Columbia activists discuss ways to be more effective

Saturday, June 28, 2008 | 9:18 p.m. CDT; updated 12:45 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — “‘The last person in the room wins .’ — Pat Robertson”

This quote was what 15 local activists found written on the whiteboard at the beginning of their Saturday morning workshop led by Robert Minor.

The quote emphasized the idea that activists are fighting for issues long term and should find ways to avoid burnout.

Minor is a professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas and author of a number of books on religion, gender and sexuality.

Saturday morning’s workshop, held in the Columbia Public Library, focused on how to become a more effective human rights advocate, while an afternoon session concentrated on new ways to combat homophobia, especially in religious circles.

Overall, the challenges facing Columbia activists, such as burnout, apathy, impatience and a lack of focus, mirror the challenges facing activists in other cities, said Minor.

“There’s a feeling that there’s still work to do, but Columbia is outwardly progressive enough that it’s not always visible what work to do,” Minor said.

All human rights movements, said Minor, are tied together and to everyone. The future of activism, he said, lies in building coalitions between groups and recognizing the stake each person has in the larger movement.

Jennifer Smith, one attendee of the workshop, found the morning session gave her “reaffirmation to concern ourselves with global issues, not just our own issues, because of the interconnectedness of everything.”

Many of the participants were seasoned activists and came out to network.

For Sieleach Corleigh, who came to network and for Minor’s advice, the issue at hand was identifying how the expressions of prejudices are changing.

“It’s just expressed in a different way, less blatant,” Corleigh said.

Human rights activist and networker Carolyn Mathews agreed that all the issues of human rights are linked, and people will realize they’re all connected to these problems.

“I see it as part of opening the doors to see that we are all children of God or whatever word you want to substitute — all children of the universe,” she said.

Apathy is one challenge to moving forward on issues that the group brought up in its morning discussion.

“This is not the time for silence or complacency. Especially as the economy gets worse, we all realize we need to help each other out,” Mathews said.

Columbia’s Human Rights Commission funded the two workshops with a grant to address issues of homophobia. The Columbia branch of PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of Gays and Lesbians) provided lunch, and the mid-Missouri LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Coalition) helped host the event.

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lily matha June 29, 2008 | 9:18 a.m.
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