Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Activism, a Love Story

Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to host a Young People and Civic Engagement Talk for the League of Women Voters- Fairlawn. I plastered the event all over my social media (as I tend to do) and was absolutely thrilled and humbled to see a packed room of people of all ages who trekked out on a cold, wintery February night to attend. The people in the room consisted of League members, high school students and friends of mine, both new and old, some of whom I've known for almost 10 years. It was actually really gratifying to see people who I've met more recently through networks such as the New Leaders Council- NJ come out and support. I've only moved back to my homestate of NJ 5 months ago so it's just awesome to already have connected to people already!

It was a lively discussion, tons of opinions and questions and a lot of open dialogue, which I really appreciated. The night was a success and I thought that people got something out of it. But honestly, more than anyone in the room, I think the event meant the most to me. It was a bit of a "NJ debut" for me, a homecoming. After 5 years of being super active and involved in the Bay Area on a range of issues like immigrant and refugee rights, Muslim civil rights activism, political involvements and youth organizing I kept wondering what my activism activities would look like here, in a new state, starting a new life.

Woohoo, getting my discussion on, all while having hot flashes, leg pain and secretly taking my shoes off under the table during the middle of the conversation.
Judging by last week, it's going great so far. And did I mention that I was over 8 months pregnant when I led the discussion? That's another thing, moving across the country and re-establishing yourself WHILE pregnant is a totally new aspect of a journey I certainly didn't expect. Yet in a strange way, being pregnant has only fueled my need to be active and involved. I know I may have to take it easy (or so I'm told) when my bundle of joy gets here but I feel a sense of duty to instill a deep sense of service in my child. It's not as much of an expectation (since kids seem to want to rebel so chances are if I push the progressive activism front too hard he might just turn into a future Bobby Jindal) as it is a deep wish I have for any child I raise to have a positive impact on the world around them and feel a sense of investment and duty to their community. I can't imagine a more important "teaching tool" than for me to set that example myself.

NAPAWF being all excited together in sunny San Diego
 Last Thursday's presentation was my second presentation in two months on civic engagement.  I also led a session at NAPAWF's (National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum) Power Up Summit. As many people know, I serve on the National Governing Board of NAPAWF so the summit is a great event I always look forward to so that I can connect with incredible API women from all of the country who are dedicated to social justice. It was a great weekend, though getting there while pregnant was a total nightmare that left me sore and almost unable to properly move for 2 days (next time I'm knocked up, I'll be sure not to take 4 modes of public transportation to get to the airport while dragging along my heavy luggage). Even with the pregnancy aches and pains, I took tremendous pride in showing up and being able to contribute to something I am very passionate about; sharing civic education and ideas with women.

Can't stop, won't stop
Outside of those two presentations, my fetus has joined me talking about voting and race on HuffPost Live, marched for 6 hours in the massive Climate March in NYC, attended a bunch of political trainings, and generally came along for the ride as I hit the ground running and haven't stopped, nausea and constant bathroom breaks be damned.
Climate Marchin' in utero
Because activism for me is not an compartmentalized slice of my life, it IS my life. It's woven through everything, it's the paid work I do from my current job where I organize college students around the country around voting and issues activism for the Andrew Goodman Foundation and it's what I do on my off time on weekends when I attend Ready to Run women's political trainings. I also have a history of using vacation days to go to social justice conference outside of work. I literally have never used a vacation day for an actual vacation.

An acquaintance asked me what I do for fun outside of all of this, and my answer was basically "I guess activism?". Not that activism is fun, we are addressing major issues here and so much of it is painful, tiring and often overwhelming.

I guess it's not "fun" for me as much as it is my passion and my love. I get tired, but I don't feel it because it feeds me and gives me a sense of purpose every waking moment. Maybe it's selfish because it gives me purpose? Frankly I don't know what else to do, it is is such an integral part of me and always has been even from when I was a child going around picking up litter in my neighborhood and spending hours in the library reading about the holocaust and other human rights tragedies.

From spending every night forwarding progressive jobs to an activist listserve I started (NADIA'S LIST ya'll! ask me about it!) to spending my free time catching up on articles about issues, statistics and blog posts, maybe all this points to the fact that maybe I have no life. Or maybe I have a full life?

Because I love it and I want it this way?

As I await the birth of my child, who is only about 6 weeks away, I will have to perhaps see, reconstruct and change up what all of this will mean as I embark on my motherhood journey. A journey where another person is supposed to come first, where I will be exhausted, emotionally and physically, where I won't have all the time to do what I want as just Nadia, the non-mom.

Or maybe motherhood will open a new chapter in my Activism Love Story, one where my children will join me to create a fuller, richer and more powerful experience for us all.

In the meanwhile, I'm still gonna to hope my kid doesn't become Bobby Jindal. Please son, no.