Claps and Cheers: The Power of Niche-tivism

by Ramona Pilar
Header Photo by Caden Crawford

Too often the reader repeats the question to the writer in the form of a command: You have shown me the problem, now show me the solution. But the writer can not save us — only show us we need saving. The writer is not a savior, but a blessing. The solution must come from community rising, writing is communion —shared sustenance. – Dominique Matti on Medium

There are people who find the power and energy to found and organize marches, coalitions, and movements. There are those who, on the daily-weekly-monthly-yearly, take up the mantle to carry those actions forward. Actions with specific intent, fueled by a passion to effect change, to correct imbalances, to adjust societal subluxations in order address the pains that have affected how we, as a symbiotic organism, function.

These folks are the shining beacons of a seemingly disconnected group of people with similar values who have been feeling the need to be “a part of something,” who want to “make change” but don’t know how to start. Who don’t know how to rally. Who don’t know how to find faith in themselves to harness that league of extraordinary doers to heed the call to action and revolt. Who don’t know how to conjure up the elements that lead to a moment – or series of moments – that would definitely make the biopic or before-battle speech.

I’m not trying to be glib about activism. My mother is action-oriented and has been for as long as I’ve known her. When I was a kid, she worked more hours than I saw her because she was a single mother. My dad wasn’t abusive or a horrible person in any sense of the word. They just had differing perspectives on what a “wife” and “husband” should be. So, my mom decided that the more challenging role of being a single mother in the early 80s was more amenable than staying in a relationship that didn’t work.

It’s that kind of self-declaration that inspires activism. It might not even be knowing who are you are, but knowing who you’re not, that incites movement into something else, something different, into finding out who you are.

For my mother, that meant deciding to leave behind the idea of being a perfect wife and mother, and instead, risking social and cultural scorn to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a nurse. Which she did. And I was lucky enough to have a front row seat on that journey.

As a writer/artist/Gen X/Gen Y/newly 40/single/no children/2nd+ generation Xicana, it has been a lifelong quest to find the one beacon to follow, to find the one community with which I fit. I bump up against edges of Venn diagrams. There’s not really one march, one cause for me to rally behind. This is why my activism is currently internal. It’s important for me to create in a space where I am and less where I feel I should be. That is where innovation lives.

I recently read about Sunday’s Q&A with Ava Duverney and Van Jones at Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos’s house – moderated by Oprah Winfrey – to discuss the Netflix documentary 13th. A handful of pop culture news outlets wrote about it and they reported that the conversation shifted from the documentary to the President-Elect’s ensuing inauguration and presidency.

Of the coverage that I read, Clover Hope‘s piece in Jezebel focused on aspects of the event that were most resonant to me:

[Van] Jones said he wants to connect with Trump voters who find the president-elect distasteful but supported him because they felt overlooked by other candidates.

DuVernay said she has no time for that. Racism and sexism are distractions, she said, “to my humanity and what I’m doing.”

“Distraction is if I stop and try to talk to folks who have clearly demonstrated that they’re not open to hearing that,” she said. “What they will hear is what I do: How I move forward, the art that I make, the energy that I put out into the world.”

This is the challenge of creation: how to focus? How to address everything I am called to address? How do I decide to choose between a microscope and a macrocosm?

As creators, we will not have definitive answers. There are no definitive answers. But as a community of individuals, we can thoughtfully and consciously respond.

As the brilliant Rachel Kann did in her poem New-Style Inauguration.

As did the wonderful writer and teacher Vanessa Mártir in sharing her commitment to voice and, with the support of writer Lizz Huerta, expanded that commitment into a larger  call to self-declaration with the #52essays2017 project (of which I am a participant).

As will so many this year, who explore their individual venn diagrams. Finding the bravery to share those findings is a way to build community and share sustenance.

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