Creative Activism

By A.Z.

Creative activists can be described as: ‘These are the changemakers. People who turn their ideas into action. A Creative Activist is any individual or organization who uses media, the arts, and technology to create awareness of important issues in the world and affect positive change.’

I would disagree with the description above, simply because creative activists don’t limit their creativity to using arts, media and technology to create awareness. They also use ingenuity and originality to convey their message, to a sometimes unwilling and skeptical audience.

Nick Darken wrote, commenting on this video that is worth watching: ‘‘The Return of Dictator Ben Ali’ saw one huge, imposing portrait of the former dictator reinstated in a square in newly freed Tunisia. The response was emotional. As the crowd tore down the poster in anger, the message underneath reminded people to use their vote at the upcoming elections as only half the population were expected to turn out.”

Some creative volunteers found another way to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies, on the streets of New York City. The BDS movement provides a prime example of creativity and spontaneity. Attendees of the Israel Jazz Festival in NYC at the Guggenheim were treated to free water bottles labeled “Israel” on one side and the words “Apartheid since 1948” on the other.

Syrian Activist Ammar Allani is quoted as saying:

“And while they (governments/authorities) can claim supremacy in force, finance and media ownership, the one thing they definitely cannot offer is creativity, freedom and innovation. That is why the young generation is using these specific tools to alter the rules of the game, leaving the regimes unable to keep pace, at least in terms of winning the audience.

In one instance, hundreds of young protestors took to the streets raising blank signs, dozens of white boards with absolutely nothing written on them, yet the security forces were exasperated by that and started shooting and beating people. For everyone watching, including some supporters of the regime, it was really silly and stupid; it was a classic example of creativity winning over force.

Take Kafranbel for instance, this is a very small village in Syria, unknown even to the average Syrian and located in a province ironically called “the forgotten cities”, these people grow olives, and recently ideas!
Every week, a few dozens of the Kafranbel inhabitants brainstorm and create the most incredibly creative and powerful punch lines, they write them on paper panels, go to the grove, photograph themselves with a phone and upload the images to Facebook, as simple as this may seem, it is literarily revolutionizing the nation.
Just to share with you some of these punch lines:

– We demand that school uniforms include a helmet, body armor and gas mask.
– Forgive me my love; I mentioned your name in the interrogation.
– Only in Syria, to get to heaven… just cross the street.”

Marianne Torres, an inspiring American activist, told me of her own small victory:

“We learned that Madeline Albright was coming to Eastern Washington University in Cheney. I was still mightily outraged about Albright’s words and continued “service” in the American government so I just decided that if no one else could do anything to expose her crimes, I would.

I had a t-shirt made with her infamous quote on the back “500,000 Iraqi children killed by U.S. sanctions. Madeleine Albright says, ‘…The price — we think the price is worth it.’, wrote up the quote and other ugliness from her on a handout and passed them out at her speaking engagement and then did a double sided sheet with William Blum’s piece on her on one side and the absurd list of embargoed items on the other side, and passed them out both outside, and inside the auditorium. Most people didn’t read my shirt, but assumed the flyer was something from the University, so a whole lot of people sat and read the awful truth before she spoke.

Imagine my surprise when people who were excited to see this woman asked me if they could buy a t-shirt like mine! They obviously had not actually read it but assumed I was there in support of her. I’m sure they changed their mind after they read the paper I handed to them – and several hundred others.”

We all have our own creative side. Have you found and explored yours? Have you thought of new ways to help the cause? Do you have any ideas that can help serve justice, humanity and peace in the world? Shouldn’t you use your creativity to fulfill your Islamic duty to enjoin good and forbid evil?

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