The Power of Starting Local
GenderAvenger believes in the power of the individual to effect real change. We believe that many small acts add up to fundamental and far-reaching shifts in thinking.
After the response to our blog on fearless women, we saw that many women who have never before thought of themselves as community activists are getting involved at the local level. It’s one thing to see senators and attorneys general and sheriffs stand up to power. These are powerful women themselves, but that’s just the thing: they already have power.
What we found is young women using their voices, and we think they are the perfect inspiration for all of us to go local. They’re a great sign for the future!
Baking cookies and starting a conversation:
It’s hard to know where to start when actions as dramatic as a travel ban get announced from one day to the next. Kristen in Alexandria, Virginia began hyperlocal: in her kitchen. “Just with everything that’s going on, watching the news and hearing about all the attorneys going to airports and offering their help,” Kristen explains. “I stood there and said well, I can’t do that I’m not an attorney. But I need to do something.” She knew she needed to take some kind of action.
The Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Kristen and her two-year old daughter walked over to their local mosque, which they drive past every day. They brought along Valentine’s cookies, introducing themselves to the congregation and having a conversation about just how important the mosque — and its community — were to their neighborhood. It was a small gesture, but it was an important start. After cookies, it’s easier to ask yourself “what’s next?”
Selling books and supporting her neighborhood:
A little further north, we’re drawing inspiration on a community level. Barnes & Noble recently shuttered its Bronx store, leaving all of the Bronx and its 1.4 million residents without a single bookstore. Noëlle Santos saw a problem and didn’t wait for a big corporation to step in. “It’s a social hub for people to come together and talk about social issues,” she told the local news outlet. “That’s something Amazon cannot provide.” In an interview with the New York Times she explained further: “When you come into a neighborhood like the South Bronx, where most of our population is Hispanic and African-American, you need your stores, your community centers and your organizations to reflect the people that actually live there.”
Noëlle is doing just that, by building it herself. The Bronx native is raising funds to open a bookstore run by the local community. The project has raised over $45,000 so far, and is still going strong. All because of the determination of one individual.
Amplifying their voices and forming a council:
Down in Miami, two young women became frustrated with a local government that didn’t feel in-tune with what they wanted to see in their city and the lack of input from people like themselves. They got together and started the Millennial Action Council at the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce to urge Miami millennials to voice their visions for their community and mobilize to get things done. Jamie Maniscalco, one half of that founding duo, remembers how it started. “Constantly, at panel event after panel event, we were hearing from the same twenty people.” All, almost exclusively, from an older generation. “It is our generation that is now the majority, who live here right now and will inherit this place in the decades to come. We think differently.” Determined that millennial voices should have a say in shaping their own city, they started the council. And it’s going well. “We’re connecting young people with the decision-makers, and they’ve been nothing but welcoming of our opinions and our help.”
All this is to say, you don’t need to be a politician or a CEO to change the community around you.
You don’t need to have twenty years’ experience in a chosen field. You just need to care and be willing to look around you, have confidence in your imagination, and make the first move. We were inspired by the nationally prominent women we saw rise up last week, but we are even more inspired by the young women who take up the reins and show us the lasting effects of that simple mantra: do it yourself.
We see this every day within our GenderAvenger community and hope to see even more in the coming months. When you think about what you can do for your community, there is no such thing as “too small”. Just ask us — this community you are a part of, this very newsletter you sign up to read week after week — it all started with a hunch, an idea, and one small step at a time. Look at us now.
So get out there. Your friends at GenderAvenger are waiting to hear all about it. Remember that you can send us your actions by using the GA Tally app!