Lately, activism has gotten a bad reputation in this country. Protests have been associated with violence and negativity. The truth is that our country was founded on protests and activism. Being vocal about our rights is not a negative thing, and we need to remember that activism and advocacy are the keys to enacting change.
In the late 1980s I was put on the board for City Club Dallas. It was a great honor, especially since I was Hispanic and it indicated a changing of the guard, so to speak. But I was surprised to learn membership was still for men only; after all, our city had its first female mayor. “So, if the mayor wants to join you’re not going to let her in here?” I asked. A few of the men took me aside and privately praised my intentions, but cautioned me to “take things slow” if I really wanted to help make changes.
Well, I didn’t want to take things slow, so I approached the challenge from a different angle. Our board had a sizeable budget to renovate the club, and I proposed a successful white female who had handled multiple high profile renovations across the country. At first the men were incredulous; they thought it was a joke and even asked if a woman could really design a club a man would enjoy? Ultimately, though she landed the contract and the men loved the final result.
That experience helped change their perception of women and cracked the door to see women as leaders and peers. After the renovation, I made a motion to allow women into the club, and over the next few years, successful Dallas business women joined the ranks as members of the City Club.
Someone used their voice and influence to help me, and when I was in a position of authority, I used my influence to help lift others up. The minority and female demographics have made strides because of activism. But obstacles still remain through policy, de facto policy, and inaction. If we stop using our voices, if we stop protesting, we stop progress.
We all have a sphere of influence, so let’s use our voices to advance progress for our rights and the rights of those who are still overlooked and oppressed.