on Activism—Author to Give Two Presentations
her latest book, ,
author, teacher and speaker Courtney Martin wrote in depth
about eight activists, including a prison social worker,
a climate change activist in Detroit, a former soldier fighting
to end violence against women in the military; an actor struggling
to use her celebrity for social change.
Martin, also the
author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters:
How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women,
will visit Smith this week, for two events hosted by the
On Wednesday, April 13, Martin
will give a multimedia presentation about her book, beginning
at 7:15 p.m. in Neilson Browsing Room. On Thursday, April
14, Martin will offer a workshop, “Writing and Social Change,"
beginning at noon, also in Neilson Browsing Room
responded to questions about her book and activism.
Gate: What does activism mean
Martin: Activism is
essentially about advocating for the world you believe is
possible. It is about being kind to everyone, curious about
everything, and taking strategic and sustainable action.
It is about closing the gap between your values and your
daily behaviors. It is about trusting your own outrage. It
is about creating transformational community wherever you
Gate: Please describe your personal
history around activism. When, how and why did you get started?
CM: I suppose
it depends on how we're defining activism. I was sort of
born with an intense, observational nature, so I think I've
been aware of suffering and interested in confronting the
forces that perpetuate it from a very, very young age. I
first started moving beyond the tame, community service-type
models when I went to college and became involved in anti-racist
work, like protesting Amadou Diallo's murder.
types of activism are you currently engaged in?
CM: I'm a
writer and speaker, primarily, so I approach social change
through the written and spoken word. I also consider the
mentoring I do, the money I give away, and my constant obsession
with introducing potential collaborators forms of activism.
I started the and
I also just organized a massive .
Gate: How did you
go about identifying the subjects for your book?
CM: It was
a very organic process. I knew I wanted to cover a wide range
of demographic categories and types of work, so I just sort
of wandered around on the Internet and talked to friends
and friends of friends. Everyone came to me in different
ways. The limit of writing such long profiles is that I couldn't
choose very many people. The reward was that I got to go
very in-depth with their stories and really reveal some of
the often-overlooked nuances of this kind of work.
What is your advice to students who want to become actively
involved in helping others?
CM: Don't be so invested in
big successes, but instead focus on failing really well.
Activism is a lifelong struggle, and as such, requires some
patience, humility, great collaborators, and a good sense