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Leadership and Activism

Am I an activist?

Am I an activist? People keep asking me this question. And so I ask, what is an activist?

It seems to me that an activist has two lives; an internal life full of self inquiry, study of the world and reformation of process; and an external life in which the internal life is given to action, to form and purpose.

I have a very active internal life. It comes naturally to me; my upbringing cultivated a natural curiosity resident in my very core. It lead me to choose philosophy and biology in college, two fields where questioning reigns supreme. I am not naturally a shy person, but it is fair to say that I am more comfortable in an observer’s role. I enjoy watching the world (internal and external) unfold around me. I enjoy the paradoxes, the interconnection, the self-similarity in nature, myself and my fellow beings. And I am quite observant.

I am not, however, a natural shit stirrer. Maybe that’s because I was raised by two of them and I have observed what happens to shit stirrers—they often get left holding the shitty end of the stick. So, I prefer the role of bridge builder, diplomat, mediator, moving behind the scenes and then watching the play unfold.

Can one be both a behind the scenes person and an activist? At first blush I would say no. An activist has to be willing to be outspoken, to fly in the face of the oppressor, to rage against the machine, to create big waves loudly in order to organizes and motivate, to be a shit stirrer. And I am not that person. But, in sitting with this question I have really tried to look at the essential nature of activists. There are two essential elements to every activist I have ever known, or read about. First, an acceptance of change as consistent and seen as an opportunity, something to be embraced not repelled. Two, a deep, undying love for humanity. Other than that, there are as many ways to be an activist as there are being on this marble.

So, am I can activist? Yes. Hell yes! And do you know what? So are you. For you would not be reading this if you did not think change was possible, likely, even necessary, and if you didn’t care deeply about your fellow beings. So what are you waiting for? Permission? Give it to yourself. Go do something, make something happen. How? What? When? Those are really6 great questions and a great place to start your self-inquiry. Me? I am doing this: and if you are ever in Portland, Oregon, come sit with me and we can swap shitty stick stories and celebrate our unique activist expressions!



About ambersk

During her 17 years with Summa, Amber has taught Natural Learning Relationships to hundreds of parents, led dozens of school groups in ropes course experiences, brought children from the inner city to the outdoors, and planned and executed Summa’s programs for families, Teachers, and children. She is now Executive Director and she lives in Portland with her husband and two daughters (Ruby 5 and Naomi 2).


7 thoughts on “Am I an activist?

  1. Amber! This brings tears to my eyes! Awesome!

    Big virtual hugs!


    Posted by dloitz | November 3, 2011, 2:57 pm
  2. I love this post, Amber. It’s an important reminder that activists come in many different forms and do many different kinds of work. I spend most of my time doing Communications for IDEA behind my computer, so “activist” isn’t a term I would have applied to myself until recently. However, we welcomed several digital organizers to our team who have helped me see how online change work feeds offline change work.

    Posted by mjdicker | November 3, 2011, 4:15 pm
  3. Amber, There’s a lot of powerful self knowing in here, and of course you’re an activist girl! Anyone who is fomenting change and willing to put it out there is part of the solution. You’re raised an important topic here, and suggested a powerful resolution…


    Posted by Kirsten Olson | November 3, 2011, 9:08 pm
  4. Good stuff Amber. As a reformed member of the Complacent Majority my current direction as a couch potato activist is using social media and a new blog to stir to action others who have yet to realize that complacency is a choice that supports the status quo. My current situation makes it impossible for me to occupy in person, otherwise I’d be in Tulsa right now defending our first amendment rights. I love your call to action, and will be repeating it.

    Posted by Steve Wood | November 3, 2011, 11:02 pm
  5. Rah! This is wonderful, Amber. I’m a Portlander as well and would love to swap stories some time. Cheers to you.

    Posted by mindyfitch | November 4, 2011, 12:09 am
  6. I am overwhelmed by the virtual love, thank you all.
    Mindy, let’s definitely get together for coffee, I will send you an email.

    Posted by ambersk | November 4, 2011, 12:51 pm


  1. Pingback: Am I an activist? | Cooperative Catalyst | - November 3, 2011

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