In trying times that hail catastrophy, new states of activistic resistance, emergence, and insurgence arise that are powered by blended digitality. For each event of devastation, there is an antipodal counter-force of radical resistance, political advocacy, and self-determined enfranchisement that claims space and breaks the dominion of supremacist culture.
So how can we exude, demand, and instigate glory, self-determining, and joy against all odds in a pandemic-fractured world? What are powerful ways to entrench communal freedom through deconstructed community care in new ways whilst distant and digital?
Media and digital activism is how I choose to do it. Read on.
Even prior to the pandemic, one of my most recurring priorities has always been to be creationally freed and inspired as a media activist. But what does that even mean?
I had gone through my personal decade-long history with purpose-driven advocacy groups and missions, and the servicing of their vision through my wide-spectrum volunteerism spanning event hosting/planning, MCing, live art performances, dance, writing, etc. And it just quite determiningly wasn't doing it for me anymore. Interestingly enough, one common phenomenon that emblematizes with unsparingly searing transparency the systemicity of oppression is that many front-liners of change are mobilized through colonizing hierarchy to disaffirm that very regime of oppression through a professed anti-colonial mindedness.
In its most reductive form this paradox is problematically 2-tiered; a humanhood fractured into halves of the entitled and the prejudiced, the privileged and the privilege-challenged. What I've picked upon is that as the privilege-challenged being defies the norm, how they engage the system reflexively however is through oppressive language, impulses, and mechanisms whose unlearning is ever-reinstated.
Oppression is a reality of immersive conditioning and a mindstate of brokenness and domination that segregates humanity through 2-tier polarization; the entitled and the prejudiced, the normal-passing and the questionably othered.
Liberation then, is the ceaseless unlearning and defying of that initial postulate. For all my lived experience, I have come to understand that plenty of anti-colonialists are keen internalizers of colonial oppression. That lots of QTBIPOC advocates are subliminally rehashing broken heteropatriarchy in their outward activistic efforts for gender neutrality. That several committed anti-racists are unself-critically internalizers of that selfsame racist oppression.
So what gives? The people breaking the system are societally born and policed into centuries of conditioning that make oppression normalizable, invisibilizable, protected by that same hierarchy, and made strategically erasable through historical denialism.
That powerful truth thusly makes it incontestable that systemic oppression means deep-seated internalization of oppressive conditioning; As othered folx, our externally prescribed otherness doesn't grant us immunity. Resistance is a choice made by the self-aware and the self-conquered; It is not a biological event. In other words, being Black doesn't make me anti-Blackness-resistant - it simply means that anti-Blackness is designedly internalizable and that fact is hidden and supported by the assumption of biological to targeted oppression. The truth is, you can't biologize self-critical intelligence and radical resistance.
Activism is a choice iterated through daily acts of extraordinary r/evolutionary intent through determining action. Activism is the choice to yield counter-normative agency in broken systems that protect and amplify oppression.
So now, back to today, my personal history has enlightened me to self-critically complexify power and oppression in seeing how oppression can be yielded or internalized systemically, subliminally, paradoxically, and designedly. It can't be bypassed and it is not a biological event; And the selective capacity not to see it is a directly expressive of our privilege. Those who won't/can't see oppression, are the ones set up to benefit therefrom and to be rewarded for their willful, dismissive, and selective ignorance.
So here is how that epiphany helped me not only be a self-determined digital media activist but use a digitally-framing blend of activism where form, content, and (online) access are rethought in ways that elevate, challenge, and unsettle through systemic cognitive dissonance and elective servanthood. Here's how:
Use visual clarity and disruption: Activism is the "what" and "media" is the how. As inferrable from its word formation, activism is an action-driven evolving commitment to social justice, human rights protection, and equity gaps obliteration. Media activism then, stresses a media-focused approach to that spirit of social transformation. For me, part of doing media activism, is using media cross-disciplinarily to redesign and reformat spaces of resistance by creating new standards, new paradigms, new referentialities. Concretely, it is a hybridization of media; the less typical, the more disruptive. And the more recognizable, the less disrupting. Changes into a sensorially and visually oriented and self-aware culture don't have to be dramatic; They solely need be unlikely and atypical for their disruption potential to be activated. The visuality and sensoriality of content prepares us for disruption as well as it frames it on the level of aesthetics and conceptology, rearranging the visual/sensorial presentation of the activistic work itself. This helps make activism immersive, visually clarifying, conceptually entrenching, and infographically informational and educational. For instance, blending in videos in highly text-driven activistic spaces and productions like academic articles is a form of visual/sensorial disruption where the form supports the content base using an unexpected scaffolding.
Use collaborative allyship: The worst way to be problematic in your attempt to overturn oppression through your activism, is by operating in a vacuum where you are unilaterally proffering an alternative for anti-normativity without factoring in complementary voices and positionalities from other shareholders in that space. For instance, when you mobilize yourself and others in the anti-racism resistance, document the realities of other folx outside the scope of your immediate activist tribe (ex. woke White settlers, Indigenous leaders, POC civil rights advocates, etc.). Be clear on how they can lend their mobilizing efforts, reach, and voices to your own in support to your activistic leadership. Most importantly, tell, show, and teach them how they can best support you. In this interspace of collaborative agency powered through organic and strategic allyship, your voice is amplified through those of important community leaders who help compound the impact of your community service and elective servanthood. They do so by supporting, recognizing, and re-manifesting your voice refracted through their own perspective. In so doing, the privileged and the prejudiced are correspondingly empowered and held liable to a standard of collaboration-centered social justice that makes responsibility shareable and not segregatable.
Re-create and co-create new paradigms: Beyond the aesthetics, true r/evolutionary change-making demands substance for high impact. Get educated and douse yourself with the teachings of 1+ new paradigm-breaking thought leader every other week. Keep that flow going and running; By incubating the refined top-quality contributions of people whose voices of resistance and authority are designedly denied entrance and clearing privileges in your spaces, you co-create new paradigms. By making the best of you, the epitome of your r/evolutionary impulse and work phase into oneness with the best paradigm-breaking thought leadership (available online) of ally giants, you produce activism at its best. And again, there is a scale to the measure of disruption you deploy. It goes from a) small but focused low-to-medium intensity disruption where you tweak preexisting paradigms to varying degrees, all the way to b) full-scale disruption where irrevocably anti-normative alternative discourses are integrated as a/the norm.
In a few words, you implement different levels of activistic leadership, action, and allyship where digital media create the structural casing of how activism is done. Here are a few more examples that I actually do in my day-to-day and through my 3-tier coaching business of holistic life, creativity, and language coaching:
Doing research-creation projects using Creative Commons type licensing. Then as step 2 to that research-creation, hosting live online workshop multi-series posted as free Eventbrite webinars wherein your step-by-step methodological process are taught to your tribe as a shareable and exportable deconstructed academic practice;
Hosting live digital events in an experience-to-action series that are highly interactional and action-driven where delegitimized voices and realities are re-articulated for their anti-colonial empowerment;
Sponsoring Afro-Asian artistic scholarship by collaborating with partners and allies during a cycle of live events regarding art-based activism during the pandemic
Now you can see how media activism draws from visual/sensorial disruption that is media-focused where form and content are re-imagined. In that new visual economy, symbols are the silent ambassadors of activism established through digital media.
You are a digital media activist when the bulk of your online presence and identity is comprehensively centered around mobilizing communities into specific revolutionary implementable and repeatable ordinary action for extraordinary purpose and extraordinary sociopolitical resonance.
Digital media activism means using the distant and the digital to constructively articulate scalable purpose-driven mobilization where the privileged and the prejudiced are committed to one another's power in faith, in heightened consciousness, and in allyship as agents of the resistance.
What's one thing today you will do as a concrete exemplifier and manifester of your act of elective allyship and willful resistance? Post it below.