1.Start a Garden
While gardening or growing your own food is certainly a hobby or art that can be done for health reasons, to save on produce costs, or just for fun. Creating a garden, large or small also reduces the demand for industrially grown food. This is important because the largest agricultural companies grow food in ways that are bad for the environment, society, and rely on the use of unethical labor practices. While a home garden might seem like trying to catch wind with a net, everyday people have revolutionized food production with home gardens before. During World War II, home gardens (also known as Victory Gardens) – accounted for nearly fifty percent of the nation’s food supply. Moreover, growing heirloom varieties of vegetables aids in ensuring plant diversity and the ability to save seed, which is actually a surprisingly political act.
You can learn more about the importance of plant and food diversity here and find heirloom seed and vegetables from Seed Savers – a non profit that specializes in protecting sustainable agriculture here.
2.Get Behind an Issue
Issue based campaigns, legislative advocacy, and ballot initiatives have a long history of success despite the large amount of money and resources lobby groups and powerful people spend trying to shut them down.
This is especially important for progressives to remember when trying to create change for a very important reason: While most people may not agree about which candidate or political party they think is best, most Americans agree on a wide range of issues, policies, and changes they would like to see in government. For example: Three quarters of Americans favor a sharp rise in the minimum wage. Over ninety percent of American’s agree that it is important to regulate financial services and products to ensure they are fair for consumers, and over eighty percent of voters say Wall Street financial companies should be held accountable with tougher rules and enforcement for the practices that caused the financial crisis. Likewise, over eighty percent of voters, and three quarters of Republicans, want to expand Social Security benefits. Moreover, eighty-three percent of Americans, including three quarters of Republicans, favor empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
3. Teach Civics
Despite being thought of as solely taught in school, Civic Education can take place at any stage of life, in any number of venues. Civics is important for a number of reasons including creating greater autonomy for individuals and promoting the kind of educated and engaged citizenry Democracy best works under. Moreover, people who have received some kind of civic education or training are more likely to vote, discuss politics at home, and were four times as likely to volunteer and work on community issues. In addition to this, students who received civic education were more confident in their ability to speak publicly and communicate with their elected representatives than their peers.
You can find a list of free resources for civic education and programs in Texas here.
4. Support Independent Media
The Mainstream Media is a powerful influence on public opinion and the information Americans use to develop their own opinions, stances, or positions about a variety of issues. Despite this, mainstream media sources from cable news channels like Fox and CNN, to trusted print sources like The Washington Post and The New York Times – have published countless inaccuracies and even false stories. In addition to this, the mainstream media oftentimes focuses on stories that make for exciting or enticing headlines while ignoring news or stories that are relevant to people’s lives or the policy issues that affect them. Moreover, the conflicts of interest at major news corporations such as the Washington Post’s contract with the CIA, or Fox News Network and its ties to the Republican Party are frankly, inappropriate.
Luckily, social media and citizen journalism is empowering the reemergence of Independent Media in a big way. You can find a list of independent media sources here.
5. Help People Vote
One of the most powerful ways to change a Democratic country for the better is to ensure everyone can participate. Despite this, the United States has some of the lowest voter turnout in the world, leaving a small group of people to make decisions for the entire country. This is important for advocates to recognize, as some of the most marginalized groups in society are unable to or are unaware of their right to vote. For example, many felons don’t know they can get their right to vote restored. Likewise, many immigrants have to wait years longer than necessary to vote despite being residents of the United States for decades. In addition to this, a number of studies have exemplified how unnecessarily hard it is to vote in the United States and note that it is much harder to vote in the United States than in almost any other industrialized nation in the world.
In Texas groups like United We Dream and Texas Civil Rights Project work to help immigrants have their rights respected and advocate for more compassionate immigration policy -which will eventually allow our neighbors to live and work without fear, and vote as citizens. Likewise, groups like the ACLU work to create awareness about voting rights as there are many misconceptions that keep people from voting despite their actual eligibility. For the record: Although many people with felony convictions are unaware of this right: all felons can vote in Texas once they have completed their sentence, probation, or parole.
One of the most powerful ways to advocate for social issues is to create awareness about them. This can be accomplished a variety of ways – online, through social media, or person to person. One powerful way to do this is to share learning materials with others. This can be done by giving a book or documentary to someone interested in a specific subject or through donating reading material to an institution. Moreover, books can help improve the quality of people’s lives. For example, the Inside Books Project, which specializes in collecting reading material for prisoners in Texas and fulfilling requests for specific books as well as more generalized reading material. In addition to this, anyone can donate books or documentaries to their local library, or a to a library that is in need or located in a rural area.
You can find a list of nonprofits that give free books to individuals and nonprofits here.
7. Shop Conscientiously
Various groups have boycotted companies and even certain goods as a whole in order express their discontent throughout U.S. History. From the boycotts that started the American Revolution to modern day movements to divest from banks that invest in controversial pipelines – Americans have a long history of making their voices heard through their pocketbooks. In fact, there are websites like Ethical Consumer and Apps like Buycott that make it easier than ever.
8. Show Up for Jury Duty
Many of us throw jury summons in the trash or try to skirt jury duty, which is certainly understandable and even unavoidable for some of us. However, when you do this your voice isn’t present – and someone else’s is. This is especially important today as juries across the nation have allowed killer cops to walk free time and time again, while also handing down decades long sentences for nonviolent crime. In addition to this, the documented bias against people of color in the criminal justice system means that black and brown people will not get a fair shot. This prejudice is then further compounded when a jury’s makeup is not representative of the defendant’s peers.
In addition to showing up for Jury duty and doing your part to ensure that people have a fair trial , many criminal justice reform advocates have pointed to Jury nullification as a way to protest unfair or inappropriate laws or treatment. Jury nullification takes place when a juror refuses to vote to convict a defendant, regardless of whether the facts point to guilt or innocence, because he or she believes the law in question is unjust or inappropriately applied, or the punishment would be excessive.
9. Don’t Sell Your Land
One way to resist the corporate takeover of our country is to stop selling them land. While many of us will never own land that corporations want, those of us that do have a real opportunity to show the most powerful group in our country, that they can’t have it all. This is especially important when dealing with corporations who buy or lease land in order to complete hydraulic fracking because the practice is so destructive to the environment and people’s health that the land is often times left unusable. Likewise, a number of landowners that live in the areas a border wall could potentially be built are lawyering up and fighting to keep their property.
10. Watch your Mouth
Using Person First Language and using the pronouns people prefer is not just respectful, it can also change the way people think. Person First Language is a philosophy of putting individuals before their disability, first popularized by social workers. Person First Language is about more than just language; it explores how attitudes toward others are influenced by labels, and how those attitudes translate into action. The label or identification that one’s condition or disability receives doesn’t speak to a person’s value, ability, or strengths and this affects the way individuals are treated in their communities. You can find reading material about Person First Language which can be downloaded or sent to your home via mail for free here.
Like Person First Language, changing the pronouns we use may help facilitate the changes needed to improve inclusivity for transgender and gender nonconforming people. You can find The Gender Book for free here – The Gender Book is a free interactive Ebook and printable booklet created by a group of Houstonians.