March 25, 2015

it des explicationsActivists come in all genders and races…from all cultures and life experiences…and of different ages.

Here are two different stories that move me greatly.

Megan Kleczka was an intern at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. Here’s what she said: “A large group of people hearing me talk about reproductive justice and health is not what scares me. What scares me is the idea of nobody talking about the subjects at all.” Megan envisioned a world in which every man and woman controlled his or her own biological destiny … and consequently their own economic destiny.

Megan was already disrupting and challenging. She was passionately involved in many causes – an activist fighting for social justice. She died in 2007 – only 20 years old – from injuries sustained in a car accident.

I learned about Megan on March 12, 2015. Two days later, I learned about the public policy debate analytics written by Lexus.

Lexus, a high school student in Providence, participates in the Rhode Island Urban Debate League. RIUDL uses public policy debate as a social justice strategy.

This year’s resolution (determined by the National Speech and Debate Association) is: “Resolved – the United States federal government should substantially increase its nonmilitary exploration and/or development of the earth’s oceans.”

But Lexus and her debate partner Raycily rejected that resolution and any case they come across that uses the federal government as actor. All year, they’ve been working on their own case.

Lexus wrote up the case and delivered it like a slam poem: “Being limited to what we can say is under the white man’s rule. We need to open up the space to talk about things that will never make it in a eurocentric history book that’s served to us kids. Our country limits us. Our states limit us. Our schools limit us. We need to redress the way we look at framework and popularize freedom of speech in a country with that right having a Terms & Conditions page we are supposed to read through… but just click ‘accept.’ We have accepted to be falsely convicted with bias…all-white juries and judges. We have accepted the statistic that 1/3 of our black men will go to jail sometime in their life. We accept that a woman of color like my partner being oppressed.”

As Lexus was debating, the other team asked her: “So how do you achieve your alternative? Who’s the actor.” And her response was: “The actor is me, the alternative is revolution, and it’s happening right now between my lips.”

I think that Megan and Lexus would have admired and respected each other. Megan spoke out. Lexus is speaking out.

I ask myself, what do I owe each of them? Speaking out. And so much more.

* * * * * *

The title of this blog comes from a marvelous card made by fundraiser Beth Ann Locke. Inspired by the 2014 International Women’s Day, Beth Ann compiled photos from the following women leaders: Marie Curie. Simone de Beauvoir. Alice Vickery. Wangari Maathai. Thanadelthur. Emily Carr. Rose Parks. Brooke Astor. Qui Jin. Jeanne d’Arc. The Dundee Suffragettes. Golda Meir.

And here’s some of my favorite copy – written by Beth Ann – on the card: “These women bucked tradition, overcame the odds, fought inequality, demanded answers, started a movement, and changed the future.”

Beth Ann very kindly allowed me to receive some of these cards. I save them for special occasions. I’m sending one to Lexus. And one to Megan’s sister, Susan.

Filed under: Social Commentary

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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