2005-01-20 / View From the Middle

“Modesty” Of Activists Could Be Counterproductive View From The Middle

By Charles Rogers

Hey activists! It’s about time you got a pat on the back!

Join us, if you will, in our dilemma. We at the Canarsie Courier want to tell our readers about some of the good people we call community activists; those who are downright adamant about making things better for themselves and their neighbors; those who attend meetings and organize civic associations and, well, put the good of the community just a slight bit ahead of selfish modes.

They’re the ones whose hearts are big; the ones who see wrongs and want to right them through proper means. Yes, we do have our elected representatives, usually the very same people who started out being neighborhood organizers, but these are everyday citizens we’re talking about.

We know that most — just about all — have their hearts in the right place. They get out the vote; run around to their neighbors and get petitions signed; get together with their fellow political party members and try to see that the right person is elected to be their voice in a legislative body. They’re the ones who contact the elected people when something goes wrong, and many times they’re the ones called bad (oooh, how bad!) names by their adversaries and then told to mind their own business — even though, in the long run, it is their business. In the meantime, outspoken as they are, however, these activists appear to be modest.

Yes, modest ! Who would’ve believed it?

Herein lies our dilemma: We’re doing a series of articles on these neighbors of ours and we’re having trouble getting them to speak up about themselves . Just about each one who is approached says, essentially, “Aw, what do you want to talk about me for?” When told we want to inform their neighbors — the rest of the community — about those who are speaking up for them; about what it takes to be an activist, they just shrug and utter words to the effect that they are just doing their civic duty, no more, no less.

But that’s the point! We admire them for doing what they do! We want to let others know about them so that their word can get out. It’s not the time to be modest. It’s the time to speak up and out and push for your principles!

Case in point: An activist who is not the president of her organization but still an official, when asked to be interviewed, said she would rather see us talk to a State Senator or City Councilmember or another elected person. She respectfully and almost demurely declined to be interviewed. We can’t press her any more than we have, but, since she would not acquiesce, we asked her why. Her answer was that she felt what she was doing should be practically anonymous, giving credence to the fact that it was not self-serving; not selfish.

Well, it was selfish of her to think so. She is depriving others of showing what it takes to be a real civic activist. We don’t expect her to show off her capabilities in being able to “get things done.” We do expect her to be an example to others.

If we come knocking at your door, please answer and don’t be modest. We want others to know about you, and thus know more about our progressive community.

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