“The past is a foreign country,” author L.P. Hartley famously wrote in his book The Go-Between. Perhaps that’s why we hold on to the postcards…
Jess Dervin-Ackerman is a political activist, community builder, and dedicated spiritual practitioner. Jess hosts workshops on creating heart-centered social change through her project Heart in Politics. She is also a co-founder of Topanga-based CTLST*, an impact media company focused on bringing together creatives and change makers to create real impact on the big issues of our time. She invites the community to answer the call to action during this time of change and uncertainty.
Our world is changed. We are in a global pandemic, challenging and questioning the way our institutions and businesses operate, and how we physically relate to one another. We are facing a reckoning about race relations, the foundations of this country, and are being asked to be part of this collective movement to reshape our society. From COVID-19 to Black Lives Matter to migrant children being held in unthinkable conditions, we know things have to shift.
So, how do we take action? As Topangans. As Americans. As Human Beings.
How do we take our first step toward that new world we all want to see, one where there is equality, justice, and peace at the center of everything we do?
My roles as a political strategist, entrepreneur, community organizer, and spiritual practitioner require me to spend a lot of time strategizing about how we create lasting change in our world.
I see many people around me wanting to help, and not being quite clear how to start DOING SOMETHING. For anyone who feels the call to help shape this new world we have been thrust into creating, my first question for you is:
Are you clear on why is it important to you that our society, institutions, and culture shift from the current state?
Before you pick up your next book on racial justice, attend a webinar, or share that post on your Instagram stories, try asking yourself WHY you are taking these actions. I have found that getting clear on the driving force beneath my actions allows me the stamina for this marathon of transforming our world.
Possible motivations? Leaving a legacy you’re proud of; your children or grandchildren inheriting a better world; personally, or by proximity, experiencing discrimination, micro- aggressions, prejudice because of race, sexuality, gender, physical, mental, or emotional ability, or other identity. Maybe you’re in despair. Or maybe you’re just plain angry.
Your motivation is what leads you to keep showing up again and again, day after day, to create positive social change.
I want to build and sustain a multi-cultural, diverse, inclusive community of creatives and change-makers who prioritize relationships over eﬃciency. So much of the beauty, delight, joy, pain, grief, miraculous moments of our human experience, is missed in this on-demand, materialistic, and transactional society we live in.
In my social justice and political career, which includes fighting a coal export terminal in Oakland, California to running national volunteer programs for presidential elections in 2016 and 2020, I have brought together thousands of people from diverse backgrounds to create change around common goals. Through these campaigns and years of community organizing I’ve trained and supported people through this process of understanding their motivation, finding their role, and stepping into community and activism in a profound and lasting way.
Here is an exercise I frequently use in my workshops to explore personal motivation:
Pull out a pen and piece of paper to draw or write responses to the following questions. Just start putting down on the page anything that comes to mind. If you are struggling to answer these on your own, you may try calling up a friend and take turns asking each other the questions.
The answers can be as simple as “as a woman I can see benefits from a program of free childcare” or “as an immigrant I could feel empowered by having more respect.”
- What changes would I personally benefit from?
- What about our society makes me uncomfortable?
- What are the major causes of stress and anxiety in my own life?
- How do I feel about my access to societal power and decision-making?
- Why is it in my self-interest to change society from how it is now?
While the first part of this work is introspective, it then requires the courage to be vulnerable and authentically share that process with others to start building our movement for positive change.
The relationships that people form on campaigns are some of the strongest bonds I have experienced. Working to create change in our society ends up also changing those who heed the call, because we are required to do our own work at the same time that we work to create societal change.
This work is also more impactful, and more enjoyable, when you share this path with others. Share your motivation and process with someone. This requires courage, vulnerability, humility, and a willingness to make mistakes. Growth and change comes through trial and error. Be gentle with yourself and others.
Let’s start here, with ourselves. As you explore and identify your motivation for showing up for social change, I invite you to share your process, your dialogues, your questions, and your motivations, and invite others to be part of that process. Tag me on instagram so we can share our journeys @heartinpolitics.
To learn more about Jess Dervin-Ackerman, including ongoing workshops and projects, visit www.heartinpolitics.org