They were just simple steps – tweeting and shooting out an email – but they were all it took for Molly Katchpole ’11 to ignite her inner activist, the RWU alumna told students at the concluding event for Social Justice Week on campus last Friday.
In 2011, Katchpole had recently graduated from RWU’s art and architectural history program and was living in Washington, D.C., working two jobs and counting down the days until her six-month student loan repayment grace period would end. With the Occupy Wall Street movement in full force at that time, the public’s discontent concerning economic justice was palpable – everyone, including Katchpole, heard Occupy’s frustration in the news, on the Internet and in social media outlets. So when Bank of America announced a plan to institute a $5 monthly fee for its debit card users to access their money – which would hit Katchpole and other low-income Americans hardest – it was the last straw for her. And then it happened….
She tweeted at reporters covering the story on Bank of America’s new fee. She emailed news stations, expressing her disgust. She voiced her opinion on “ABC World News” with Diane Sawyer. Her goal? To approach the larger issue of income inequality in a relatable manner – as an average American.
With a few simple steps, Katchpole had ignited her inner activist. And on Friday, October 26, as part of Social Justice Week on campus, Katchpole returned to RWU to share with students how they can do the same in a program entitled, “Activating the Activist Within.”
Biola Jeje, a senior at CUNY Brooklyn College, joined Katchpole for the presentation. The two joined forces after meeting at the National Student Power Convergence, a five-day gathering for young activists to come together and share ideas on major issues affecting our generation. Jeje shared her “story of self” – a phrase coined for the art of public narrative – and it is a unique one. Her political awareness was sparked by a passion for theater, enthralled by the transformative content of plays. On a religious mission trip to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, Jeje was inspired by a teacher’s persistence to successfully reestablish a school system in a small community.
“That’s when I realized that one person can really make a concrete change,” Jeje said.
Since then, Jeje has become a core member of Brooklyn College Student Union, an unregistered, unfunded club that addresses issues on and off campus. Jeje is also the CUNY Regional Organizer of New York Students Rising, a statewide student movement in New York’s public universities.
Katchpole and Jeje told the students that, just as they do, we each have a unique “story of self.” But there exist commonalities that unite us to fight against all inequalities. Follow these five steps from Katchpole and Jeje to ignite your inner activist today:
- Get educated
There are numerous resources at our fingertips that can provide us with valuable information – use them. Jeje urges, “Learn how to participate in a democracy. Learn how to navigate through society. These abilities are priceless.”
Katchpole’s advice is simple: “Don’t hesitate to share your stories. Your struggles are likely not mutually exclusive.”
- Identify a problem
Take from conversations those common issues and define them. Find out what causes those issues, and who and what they affect. “There is no wrong way of organizing,” Jeje says.
- Seek support
“Feel free to make demands,” Katchpole says. “There are numerous organizations that support activism and are dying to start chapters at universities.”
- Follow through
Jeje says it’s important to ensure your voice is heard. “Get out there and make a name for yourself!”