Last year I became involved in two projects as the Diversity Debate waged on with BookCon's lack of diverse panelists seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back for some. One, is We Need Diverse Books (a non-profit) and the other was co-creating a podcast to talk with minorities in publishing about the lack of minorities in publishing. (I believe you know what the name of that podcast is.) As I've done interviews and spoke with fellow writers and journalists about this that at one point someone said to me "You're an activist." And for a moment I said "Oh no, I just believe in [so on and some such]..." I don't know why I was hesitant to "accept" being called an activist. I think it may go hand in hand with why some may be hesitant to call themselves a feminist even today. The idea is that an activist or feminist or anyone with a "title" is militant. Hardcore. They are immovable in their beliefs and fit a physical stereotype for some. Some who do call themselves activists have proclaimed that I may not be one because my beliefs aren't as staunch or as narrow or as confining in instances.
So, in that moment I thought "I'm not an activist because I haven't marched, I haven't worn a shirt proclaiming myself one, I haven't done something extreme to show my activism (queue images of PETA's extremism)." But when speaking with the person interviewing me some more she said "You're doing something."
I couldn't disagree with that. I was doing something. I'm active in We Need Diverse Books and have specific roles for initiatives and day-to-day online presence. For Minorities in Publishing I do production, help find guests and create questions. I'm a planner through and through. I want to buy books by diverse artists and get their work out there. I meet people and put their events in my calendar so I can tweet and Instagram them to those who follow me. I donate diverse books to my library so that they're available. I buy diverse books. I take pictures of me buying diverse books to post and tag the publisher. I'm happy to interview or give advice or engage with anyone who wants to talk about publishing, writing, being a minority and being an artist, and so on. I want to engage in this conversation and get that conversation out in the public so it doesn't ever die. And it hasn't. You can steadily see material every week in various forms of media discussing that people want to see diversity.
In Bad Feminist Roxane Gay notes the idea of misnomers and how people with these "titles" are supposed to act or are assumed to be but that there's no right or wrong way to be a feminist if you believe, wholeheartedly, that women should be treated equally as men in all aspects of life. Simple as that.
I guess the interviewer was right to call me an activist. I've come to realize that once anyone believes in something and is willing to act on it that makes you, by nature, an activist. If you're not willing to sit and moan about the issues but get up and do your part, hire more people of color, get invested with organizations making something happen, encouraging more diversity to your bosses, asking allies to help in this, writing about it, posting about it, putting money behind diversity, speaking loudly to publishers about this and not being deterred when it seems to fall on deaf ears. These are aspects of someone being active. So don't let anyone tell you you're not an activist when you're working towards what you believe. And don't, like me, not feel you're doing enough. There's always more you could do. Donate more money. Donate more time. Give more of yourself in many ways but if you're doing so at all it's a credit to your beliefs. But in taking the small steps those lead to bigger ones. By me staying in an industry and working my butt off to be considered a highly employable person that adds numbers to an industry that does not have them. That one step lead to me being more vocal, more passionate, and more (say it with me now) active. Take it day by day but do make a move. Take that first step and see where it leads you.