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why i am an activist: notes for alex on

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i am still thinking about the elements in me and in my environment that have led to my being an activist. thought i would start a new discussion thread.

[i don't know how to indent on this thing]

two activist bruthas on the street in la yesterday morning

“hey man, you gamble?”

“i do a little in the stoick market every now and then.”

“i ask you because if you gamble, you can get you a free drink in there.”

“i don’t drink, man”

there are two activists, so to speak in the above conversation. or an activist and a de-activist. i wonder if there is really any neutral ground—i think the bump-on-a-log theory of someone else will do the activism is an illusion. either you’re sinking or rising in being actively involved with the issues in your own life.

i talked with dave chapelle this weekend, who puts out a la-area local weekly events calendar. “i went to a big meeting—a medical up date—once,” he told me. “they must have had food for a hundred people, and flew in an expert from hawaii to talk. maybe eight people showed up. nobody knew about the meeting.”

local events calendar
To Subscribe or submit events: send email request to
Sent weekly for Los Angeles, Long Beach, Orange County, Palm Springs

chapelle said, ‘i looked around and saw there was a need that nobody was addressing. i didn’t see anyone else ready to take on the work. there was nobody but me, so i felt i had to do it. if i didn't, it wouldn't happen.”

i saw nobody else but me would do the work. if i didn't do it, it wouldn't get done.

that’s part of why i am an activist.

i am also an activist because i am a writer and an artist. i’ll get into that later. just wanted to check in here.

how are things with you?

--richard kearns

i'm okay... could be better. it's the low energy thing that really gets me down.  :-[ anyway, i read about dina's time in cambodia and i posted comments. here's the link:

this is mlking's retelling of the parable of the good samaritan. it is an issue of life activism. i try to think about it when deciding whether or not to engage in action over an issue that faces me. there are other things i think about too; but let's nail this one down.

one day jesus told a parable. You will remember that parable [–the good samaritan —rk]. . . . (oh yeah) and that parable ends up saying that this good samaritan was a great man; he was a good man because he was concerned about more than himself. (oh yeah) . . .

i say to you this morning that the first question that the . . . levite asked was, ‘if i stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” (that’s right) but the good samaritan came by and he reversed the question. not “what will happen to me if i stop to help this man?” but “what will happen to this man if i do not stop to help him?” this was why that man was good and great. he was great because he was willing to take a risk for humanity; he was willing to ask, “what will happen to this man?” not “what will happen to me?” (all right) . . .

martin--“three dimensions of a complete life.”

activism is in the choice of questions we ask ourselves. do we ask enabling or disabling questions?

are we activists or de-activists? what am i?

who is the de-activist within?


another set of decision-making questions:

1. what is the truth?

2. what am i going to do about it?

not just #1. the truth sets you free to take action, #2. the truth requires action (which sometimes becomes inaction) in response. that's part of how you know you've spotted the truth.


this, from the advocate, broke my heart and belongs in this discussion.

am preparing it as an excerpt with a link from

But we get older, and friends don't ask us to hold their hand when they stop breathing, and the fear fades and I bought new leather loafers and the White Party is coming.
The truth is simply this, and no one will convince me otherwise: My most courageous self, the best man that I'll ever be, lived two decades ago during the first years of a horrific plague.
He worked relentlessly alongside a million others who had no choice but to act. He secretly prayed to survive, even above the lives of others, and his horrible prayer was answered with the death of nearly everyone close to him.
To say I miss that brutal decade would only be partially true. I miss the man I was forced to become, when an entire community abandoned tea dances for town hall meetings, when I learned to offer help to those facing what terrified me most.
Today, the lives of those of us who witnessed the horror have become relatively normal again, perhaps mundane. We prefer it. We have new lives in a world that isn't choking on disease.
But once, there was a time when we were heroes.
Mark King is a longtime activist and writer living in Fort Lauderdale. He can be reached at
This article is a part of the publication The Advocate.

Our thanks to Mark King, which provided this article to The Body.


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