ORGANIZATION?
A grassroots organization, as the name suggests, is a group of dedicated
individuals working to solve social ills by attacking them at their
"roots." For example, grassroots animal advocates may physically capture
stray cats and dogs for a spay/neuter program. Grassroots antipoverty
activists may walk the streets late at night providing free counseling and
food for the homeless. Unlike the paid staff members of national
organizations, these activists volunteer their time; they are not paid for
their services. In my opinion, these people fit the definition of a hero:
people who donate their time and energy to make the world a better place
There are thousands of grassroots organizations throughout the world,
ranging from two individuals working as a team to fix up a neighborhood
park to huge, regional organizations boasting a board of directors and
hundreds of volunteers dedicated to feeding the city's homeless. But even
with clear differences in numbers and size, all of these groups share a
common bond: They all saw the need to solve a pressing problem.
EARTH 2000 IS BORN
My own grassroots organization was born the night before my twelfth
birthday. The night before, at midnight, trying not to disturb my sleeping
parents, I snuck down the stairs to eat the last chicken salad sandwich.
While eating, I turned on the television. After passing through a few
station test patterns and the Home Shopping Network, I landed at the
beginning of a talk show, "The Morton Downey Jr. Show."
I, like most kids in America, was never allowed to watch television late
at night. Being thus denied late-night television forced me to formulate
my own theories about the racy shows airing at that hour. You can imagine
my disappointment when all I found was a loud-mouthed cigarette-smoking
host (standing in an equally scary audience) arguing with a British woman
over something having to do with rabbits and a cure for cancer. Intrigued,
I took a bite of my sandwich and tried to make sense out of what was going
The topic was animal rights and the woman's name was Ingrid Newkirk. She
supported animal rights so much that she founded People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals--also known as PETA--a national animal rights
advocacy organization. I liked her immediately. The host and the majority
of the audience, on the other hand, did not like her and showed it by
screaming vulgar comments at her. Surprisingly, despite the continued
barrage of immature and rude comments, she stayed calm and cool. I, on the
other hand, was so upset over the infantile behavior of the host and
audience that I declared, "I support animal rights!"--and ate a piece of
chicken that fell off my day-old sandwich. Obviously, I wasn't sure what
animal rights meant.
I soon learned. Ingrid looked into the audience and said that when it
comes to pain, a pig and a boy feel the same level of anguish. I thought
about her comment, looked at the crumbs on the floor from my sandwich,
envisioned a chicken being slaughtered for my meal ... and a few seconds
later, vomited right into the downstairs toilet. My mind, body, and soul
had decided that it was wrong to eat that chicken salad sandwich because
an animal had been tortured and abused.
Growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, where vegetarianism is scarce (a
local Amish diner called their one vegetarian dish "The New Age") and
where slaughterhouses and factory farming are common, I never thought
about exploring my dietary choices. It never occurred to me that my steak
dinners, veal piccata, and chicken salad sandwiches had come from "farm"
animals. I grew up eating meat; it was a staple in my diet. And I bet it
never crossed my parents' minds to explain meat eating to me; it was just
a part of life, like drinking water and breathing clean air. Yet I was
constantly reminded by my father why eating meat was a luxury: When he was
a child in South Korea, meat was expensive; he grew up "suffering" on a
mostly vegetarian diet. We ate meat in part because of guilt.
After lifting my head out of the toilet, I knew it was my mission to help
animals and their environment by stopping my own cruel and destructive
ways of living. I decided to adopt a plant-based vegetarian diet. That
night, I also decided to start a group, to call it Earth 2000, and to use
it to tell other kids my age that animals are part of our community, and
not a commodity to be exploited. The "2000" part of the name signified
that I intended to save the planet by the end of the century. No problem,
I thought to myself. After all, I had plenty of friends and a whopping $10
(which was a lot of money to an eleven-year-old in those days) to spend on
this new project. Feeling better, I went up to my room and back to sleep.
The next day, I told all my friends not to give me gifts for my birthday.
I didn't want a Swatch watch or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action
figure. Instead, I wanted them to join Earth 2000 as pioneer members. Many
were enthusiastic about my plans and were ready to free animals from
nearby factory farms, while some were joyous simply because they got to
keep my birthday presents for themselves.
On that day, an organization consisting of a handful of neighborhood kids,
who collectively had $23.57 to spend, started working to save the planet
by the year 2000. Sure, we couldn't drive--heck, we couldn't even cross
the street--but we had the three things every great activist group needs:
dedication, enthusiasm, and tenacity. And on top of that, we were young
and didn't have jobs, bills, or any of the other annoying things adults
always fret about. On April 21, 1989, the Earth 2000 Crusades began.
These "crusades" accomplished a lot despite their modest beginnings. From
waging controversial campaigns against a development corporation to
launching award-winning antifur consumer boycott campaigns, the seed I
planted in 1989 has grown into a large, impressive national movement. We
have proved that young people have the tenacity, intelligence, and
enthusiasm to make a real, lasting difference in the world. You'll learn
more about specific campaigns later in the book.
I WANT TO START A GRASSROOTS ORGANIZATION, TOO!
Whoa ... slow down, Speed Racer! Before you jump right in and start a
brand-new organization, consider exploring these easier alternatives:
JOIN AN EXISTING ORGANIZATION. If you see a problem you want to
solve, chances are others have seen it, too. Look around your community:
Is there already a group working on your issue? If there is, join and
offer your time and ideas. This way, you'll be able to devote more energy
to the root cause of the problem and less to constructing a new
organization. It is counterproductive to have two organizations working on
the same problem. There is power in numbers.
MAKE ALLIANCES WITH OTHER GROUPS. If there isn't a group working
directly on your issue, consider joining an organization you think might
be interested in broadening its mission. For example, if your goal is to
provide meals for the homeless, you could join a local vegetarian society.
You could convince them to start a program (which you enthusiastically
volunteer to coordinate) to cook vegetarian meals for the less fortunate.
Always be on the lookout for ways to contribute to and broaden the mission
of other community organizations.
INFILTRATE INACTIVE ORGANIZATIONS. I know. It sounds like a sneaky,
evil way to abuse a nonprofit organization. But community groups often
lose their freshness and spunk when they've been around for a few years.
When an existing organization is spending its funds on new stationery
instead of on their original mission, it is time to infiltrate them. In a
way, you are doing them a favor.
and post it to your social network
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