5 Ways to Fight For Rights | The Washington Center

5 Ways to Fight For Rights

Last Friday, Hector E. Sanchez gave a compelling speech on immigration and immigrant rights to a cohort of young, ambitious students from all over the country.

During the speech, Sanchez talked about how immigration is a divisive issue for marginalized people. But he did not just stop there. In lieu of discussing how immigration is such a divisive issue for certain people, Hector went even further by offering pragmatic solutions on how to make this issue a less divisive one for everyone.

During the educational module, Sanchez said what matters even more than the what and how, is the "what we can do." He mentioned how one of the key elements of democracy was civic participation. If there is something wrong and we want to try to fix it, one of the most important things we can do is mobilize our communal forces together to stand in solidarity.

I took this to heart at Georgetown Law's Center on National Security and the Law last Tuesday, where I asked some of the panelists there how citizens can engage in the community to mitigate the effects of racial profiling, religious animus and xenophobia in America. Not one of the panelists had an adequate response, but I understand that it is a tough question to answer. I could not help thinking about how easy it is to simply talk about a problem and how difficult it is to actually solve the problem.


In his second volume of The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Gene Sharp includes a list of 198 different ways people can nonviolently intervene in their communities to combat oppression. Sanchez’s own emphasis on civic participation spurned me to address some of the ways you can engage in your own communities today to help fight for any cause that is important to you.

While I will not exhaust a list outlining all 198 ways we can go about combating oppression, I will provide you with just five that I personally found to be very moving and relevant.


1. Newspapers and Journals

If there is an issue you find to be very pressing, why not write an Op-Ed for a journal or newspaper that expresses your own thoughts on the issue and how it is affecting you? One of the great benefits of newspapers and journals is that they allow for the dissemination of information to occur. The power of your words have the potential to not only reach your local residents, but an even broader audience online.


2. Formal Statements

If you think that newspapers and journals are not doing your words justice, then voice them in letters of opposition or support towards certain political officials! By writing formal statements, you are directly engaging in contact with someone who is well-acquainted with how public policy works. In turn, if your statement resonates well with a certain official, it may help to spurn big change. You can double your impact with formal statements!


3. Theater and Music Performances

Bob Dylan is one of the most influential literary artists whose music is still enduring. He is renowned for performing songs that really helped to capture the political atmosphere of the time and highlighting important struggles, like the civil rights movement. In the same way, some plays (such as Shakespeare’s Richard III) focus on tracing the evolution of a rising tyrant.


Of course, these two examples are only specific to either a famous artist or play. But, guess what? In your own town, you too, can put together a play or write a slam poem about a certain divisive issue. You can then advertise it to the whole community, get people involved and make it accessible to the whole public!


4. Demonstrations

Another way to show your solidarity for a certain cause is to participate in demonstrations or peaceful protests. Make a sign that appeals to you and your cause, grab a friend and together, in unison, chant out about what is currently ailing you. Do not be afraid to be emotional. However, be cautious to avoid engaging yourself in any harmful behavior that would render the protest violent. Remember, that you are engaging in a peaceful protest.



5. Wearing or Displaying Symbols

Sometimes, you do not always need to exercise your vocal skills to show that you care about something. You can just wear a simple sweater or jacket that symbolically manifests what you stand for. Therefore, if you are too afraid to verbally voice your own opinion, just let your attire do all of the speaking for you.

While there are other ways to engage in nonviolent action, these are just a few that I deemed to be of current fundamental importance. One thing that I wanted to point out is that Gene Sharp wrote his book outlining the 198 methods of nonviolent action in 1973. That was forty-four years ago. Nevertheless, we know that these methods are still widely applicable and used today, forty-four years after the book’s inception.


Read Poonam's previous blog posts

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More