Activism, Identity & Service

by | Apr 8, 2021 | ShiftHappens

The scholar Juana Rodriguez defines activism as “an engagement with hauntings of history, a dialogue between memories of the past and the imaginings of the future manifested through the acts of our own present yearning.”

Her work examines the relationship between identity and activism; more specifically, the idea that monolithic collective identities formed in the interest of solidarity can be reductive and even oppressive. Rodriguez and others ask, how can we hold space for our own unique individual identities, full of nuance and complexity, while still building broad-based social movements?

I see the fault lines of this tension reflected in nearly every prominent social issue; as activists are called to unify towards an expansive collective identity, they are concurrently pulled more strongly to smaller circles that organize around shared aspects of their personal stories. In the broader push for women’s equality, for example, many queer or BIPOC activists felt that the larger umbrella narrative did not fully account for the intersectionality of their experience. You can probably think of many more examples from your own work.

As heartivists, we reframe the focus of activism away from the self as center. Being drawn to a specific cause may come from direct personal experiences, but our work as heartivists is not actually about “us” at all.

Service, by definition, is self-less, yet in acting from a service-centered heart, our work actually becomes a truer reflection of ourselves, our humanity, and our shared hopes for the world.

There is no call to squeeze yourself into a collective narrative that, like a too-small garment, poorly fits you. Our personal identity is no longer a barrier to meaningful connection and culture shift; rather, we are finally able to dress ourselves with the intricate and beautiful nuances our lives have stitched for us alone.

Along the heartivist path, what we think of as “activism” shifts too.

Understanding that the world is changed by our example and not our opinions, we may come to observe that listening is a powerful form of activism. Kindness is activism.

And self reflection? Truly revolutionary.

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Academic professionals Carla Forte Maiolino Molento and Rodrigo Morais-da-Silva founded Cell Ag Brazil at the end of 2023 with support received from The Pollination Project. The objective of the newly created association is to reflect, contribute, and promote the development of cellular agriculture in Brazil through proactive promotion and unifying actions among different audiences interested in the development, production, and commercialization of food through cell cultivation processes. 
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With a seed grant, they founded the organization and designed a logo that represents their mission. They are now inviting people and organizations to participate in the association so that it gains greater relevance. 
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Their members will be distributed across three chambers: 1) academia, 2) private sector, and 3) third sector and civil society. With this, they aim for diverse representation and to create a positive movement to act in different areas to promote and accelerate alternative proteins in Brazil and Latin America.
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Billions of animals involved in food production in Brazil will be impacted in the medium to long term from this work. Data from IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) indicates that approximately 6.1 billion chickens, 56.5 million pigs, and 30 million cattle were slaughtered in Brazil in 2022. 
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With this association, Carla and Rodrigo may help reduce the number of non-human individuals involved in food production as they help to speed up the replacement process with alternative proteins.
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In this World Day of Social Justice we celebrate the transformative impact of The Pollination Project and our dedication to seeding the essential change our world needs. Since its inception, The Pollination Project has been at the forefront of empowering grassroots initiatives, providing the crucial support needed for small-scale projects to blossom into powerful agents of social change.

Our unique model of micro-granting has enabled a diverse array of projects across the globe, touching upon various facets of social justice including environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, gender equality, and human rights. From providing clean water solutions in remote villages to empowering women through education and entrepreneurship, we always believed in the power of individual action to create a collective impact.

Each project funded is a testament to our faith in the inherent goodness and potential of every person to contribute meaningfully to the betterment of society. These initiatives not only address immediate community needs but also foster a culture of empathy, equity, and inclusiveness - essential pillars for achieving true social justice.

On this World Day of Social Justice, let's draw inspiration from the myriad projects The Pollination Project has nurtured. Their work reminds us that each small seed of kindness and action can indeed grow into a mighty force for good, paving the way for a more just and compassionate world.