Why Protest? Answers for Discouraged Activists
In addition to fighting the Trump administration's policies, another obstacle the resistance faces is its own cynicism. When even left-leaning pundits proclaim that "Trump just became president" for competently reading a teleprompter onstage or unloading Tomahawk missles on Syria from the comfort of his country club, it's tempting to feel deflated.
Why protest, one might ask, when it's easier to compulsively rewatch "The West Wing" in tears, leave desperate messages on Barack Obama's Instagram and generally pretend that there aren't racist demogogues running our country. If you recognize any of these scenarios, it's time for a dose of perspective. One source is the excellent new internet zine, "Why Protest?" created by Mariame Kaba and designed by Megan Doty.
Kaba, the founder of the criminal justice organization Project NIA, explained in an email interview that she was inspired by an anonymous Facebook post about why protest matters, even when it feels like it doesn't. She explained, "As months passed, I found myself trying to explain why protest matters to several children and young people I love. I started wondering if others were having similar conversations in their communities and if they needed a resource to help frame those discussions."
So Kaba took to social media—Twitter and Facebook—to crowdsource reasons to protest. Some of her favorite responses included:
"[Protest] energizes & affirms. Also, wins concrete things way more often than it is given credit for." —Sophia Consonants
"Protest crafts solidarity from people acting together. Private reaction is translated into public action & the image of power is disrupted." —@MilitantMillenn
"To reimagine public space, to shift power dynamics, to show our commitment to each other, to afflict the comfortable." —@madgeofhonor
Kaba's advice to young organizers is "to pick your lane and to focus on it." When burnout sets in, it's essential to "find your people and make sure that you cultivate and build strong relationships. You are going to need soft places to land in this work. You are going to need true comrades. Take time to water the seeds that you are planting. Grow something beautiful in defiance."
The call has already been answered, even in the zine's early days. Shortly before we spoke, Kaba heard that "A group of students from Fulton High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, are currently creating their own zine based on the same question. I am really excited and looking forward to what they create. I wonder if/how it might be different from the zine that Megan designed."