Ac­tivism 2.0

Out front, out loud, online

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

By DAR­IAN AARON

“We all have a voice, it’s just up to us in­di­vid­u­ally whether or not we choose to uti­lize it.”

I’ll never for­get that ad­vice or the per­son who gave it to me. It’s not by ac­ci­dent that the first time my thoughts were ever pub­lished or the mo­ment I de­cided to use my voice in­volved ac­tivist and au­thor Keith Boykin. “It All Started with Keith,” was the head­line I wrote on the morn­ing of May 25, 2006, on “Liv­ing Out Loud with Dar­ian” (loldar­ian.blogspot. com), an LGBT news and so­cial com­men­tary blog I ran un­til 2011. I didn’t have a clue what I was do­ing in the be­gin­ning or how each pub­lished post would im­pact my life and the lives of those read­ing. I did know that much of the LGBT con­tent I read online at the time ap­peared to have lit­tle to no in­ter­est in re­flect­ing life as I ex­pe­ri­enced it. There was a void. So I started writ­ing, and I’ve never stopped.

In hind­sight, that has al­ways been my modus operandi: don’t wait for oth­ers to do what you’re more than ca­pa­ble of do­ing. Stand up and speak out, now. I have no doubt that with ev­ery word I typed my sub­con­scious was whis­per­ing, ac­tu­ally more so shout­ing these ex­act words of en­cour­age­ment, es­pe­cially on days when my spirit was de­pleted and my in­ten­tions were ques­tioned. I was be­com­ing a “dig­i­tal ac­tivist,” and I quickly dis­cov­ered that ac­tivism in its var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties comes with a price.

I wasn’t warned about the ne­ces­sity of ex­er­cis­ing self-care in the midst of strug­gle or else risk burn­ing out pre­ma­turely. I must have walked away from my dig­i­tal ac­tivism at least a half dozen times over the five years my blog was fully ac­tive.

The per­sonal self-doubt and the ques­tions from crit­ics were at times so sim­i­lar it was hard to de­ci­pher the true op­po­si­tion. Who do you think you are? What are you try­ing to prove? Those ques­tions lived in my in­box and of­ten came from the very group of peo­ple I was com­mit­ted to up­lift­ing through my work. That was a hard pill to swal­low, but I had to con­tinue. Af­ter all, I was ab­so­lutely clear that it wasn’t about me, but about the un­known same-gen­der-lov­ing per­son re­ceiv­ing the mes­sage that his life was af­firmed and wor­thy to be cel­e­brated and not den­i­grated.

I’d al­most con­vinced my­self that I no longer needed the same af­fir­ma­tion un­til all of those un­known unique visi­tors be­gan to have names and sto­ries of their own.

“I think your cel­e­bra­tion of love is truly rad­i­cal and the be­gin­ning—or per­haps con­tin­u­a­tion—of an es­sen­tial change. Thank you,” a reader wrote in 2011 af­ter the re­lease of my cof­fee ta­ble book high­light­ing same-gen­derlov­ing cou­ples in long-term re­la­tion­ships.

“Dar­ian, you speak for peo­ple who have no voice, have had their voices stolen, have given their voices away, have lost their voice, and/or have not found their voice. This is why YOUR voice is so im­por­tant,” another reader wrote in 2006.

It’s funny how in­spi­ra­tion is a two-way street. While some in the com­mu­nity were work­ing dili­gently to de­rail my ef­forts, there were twice as many who were inspired and inspired me in the process. The writer of the last quote was the late At­lanta gay min­is­ter and ac­tivist Paris Eley. God, I miss him. But it’s through his life and the ex­am­ple set by oth­ers such as Boykin, E. Lynn Harris and At­lanta ac­tivists Craig Washington and Dar­lene Hud­son that I mus­tered up the courage to live out loud. And it all started with the turn of a page or the click of a mouse. I know the writ­ten word is pow­er­ful and I’ll ar­gue any­one down who thinks oth­er­wise. It gave me pur­pose and al­lowed me to say that black lives, black LGBT lives and lives of all col­ors mat­tered long be­fore the cre­ation of the hash­tag, and for that I’m grate­ful.

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