Activism doesn’t always need to be loud to be heard. What resonates with one person might fall on deaf ears with another. What might make one person fired up might make another person want to run for the hills. Activism can be portrayed as complicated or extreme – but it doesn’t have to be either.
After the election last year, I started to think about ways I could make a difference that were in alignment with who and where I was: sure I’d go to a protest or march here or there, but I was more intrigued by the ways I could make a big difference, every day, in small ways.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a powerful march. But I know that’s just ONE part of the equation. I think it does a disservice to whatever cause you’re fighting for to force one “form” of activism on everyone. It makes it seem like activism only looks one way – and can often lead to the kind of black-and-white thinking (You’re selfish if you don’t march! or How can you call yourself a feminist/activist/ally if you don’t XYZ?) that discourages newbie activists from taking that powerful first step of their own. Which is where it all starts: with those powerful first steps.
The more we can find ways to speak up in ways that are in alignment with who we are, the more comfortable we get with getting uncomfortable, the more we’ll cause a ripple effect within ourselves and others. We’ll eventually feel more comfortable with getting more and more uncomfortable. What once felt awkward and fearful will feel awakened and fearless.
And this is why I’m starting a new series on WANT called How To Activate Your Inner Activist. Inspired by the live event series we kicked off earlier this year in NYC, I’ll be talking to WANT Women who are making a huge difference…in ways of all shapes and sizes.
Through this series, you’ll get inspired, have epiphanies, and learn how to make a difference in a way that’s in alignment with who you are. Right here. Right now.
To kick off this series, I’m chatting with powerhouse strategist, artist, and activist Jahan Mantin.
Jahan Mantin is the co-founder of Project Inkblot, a media, service, and program design consultancy that uses their unique Design For Diversity approach to build inclusive campaigns for organizations and companies. She is also the co-creator/executive producer of Fit the Description, a video interview series between Black male civilians and Black male officers.
The coolest thing about Project Inkblot – and what makes it different than other strategic agencies or consulting firms – is their “Design For Diversity” model. Instead of merely working with the perspectives already present, Jahan and her co-founder Boyuan Gao (who you may or may not meet soon on the WANTcast, hint hint) help brands expand their worldview by discovering overlooked touch-points and reframing them as breakthrough opportunities.
From what she loves about the world right now to her best advice when it comes to handling the haters, I’m so stoked to have Jahan here kicking off this important series. Here we go…
Name: Jahan Mantin
How you’d know me (occupation or role): Founder of Project Inkblot and Co-creator/Co-producer of Fit the Description
What I love about myself (and why): I have a good sense of humor and I’m able to laugh at, and make fun of myself.
What are some causes you feel strongly about? Women’s issues, racial equality, creating a code of ethics around technology development – way too many to list.
When did you start to identify as an “activist” – or just realize that you had something to say? Don’t’ know if I can pinpoint a “time.” I’ve always had a lot to say – being opinionated and outspoken runs in the family.
What was your first PDA – Public Display of Activism? I remember writing a letter to The Village Voice as a teenager. I grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the neighborhood had started descending into hipster/yuppie gentrification. This was during the late 90’s – I was walking into a new/gentrified bar, with all white folks listening to hip-hop with my then boyfriend and brother.
We weren’t allowed in.
There was no probable reason. I actually remember the bouncer, a Black man, apologizing. I can remember the frustration and resignation from my brother and boyfriend, both men of color. We felt rejected, as if we didn’t belong in our own home. It was a microcosm of what was happening, on a larger scale, in our neighborhood. I was frustrated and angry so I wrote this letter, and it was published. I remember feeling like I had been heard and had stood up for something.
I wish that people realized that activism… doesn’t have to be a scary word, it can take on many different definitions and forms.
I wish people realized 'activism' doesn’t have to be a scary word. -Jahan Mantin, @projectinkblot Click To Tweet
What I love about the world right now:I love that historically identified marginalized people are making their voice heard. Truthfully, we never stopped – but I do love that folks are using their voice. It’s a weird time to be alive. I feel like something is bubbling to the surface, about to implode. It’s scary but also a bit exciting.
What I’d love to change about the world right now: Our dependence on technology and some of the insidious ways technology is being used to collect date and eradicate privacy. It’s gotten to a level I think is supremely unhealthy; for our nervous systems, state of mind, energetic levels etc.
The coolest thing about women is… women have some kinda profound well of innate strength that can be accessed at a moment’s notice.
Finish this sentence: Social media… is dos muchos.
My favorite way to shift a negative into a positive: Masssssssssages.
My top female role models: Basically all of the women in my family, Frida, Toni Morrison.
Favorite negativity-busting activity: Massages, massages, massages.
Fave self-love ritual: Massages!
My best advice when it comes to haters or people who disagree: If you don’t like it, make it better.
If you don’t like it, make it better. -Jahan Mantin, @projectinkblot Click To Tweet
5 Things, personal or professional, on my bucket list: Having Fit the Description make a positive impact worldwide! Traveling to Iceland, Rwanda, South Africa, Italy, Cuba (all places I want to visit).
My best tip on activism: Just start with where you are. Make sure it’s rooted in something you really care about.
Right now, I am most excited about… summer being around the corner – meeeeh to the cold.
Three words to describe me: optimistic, curious, silly
What is your definition of “positivity?” Being around good people who really know you and lovingly call you on your bullshit, being kind to yourself and others, having enough self-awareness to not take things too personally.
Current mantra: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
What is ONE way you “activate your inner activist” and make a difference in your own way? Nothing is too small – I want to hear! Leave a comment below and share your ideas…
photos by Seher Sikandar
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