Worcester State students and faculty joined guest speaker Alison Frisella on Monday, Nov. 20, for a workshop on the importance of student activism. The event, sponsored by the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and the Worcester State University First-Year Seminar initiative, challenged students to become more active in their involvement with the issues they are passionate about and provided advice on how to effectively organize and make their voices heard.
Frisella is an educator, organizer, and public speaker who recently graduated from Lesley University with a political science degree along with a minor in gender, race, and sexuality studies. In their time at Lesley, Frisella was active as a student organizer. They were responsible for the creation of Lesley Votes, an initiative that encouraged Lesley students to participate in the 2020 presidential election.
Frisella opened the workshop by detailing the evolution of their political views and how this has influenced them as an activist. They were involved in politics as early as 2012 when they joined their mother in supporting the Obama presidential campaign. “I didn’t understand politics, but I thought, ‘That’s what good people do,’” said Frisella.
As they got older, Frisella became more involved in politics on their own. They participated in movements such as the 2017 Women’s March, and volunteered in various New Hampshire-based political campaigns including Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign. According to Frisella, these experiences eventually left them feeling disillusioned and prompted them to explore different ways that individuals can organize to make the changes that they want to see happen.
In their presentation, Frisella discussed “organizing for power” as a way to promote change through activism and grassroots movements. “What that means is organizing with an idea of how things get changed,” said Frisella. “So, it’s knowing who has the power to make decisions, and who has the power to make the change.”
Frisella also stressed that effective activism goes beyond just being vocal about an issue. “A lot of the time we protest in ways that are empowering or that make us feel like we’re doing something, or make us feel like activists,” said Frisella. “We post a social media infographic and we move on from that and feel like we did something, we’re organizers.” They recommended three strategies that students can use to organize more effectively: direct action, consciousness raising, and critique. According to Frisella, these strategies can help people become more involved in the issues they care about, taking their activism to the next level.
The workshop concluded with an open discussion between Frisella and the students and faculty in attendance. The group talked about various contemporary issues and brainstormed ways that Frisella’s three strategies for organizing can be used to make a difference.
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