Activists Unite: A Brighter Future for San Diego
by Mera Szendro
Many changes have occurred for me in the last eight months since I’ve been in California. After finishing college at Marymount Manhattan in May 2008 and living with my parents again in Rockland County, New York for four months, I was very excited when a friend invited me out to California. A sense of community, healthy lifestyle and people who care about a cause was my dream of California—and in many ways, this has been what I’ve experienced. I have been to Activist San Diego meetings, 8Teen Art and Cultural Center movie nights, poetry readings, marijuana reform meetings, and a Prop 8 rally to gather support for reinstating the right of gay people to marry.
This range of activities has shed some light on the unique possibilities and amazing work of activists in San Diego. The location, culture and diversity contribute to its pure potential as a place to organize activists who understand how much change is needed. San Diego’s progressive culture, as well as its military culture, conservative groups and close proximity to Mexico are just a few reasons that San Diego could be and has been an important catalyst for change. Immigration issues, political power structures supporting the military, the drug war, California state budget cuts, and gay rights are just a couple of the issues that activists are working hard to affect. Our work here in San Diego is vital to send a ripple throughout America—if we commit to creating change now.
The most important aspect of our coming together is focusing on our similarities, rather than our differences. Collaboration and networking to maximize resources and inform the public will take our abilities to effect social and political change to another level. Our causes share one thing in common: passion. Instead of focusing on how one cause is most important, informing other activist groups about your mission and exploring potential collaboration is what is needed most. Teamwork is vital to get the public as well as the local and national government to listen to our voices. Strength in numbers is key. Those whom we oppose are much more unified because their ideologies and cultures are based on conformity. We don’t need to change our causes; we just need to shift how we organize to bring them into the public to rally for change.
Carol Jahnkow, Director of The Peace Resource Center of San Diego, believes that when it comes to the quest for peace and justice, we have many common values. “In the end it’s about transforming our relationship between people and the planet. All our fights are against the power structure that encourages power over people, only looking out for oneself, and rewarding greed and militarism.” Jahnkow feels that the pursuit of peace can bring people into the activist movement who wouldn’t otherwise join in. Peace is a goal that most people value; we must bring our causes to the public in a way that encourages broad participation, rather than alienating those who don’t want to identify with radical ideologies.
San Diego activists have had a number of accomplishments, as Gabriel Conaway, an organizer with Activist San Diego, pointed out. On February 10, San Diego Unified School District won their fight to keep rifle training programs and stop placing students in military science (JROTC) classes without their informed consent. Activists united to stop the controversial private corporation known as Blackwater from opening military training facilities a mere three blocks from the border that separates California and Mexico. The victory of these fights led by such groups as Activist San Diego, The Peace Resource Center of San Diego, and Citizens’ Oversight Projects are the result of collaboration and a focus on coordination and communication between groups.
To expand and strengthen the activist movement, we must increase our concept of activism potential in San Diego. Art activism plays a vital role. It’s very important that we utilize our skills in public relations, graphic design, art, and alternative media. Like activists before us, we must direct our skills to address social and political issues rather than using them to maintain the status quo through thoughtless media consumption. Young people really respond to art and San Diego has a fresh, youth-oriented culture that encourages us to share our creativity and imagination. There are many young adults who are just learning about causes and are interested, to varying degrees, in participating as activists. Youth culture, although constantly commercialized and watered-down, still has many elements of non-conformity and opposition to linear thought and culture. We must encourage the youth to share their unique perspectives.
I am inviting San Diego activist leaders to come together on Sunday, July 19 to discuss tactics and strategies on unification around issues that call for our urgency and focus. This Community Leadership Summit will take place at the 8Teen Art and Cultural Center at 3925 Ohio Street. This will be a great opportunity to move forward and discuss how we can utilize resources such as Your Network TV and Public Access TV to share our message with the public. We must engage people through information campaigns so that we can tap into artists, activists, and those that have a clear understanding of our fight for justice.
If you are interested in attending the Community Leadership Summit on July 19, 2009 in San Diego, please contact Mera Szendro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in Vision Magazine July 2009 Issue