A World of Activism: How You Can Get Involved
The challenges of conflict and injustice in the world can often seem overwhelming. Although many of us would like to take a greater part in promoting positive change, it can be difficult to find good information and know how we can effectively contribute. That is why the Cultures of Resistance Network decided to literally search the planet to find inspiring forms of creative resistance. In doing so, we have forged bonds with a broad array of cutting-edge organizers who have recommended meaningful ways that you can join in campaigns for peace and justice.
In addition to maintaining long-term connections with these activists, the CoR Network team works hard to keep up with today's most immediate struggles for peace and justice. To learn about our most recent campaigns, check out our Urgent Action page.
If you're looking to get involved with long-term, ongoing global justice campaigns, check out the opportunities listed below. In our many years working with dozens of groups around the globe, these are some of the most creative, lasting global justice campaigns we have come across. These groups are working day in, day out to combat injustice and demand human rights around the world. Many of them channel their activism through arts, providing opportunities for international activists to contribute diverse talents. We can help put you in touch with any of these groups and can help brainstorm the best ways for you to contribute. If you would like to get involved with a group we support that is not listed below, we can help connect you with someone at that organization. Email us at campaigns [at] culturesofresistance.org to get started, or take a look at the opportunities below.
What You Can Do
- Stand in Solidarity with the People of the Congo
The nearly 15-year-old conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues today, largely fueled by our consumption of luxury electronic devices. With the ascent of the M23 rebel militia in 2012, and ongoing battles over resource-rich areas in the northeastern DRC, international attention to the issue has grown in recent years. However, the war is still grossly underreported and the violent dynamics of the extraction and trade of the country's precious minerals remain. CoR ally Friends of the Congo (FOTC) has been working for years to build international solidarity with the people of the DRC, and they recommend numerous ways to help. Their annual Congo Week campaign aims to raise international awareness by organizing coordinated demonstrations around the world. Last year people from over 35 countries and at 192 universities took part. The Cultures of Resistance Network and Friends of the Congo can help you organize an event on your campus or in your community as part of this year's Breaking the Silence tour, an outgrowth of Congo Week. We can provide program materials, offer access to engaging speakers, and lend expert advice based on past experience. You can also take immediate action by urging your elected officials to implement and enforce section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which requires U.S. corporations to investigate and report their involvement in the conflict minerals trade. Click here to visit our issue page about the conflict in the Congo which, at the bottom of the page, features more information on how to get involved.
- Safeguard Leading Activists Working For A New Latin America
If you are moved by the struggle against militarization and for democracy in Latin America, there are a number of serious ways to get involved. The Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) is looking for Grassroots Campaign Leaders to work with like-minded activists to create letter-writing drives demanding that the Guatemalan government respect grassroots democracy. Those willing to travel and to make an intensive six-month commitment can join in another vital volunteer initiative: the Guatemala Accompaniment Project (G.A.P.). An initiative of NISGUA, the G.A.P. recruits and trains U.S. citizens to accompany community groups, leaders, and activists who suffer threats and intimidation because of their efforts to combat corruption and injustice in Guatemala. G.A.P. accompaniers provide direct support and a link to the international community by serving as independent observers to meetings, demonstrations, and judicial proceedings. If you are particularly concerned about increasing violence against journalists and human rights defenders in post-coup Honduras, the Friendship Office of the Americas offers similar accompaniment opportunities in that country. Another organization working to protect human rights activists is Peace Brigades International (PBI). PBI holds human rights accompaniment teams in Colombia, Mexico, and Guatemala. Those who have made a commitment to serve in Latin America as accompaniers to human rights activists have found it to be a life-changing experience.
- Donate to Expand Educational Opportunities for the Excluded
Do you believe in the power of education to spur positive social change? The Cultures of Resistance Network has identified some top-notch scholarship programs that are putting donations to good use. In Afghanistan, Nobel Peace Prize-nominee Dr. Sima Samar founded the Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education, which provides affordable, top-quality education to young women who are otherwise shut out of institutions of higher learning. In Burma, the Thabyay Education Network and Prospect Burma are opening doors to universities across the region for young people who are committed to rebuilding their country's democracy and civil society. In South Africa, where financial barriers so often prevent black students from attending university, one scholarship program has enabled over 1,500 to enroll in higher education and to take courses with a focus on HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness. Click here to visit the CoR Network scholarships page and learn more about these outstanding programs.
- Use the Power of Laughter in Areas of Conflict
If you are an entertainer who wants to use your powers of laughter to improve the lives of those living in crisis situations, you can join with Clowns Without Borders in countries around the world, including Haiti, Colombia, and Palestine. You can volunteer with other performers in helping to address the psychosocial needs of people caught in conflict. Clowns Without Borders tours usually involve groups of 3-4 volunteers who perform comedy shows, magic tricks, and acrobatics, and who also teach children how to perform some tricks of their own. Entertainers can get involved by traveling as part of a performance group or can take part in planning awareness-raising events that educate people about the various crises occurring daily around the world. Click here to find out how you can use the power of laughter to ease the trauma of conflict overseas.
- Educate using History From Below
Whether you are a classroom teacher, a student concerned about how your history class is being taught, a parent with children in the school system, or anyone else interested in affecting how young people learn U.S. history, you can join in the effort to promote "history from below." The Zinn Education Project attempts to bring Howard Zinn's approach to emphasizing the role of popular struggle in history to a new generation. It also works to use Zinn's classic book, A People's History of the United States, to transform the teaching of American history. Those in the Washington D.C. area can volunteer directly with the Zinn Education Project and help to identify critical resources that can be used in schools. If you are an educator, you can aid the project by sharing information about how you have been able to use A People's History of the United States, or you can join with other teachers in developing strategies for implementing progressive curricula. Click here to learn more.
- Intern to Enforce International Law in Thailand, Ecuador, and Nigeria
If you want to support legal campaigners who are developing cutting-edge strategies to enforce international law, join with CoR Network partners the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and EarthRights International. Building on a landmark victory in the Wiwa v. Shell case, EarthRights International is pursuing numerous international lawsuits to challenge corporate abuses around the world. At the moment, they are locked in an ongoing legal battle with Chevron, demanding reparations for devastating environmental contamination in the Ecuadorean and Peruvian Amazon. CCR continues its work with initiatives ranging from lawsuits against private military contractors in Iraq to defending free speech worldwide. Those interested in joining their efforts can apply for internships at both organizations' international offices. At CCR current law students can get first-hand experience in the international legal process through the Ella Baker Summer Internship Program, providing direct assistance to attorneys working on these historic cases. High school and undergraduate students can also apply for internships throughout the year. EarthRights International offers legal internships for law students and program internships for graduate and undergraduate students at its U.S. and Thailand offices.
- Fight for Indigenous Rights in Brazil
Often cited as one of the most rapidly-developing nations on earth, Brazil is also a focal point for battles over indigenous rights to land and water. These rights are consistently threatened by major infrastructure and agriculture projects, as well as heavy industry carried out by large national firms. Since 2008, we at the Cultures of Resistance Network have stood in solidarity with indigenous Kayapó opposition to the Brazilian government’s proposed Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon. The dam, currently under construction, will have a disastrous impact on the Kayapó homeland. You can learn more about the ongoing Kayapó struggle thanks to CoR Network ally International Rivers, a group that works to encourage more efficient ways of meeting the world’s water and energy needs. International Rivers offers opportunities for volunteers to take action in solidarity with the Kayapó people and other struggles over water rights around the world. CoR Network ally Amazon Watch also offers a number of resources for those wishing to take action around indigenous rights in Brazil and other parts of the Amazon basin. Click here to learn more about the battle for the Xingu.
- Use the Power of Poetry to Promote Peace
The new social movements and anti-war protests of the last ten years have fostered a generation of artists using their poetry to promote peace and justice. If you are a poet or an artist looking for ways to join creative movements against armed conflict and oppression, there is no shortage of opportunities for you to share your work and spead messages of peace. In the United States, the Occupy movement has given birth to multiple new forums for poetry, including the OccuPoetry magazine and blog, Occupy Poetry, and the Occupy Poetry Project. All three accept submissions from poets around the world.In addition to these local and online forums for poetry, there exist a number of major international forums where socially and politically conscious poets can meet to read their work and draw inspiration from one another. One of the largest is the International Poetry Festival in Medellín, Colombia, where hundreds of poets, artists, and intellectuals from around the world converge every year. To learn more, check out the festival's website.
- Raise Awareness about Contemporary Slavery
Although we think of slavery as a thing of the past, the truth is that millions of men, women, and children remain enslaved throughout the world. Today, campus activists are playing a key role in working to stop modern-day slavery, with recent campaigns focusing on efforts in Uzbekistan, the Ivory Coast, Vietnam, and Sudan. If you are a student and would like to take a stand on this issue, Anti-Slavery International provides step-by-step guidance on how to start an anti-slavery group at your school or university. They can help you become a campus leader on this issue and assist you by organizing speaking events featuring international activists or former victims of slavery. They can also plug you into the national effort to lobby against slavery and link you with other campus groups that are a part of a broader movement. If you are not a student, other opportunities exist. Anti-Slavery International offers teachers a variety of materials, including lesson plans, classroom activities, and informational resources, to assist you in accurately teaching the historical importance of slavery and why it is still relevant today. If you are not in the classroom, Anti-Slavery International offers the tools to establish your own anti-slavery group and can help you organize awareness-raising events in your local community.
- Share Hip-Hop and Street Art with Brazil's Inner City Communities
If you are passionate about helping put an end to the overwhelming violence in Brazil's urban slums, we have identified a number of groups with which you can join to make a meaningful contribution. You can volunteer with Central Única das Favelas (CUFA), co-founded by Brazilian rapper and community advocate MV Bill, by working with kids in one of their regional branches. CUFA’s work centers on engaging youths in positive endeavors, and they especially welcome individuals who have experience in teaching music, art, and sports. CUFA's success in discouraging youth from violence and encouraging urban arts has led them to open a branch in each of Brazil's states, as well in 11 other countries. If you are looking to work directly in inner city areas in the United States, you can join CUFA USA volunteers in using street art, hip-hop, filmmaking, and other arts to engage young people in positive, creative endeavors.
- Help Sustain the Rehabilitation of Child Soldiers
In many regions of the world, but particularly in Africa, children as young as nine years of age are being forcefully recruited and made to fight in armed conflicts, robbing them of their adolescence and leaving deep emotional scars even after the conflicts have ended. You can make a personal impact by sponsoring the rescue and rehabilitation of a former child soldier. Child Soldiers International has several recommendations of programs that help child soldiers recover from their wounds. Beyond supporting an individual child, you can join Child Soldiers International on Facebook and connect with others creating political pressure to end the use of child soldiers. Currently, activists affiliated with the organization are writing key UN ambassadors to turn up the heat on the 41 United Nations member states that have yet to ratify the UN child soldiers treaty. Click here to learn more about the campaign to end the use of child soldiers.
- Teach Capoeira in Refugee Camps
Capoeira, a Brazilian dance sport of athletic skills and acrobatic technique, was first developed by slaves on Brazil’s plantations. It is believed that, in an attempt to remain ready for possible rebellions, slaves disguised African fighting techniques as dance rituals. Groups such as Bidna Capoeira have adapted capoeira’s legacy of performance and cultural resistance to help address the needs of people who today are refused their freedom of movement. Initially based in Syria, the group's early projects included working with Iraqis living in Syrian refugee camps. But since the war in Syria began, Bidna Capoeira has turned their efforts to confronting the war's disastrous effects both in Syria itself and in nearby Jordan. Capoeira’s martial arts training, performance circles, and music have helped build a sense of community, personal dignity, and a brief escape from the challenges of war and refugee life. If you are a teacher, advanced student, or have other capoeira experience, please contact us here or send us an email to discuss how you can get involved in reviving the artform as an active expression of cultural resistance.
Practice Engaged Citizenship in Your Own Community
Ultimately, while there are many ways for you to engage in international solidarity across borders with groups doing great work for peace and justice, it is equally important to be an engaged and positive force in your own community. Options for local action can be as diverse as planting a garden, assisting the elderly, or getting in touch with local officials—for example, by petitioning for bike lanes in your neighborhood. The folks at Nelson Mandela International Day have compiled a list of 67 ways that you can become an educator, help the poor, look after the environment, and otherwise enrich your relationship with your community: click here for more ideas.