A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in a panel conversation with other women from Chicago doing great work in our communities. At one point the moderator asked each of us, “Do you consider yourself an activist?” I was at the end of the table so was the last to answer this question. The other women before me were hesitant to call themselves an activist even though their work said otherwise. I must admit I have been hesitant to call myself an activist as well. I guess I have this image of people protesting or demonstrations and I am often not physically present at events like these, not because I don’t want to but sometimes access or energy levels don’t allow me to. So maybe I feel a fraud or like I am not doing enough?
As the other woman were talking I started thinking about the work I do as founder and director of an organization serving people with disabilities and as an artist using my work for social change… yes, it can be considered a form of activism. After all, activism means to take action for social change, doesn’t it? I feel that a person that is active in their community and creating change is an activist – even if sometimes we feel we aren’t doing enough. So in that moment I decided to own the word activist and when it came my turn to answer I confidently said, YES.
In the state of our country the future of people with disabilities sometimes seems uncertain. Many people have stepped up to take action and not allow the undoing of many years of effort and fighting for disability rights. People are speaking out and their activism does not have to look a certain way. It can mean that you are out there protesting and marching, you can write a letter to your legislators or meet with them in person, you can create some arts for social change, you can sit down and talk to someone who is different from you and commit to be an ally, others have shared their story via a video on social media, and so many other ways that people are getting involved.
I am happy to announce that our theme for ReelAbilities Film Festival Chicago 2017 will be Lights, Camera, Take Action! My goal is that people come and watch fantastic films with great storylines and will leave the theater having been challenged in thought and motivated to take action in the community. Some may act by becoming involved with a local organization and others through individual acts or personal development.
I invite you to join us this October for a few days of excellent programming and as you watch a film I hope your mind is thinking “What will I do to make a positive change in my community?”
Written by Reveca Torres
Take a look at ReelAbilities Chicago 2017 Line-Up