What I Learned From Speaking At Harvard...Again!
Once again, I want to thank my friend Jared Fox for inviting me to speak at Harvard University's class, Power to the People: Black Power, Radical Feminism, and Gay Liberation. Over the course of ninety minutes, we discussed what it takes to sustain yourself on a career in social justice. Remember, you can earn a living while helping your communities but it is crucial that we prepare ourselves for the long-term work.
Similar to last year, the event featured a panel of activists who show up every day for their communities. We underscored that working in social justice requires patience and humility. Pursuing a 'movement career' is long-term work and, if you aren't careful, can result in burnout. There will be joy and there will be rage. There will be tough days and there will be moments of celebration. The key to longevity is to lean into your communities and do the work to better ourselves and our movements.
We agreed that we do this work because it is often personal. While it is important to interrogate the objective, we also have to remember that humans are behind every action. We must be gentle with each other if we plan to finish our marathons.
Here are just a few of the other tips about maintaining longevity that most stood out:
Avoid Tone Policing - Activism is grueling work. It can result in tough conversations and hurt emotions. Don't forget that when people are passionate about an issue, it is often a result of hardship and pain. Tone policing preserves privilege for folks who do not want to have uncomfortable conversations and suppresses the voices of the marginalized who have righteous anger that deserves to be expressed. Make space for folks to express their pain in a way that does not do further harm to their communities.
Accountability is Care - Activism is personal work and we are all bound to make mistakes. It is critical to know that being called out (or called in) is a gift. If someone alerts you to a blunder, take a moment to reflect and realize that it is an opportunity to grow, course correct, and interrupt harm.
Do The Work - Share your story. Listen to others. Commit to learning and know when to stop and absorb. Take a moment to look at who you are serving and what you are working towards. Are your actions being informed by the communities you are investing in? If not, ask why and commit to doing better.
Seek A Mentor - We are not the first to do this work. We are the benefactors of generations of activists who have come before us. We have the opportunity to learn from others- take it! Choose a mentor wisely and utilize them fully.
Center Your Strengths - Like last year, we discussed the importance of knowing your values and uplifting your unique skills. Make sure to pick a career that is aligned with both. You will have a bigger impact this way. While protesting on the streets is a vital part of the work, we also need artists, donors, techies and caretakers. We all play a critical role.
Don't Forget To Practice Self-Care - Self-care can take many different forms. It can look like what you might expect: a trip to the spa, a walk outside, or a delicious home-cooked meal. But it can also look like forgiving yourself, recognizing your worth, or investing in your future. Do what is right and at the right time. Most importantly, know when it is time to walk away. The movement won't end because you took a day to seek sunshine.
I want to thank my co-panelists for your vulnerability.
Michael Bronski, Ph.D., Professor, Harvard University
A.T. Furuya, Executive Director, Transform Together
Shijuade Kadree, Founder and Principal, Compass Strategies Consulting
JD Valladares-Williams, Content Manager, Hummingbird Humanity
Dior Vargas, MS, MPH, Founder, Dior Vargas LLC
Adam White, Associate Vice President of Development, Encircle
Until next year, Harvard!
Juliana M. Weissbein, CFRE is a respected leader and decision influencer in regard to fundraising operations best practices. With over a decade of experience, Juliana thrives on professional growth, team success, measurable results, and inspiring fundraisers to utilize data-based strategies. Juliana currently serves as the Associate Director of Development Operations at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She is an AFP Global Board Member, AFP Global's 2019 Outstanding Young Professional Fundraiser and is a member of the AFP Global Women's Impact Initiative. Juliana is immediate past chair of the AFP New York City chapter’s Emerging Leaders Committee and currently serves on the chapter’s board chairing their mentorship program. She resides in Austin, TX and never turns down a good kombucha.