edited.ActivismxSocialMedia3_HeberGuerra-RecinosBy Victoria Gill

Elm Staff Writer

Students and faculty entered Hyson Lounge last Thursday evening to the question: “Are you an activist?”

Josie Valadez Fraire, a community worker, writer and educator gave a talk, “Activism x Social Media,” about how the two are used in tandem to create a voice for change.

Some students were hesitant to address themselves as activists, but have performed work of activism.

Junior Calisa Gayle described the difference between being an activist and doing works of activism as “What I want to be, and what I aspire to do.”

According to Faire, social media can be a tool for activism.

“When it comes to social media, I think it can be a wonderful tool. What would you like it to look like?” Fraire said.

The 24-year-old graduate from University of Colorado, Boulder, became familiar with the potential of social media as an outlet for activism when she was arrested in 2016 for smudging — burning sage to purify an area — at a demonstration against then-presidential candidate, Donald Trump. The video went viral and Fraire started to gain a following on most her social media platforms including Twitter and Instagram. From then on, she became known as the Sage Smudge Lady.

“It has become an identifier,” Fraire said with regard to how she refuses to call herself an activist. “When you’re a bigger platform with a following, it opens you up to a lot of negative energy. I get a lot of critique — followers that demanded I had something to say.”

When the pressure of being an online presence started to kick in, Fraire described some of the more stressful experiences as a performance in which she had to consider what her work looked like, who it was for, and why she was doing it.

However, Fraire discussed how just saying a message won’t guarantee its reception. The conversation shifted to how social media is a tool to bridge those with disadvantages, whether it be physical or intellectual.

Faire said that not everyone is able to attend protest, meetings, or understand how messages are received if there is any form of a language barrier. She even commented on her mistake in making the talk less accessible by holding it in Hynson Lounge, which requires audience members to enter via a staircase.

“If there is a protest and I can’t be there, I can share it,” Fraire said.

Dr. Elena Deanda-Camacho, associate professor of Spanish and director of the Black Studies Program, organized the talk and sent out the information campus-wide via email.

During the event, Deanda-Camacho said, “activism is more than just sharing memes.”

Dr. Deanda-Camancho pointed at the filtering of literacy and validity of sources, saying that being responsible for accurate research also transcends into the usage of social media itself. This comes up with social presence and interactions that hold back one’s ego and to become transparent and thoughtful in political disagreement.

“Not who to convince, who you’re willing to reason with,” said GIS staff member Luis Machado, during a question-and-answer session as part of the event.

Fraire said there is power and responsibility of reflections; the connection of online and real life.

“I think that if it’s not a community conversation, then it’s not a community answer,” she said.

“People aren’t using this intentionally. Just scrolling through and not critically,” a student said with regard to the topic of awareness and proximity.

“This isn’t life in these four walls. Not for me, at least,” Fraire said.

The talk ended with a circle of students and faculty stating why they came. Some came with the impression of possibly disagreeing and arguing with Fraire until they heard her through and understood the complexity of the social media relationship with activism.

Fraire did not take any of these confessions as insults, and said, “I’m fine, I’m protected.”

The Elm

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