Happy birthday to us!!!
Today Advocacy Without Borders, our grassroots labor of love, turns five years old.
On February 7, 2014 a concept that I had envisioned for a long time came to life - the simple yet critical need for all people to discover their "inner advocate."
Often a very narrow interpretation of what an advocate "should" be like prevents people from recognizing themselves as advocates. There is no specific skill required to be an advocate. There is no mandatory educational component. It doesn't matter where you live, what color you are, what your socioeconomic status is, what language you speak - or even that you speak at all. You don't have to be of a specific gender identity, faith background, or nationality to be an advocate. It doesn't matter what age you are, whether you are disabled or non-disabled, whether you are straight or queer, or what your IQ or cognitive ability is. It doesn't matter whether you are an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert either.
Advocacy is not defined by any of those things. Being a captivating orator who can give rousing speeches doesn't make you an advocate. Marching in protests lines and staging die-ins doesn't make you an advocate. Neither does public recognition. Those aren't the ingredients. The only element needed for you to discover your inner advocate is something you already possess. Quite simply, the advocate = you.
Those other elements? If they apply to you, or they are something you aspire for, that's great. But they are not necessary; though they may certainly be helpful, they are only extra. All that is needed for you to be an advocate is the desire to be. You already possess everything you need inside of you.
Advocacy Without Borders was founded on the core belief that ALL voices matter and that all people are worthy of the opportunity to strive for growth and change. (Please note that by "voices" we mean perspectives, not just literal voices). Whether you are engaging in self advocacy in your own life, policy advocacy at a local or national level, global advocacy via technology, or some other variation, what's important is that you are advocating. Advocacy can be as simple as signing, saying, typing, or gesturing "No!" It can be as complex as a multi-system, interdisciplinary, collaborative long-term advocacy campaign that spans several continents. It can be you emailing your governmental officials; using social media to spread awareness; attending a school board meeting; giving of your time, labor, and/or resources; sharing your story. There is no "right" nor "wrong" way to be an advocate...chances are, you are already one. You just have to embrace it.
For five years, Advocacy Without Borders, as an entirely volunteer and self-funded grassroots community initiative, has been committed to our mission "to encourage ALL people to make a difference...regardless of their differences." We plan to continue doing this work for the next five years, and then the next five years after that, and so on.
In honor of our five year anniversary, we have selected a new logo. Inspired by our original one, this logo retains our hands and heart symbol, but has been illustrated in a manner that is not only more easily reproduced (especially digitally), but also more prominently incorporates our colors. It's featured at the top of this post and as of today it has also replaced our old logo on our website.
We are grateful to all of you for laboring alongside of us! Advocacy Without Borders is excited about beginning this next journey of promoting meaningful stakeholder and community engagement, social justice, education, and collaborative partnerships. Let's DO this!