Panelists Redefine ‘Activism’

For years, activism has been measured by the actions of the various nonprofit organizations such as Amnesty International and the Peace Corps. On Wednesday, Nov. 9 in the Humanities Instructional Building, the women’s studies department invited three activist speakers to talk about their roles in pursuing social reform as part of the UC Irvine Gender Education Series. The event was organized by Jennifer Terry, director and associate professor of women’s studies.

The event consisted of three speakers: Jennifer Tseng, author of ‘The Man With My Face’; Progga Choudhury, working as a Chinese healer and with Satrang, an organization devoted to empowering South Asian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning people; and Susan Lee, staff attorney for the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. The speakers talked about their career paths, lifestyle experiences and their own varied forms of activism in the pursuit of social justice.

Tseng, the first speaker, has studied Asian-American culture and creative writing, has a background in domestic violence prevention and has published books and produced a film series against the war in Iraq.

Tseng has found an activist lifestyle through her love of literature and writing. She finds that the best way to influence people is through her own passions.

‘Choose something that you love and go with it,’ was Tseng’s advice to those wanting to create change.

The next panelist was Choudhury. She immigrated to the United States and grew up in a predominately poor African American community. Her emphasis on education led her to volunteer with Americorps and other antiviolence and LGBT rights movements.

She believes in placing an emphasis on local change and taking small steps that eventually lead to great returns.

‘I really believe in thinking globally and acting locally because at the local level I know I can make a difference,’ Choudhury said.

Choudhury is currently studying Chinese medicine and acupuncture to help people with stress problems. Choudhury asserts that an activist is one who has an emphasis on communication and helping others.

‘We can be activists in whatever it is that we do.