Activism has been around for hundreds of years, perhaps is as old as humanity itself. The idea has shaped the world by forming nations and helping some nations gain their freedom from various forms of oppression. For instance, it has been noted that the United States of America (USA), one of the most powerful countries in the world, was founded on the back of activism.
There have been some great activists who have walked the earth and made a difference in the causes they advocated for. These are the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman Andy even Africa’s very own Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela, the list is endless.
These people, in spite of being well-known activists in different areas, had a similar goal, which was some kind of freedom and dignity for a specie called a human being. Regardless of difficulties, these individuals stood their ground until they saw change in issues advocated for or at least until their causes were made known.
Whether the causes of individuals such Dr. King Jr and Mr. Mandela advocated for were accomplished or not, is seemly an obsolescent question to bring to the discourse, undoubtedly the struggle lives on. However, these distinguished individuals are celebrated for their strong, brave characters, true to their causes that enabled them to face injustices at perhaps most difficult times in human history.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, during his time, led a civil rights movement to curb injustice in the United States of America (USA) and the world at large and delivered a powerful ‘I Have A Dream’ speech that Has been labeled as one of the most iconic speeches to date. This still stands as a notable time in human history when the fight against segregation based on racial type commenced.
Harriet Tubman fought to end slavery in her time. The iconic woman at one point risked her life to help several slaves escape to freedom in North America. Africa’s very own Madiba, who was an anti-apartheid activist served 27 years in jail just to end the south African apartheid that led to the creation of a multi-racial democracy.
Through the act of putting their community’s needs before them, these people changed the world and inspired others to follow their footsteps hence the activism we see today.
Just as all other practices in the world keep evolving, from inventions to research or ways conducting surgeries, activism has followed suit. The likes of the legendary Luther King Jr, Madiba and Tubman no longer walk the earth and as a result a number of notable activists have risen to the rostrum in the recent times.
However, concerns over the growing trend of activists are overshadowing all the good about the practice. Several contemporary activists have been accused of championing selfish-agendas hence shunning the true meaning of activism.
In an article published by the Zambian Eye in 2016, Mr Chris Phiri, a PhD candidate in Political, Gender and Transitional Studies highlighted how some forms of activism in Zambia had become a letdown
Mr. Phiri expressed disappointment in how the work and voice of some activists has been compromised by political happenings in the country that were seemingly directing and controlling their actions.
“The love for money and lack of knowledge on what to do has contributed to the lack of focus and zeal to be active for several activists,” he said.
Mr Phiri Further explained that political happenings have glued some activists to money and most of them are focused on talking about politics rather than other important issues happening in the country. He added that this was probably because the social movement had no idea what to do or say or have compromised positions.
The importance of activism could not be over emphasized as seen from the role it has played in vista times of human history this is why it remains necessary to address the issue of true or fake activism and why there is need to figure out people distorting its true meaning. And Perhaps for easy fathoming, there is need to explain what genuine activism is all about.
Mr. Stewart Luunga, one of the human rights activists in Zambia, gave his own understanding of the concept.
In an interview with LUSAKA STAR, Luunga coined his own concept and defined an activist as a person who stands for what they believe in for the benefit of the society as a whole.
The human rights activist further explained that a real activist is one that stands on the truth no matter the consequences.
“I feel as an activist, you should be bold, competent, determined and persistent,” he added.
Mr Luunga charged that Zambia as a country had several issues that needed serious attention and could only be raised by people who notice them and call for action, this is where activists come in the equation.
He stressed that there was need for people, especially those taking up activism, to be sober and remain focused on the work that they are meant to do.
Mr. Tiza Mukuka, a youth advocate based in Lusaka, added to Phiri’s sentiments as he contended that it was high time Zambians took activism seriously because it challenges a sleeping government, protects workers from exploitation and also promotes gender equality.