Relational Activism

Shifting Attitudes
A lifetime of activism

The Energetics of Protest


I marched as a young teen against the war in Vietnam in both Detroit and our nation’s capital. A half a million voices for peace. After the radioactive leak at Three Mile Island we chanted “Hell No we won’t glow.” As a legal observer I’ve stood with protesters chained to gas pumps protesting “No blood for oil,” environmental activists high in tree tops and dozens of marches against nuclear weapons, wars in Central America, Afghanistan and  Iraq and in support of Black Lives Matter. 

Yet, so many people stop attending rallies or find them ineffective for lasting change. Is it due to the anger of the crowd or is it easier to organize for something than against it. Have police on horseback or tear gas brought about more tears and fears than progress?  I often left appreciating the courage and commitment,  but something was missing.

Changing Perspectives

Relational Activism

Being an Active Witness
While protest doesn’t often directly bring about peace and justice, I ‘ve come to  believe in what I call the energetics of protest – that we don’t always know the impact we are having on a participant, a passerby or on the fabric of a community. Are we too focused on the desired large result that we miss the power of the moment – the strength of coming together unified in purpose.

In learning about ubuntu from Archbishop Tutu, studying holistic principles and exploring principles of interconnectedness from around the planet, I’ve come to see that a new way of looking at our world is needed to foster a more effective activism. Relational activism recognizes that we must speak up, but we must be the change we want to see and not be caught in hate, anger or division.  As Archbishop Tutu says “We should not become like the system we oppose.” 

Principles of Relational Activism


Shifting our attitude toward conflict

Letting go of us vs. them and good vs. evil


Being an active witness rather than a passive victim of our circumstances


Learning active listening

Practicing empathy, kindness and compassion for all

Abandoning the politics of blame and demonization


Calling for compassionate accountability

Reframing our language from violence to relationship

Discovering hope as a state of mind

Reclaiming love as a guiding principle

Contributing with every action to building a culture of peace

Enhancing our Relationship with the planet

“‘Too often we itch in one place, but  scratch in another.” 

Marianne Williamson, The Healing of America