An Activist Reflects
BY Michelle Garcia
April 12 2010 5:20 PM ET
A lot of this activism that is so iconic stems from young people, which is so fitting since your award is from an organization that benefits young people.
That’s why I decided to let them do it. Truly, I had a number of people approach me, and then a couple friends said, “It’s a pretty good milestone, and you’ve been a complete citizen of your times.” With the Point Foundation, it just made sense. What a better way to take my history and my journey to raise money for the next generation of our leaders, and I’m just thrilled.
What kind of advice do you have for young activists who are just finding their footing?
I tell them about the Vietnam Moratorium. Everyone told us that we were going to embarrass ourselves and not to do it. I told them this before the [Equality March in October]. Everyone was telling them, “No, now is not the time.” I told them to listen carefully to what people have to say, but never say no simply because someone says no to you. I said, “Listen carefully, but push your limits. Go beyond what others think are possible, because the four of us with $100 and one phone and one office not only organized 3 million people on October 15, on November 15 we brought 750,000 people to Washington, D.C., which was up until that point the largest protest in Washington, D.C., history.” This was four kids in their 20s. We didn’t have computers or Facebook; we did everything by mimeograph machine and by mail. The thing is that young people have the unique opportunity to create change because they’re not burdened with the baggage that all of our journeys involved. Someone said to me last month, “Oh, my God, they were so lucky to have you at the march,” and I said, “No, you got it all wrong. I learned so much from them.” I had no idea how to do a high-tech march, and they taught me.
How do you think that technology would have helped you?
We had to have a staff on the Vietnam War Moratorium when we were working in the 1960s that filled three floors. We had to have a field coordinator for every region of the country, a hired staff person. We had to have a person who did nothing but get the mail out. We had to have a person set up a system of phone banks. We had to have a person deal with porta-potties. Do you know they never had an office for the March on Washington?! They did the whole thing for $160,000.