Hi all, as many of you know, I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. While I was there I met some extremely talented and impassioned friends. Over the past couple days, I spent some time interviewing Alli Anderson, who has been dedicating her time and energy towards making the world a better place.
As creative people, we often forget that perspective is increasingly important in our art. Hopefully this interview will inspire you and give you some insight into a world you might not be entirely aware of.
Firstly, can you tell me a bit about yourself, your background, and your field of work?
For as long as I can remember, when somebody asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I had two answers: 1. “Be a ballerina that dances on a horse’s back at the circus” OR 2. “I want to help people.”
My first answer didn’t work out for a number of reasons- two left feet, no rhythm, etc. But my second answer created the foundation for who I have become as a person. “I want to help people” is a very vague career path, but I found opportunities throughout my life to jump in and lend a hand when I could. So when I started undergrad in Asheville and once again was given the prompt: What do you want to do with your life? The answer did not change, but the route to it did. I took classes here and there hoping to find my niche in the world, but to no avail. It wasn’t until I took a class called the Nuclear Dilemma that a new path began to unfold. From then on, I began to dedicate more and more time to learning about Nuclear abolition and organizing other people to join in the cause. It was then that I was recruited by two organizations: Global Zero and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service and began to effectively network with other like minds on this issue.
What are you doing to help further the things you’re interested in or diminish things you are acting against?
For years, I spent time organizing and recruiting others to stop the spread of these dangerous weapons. But there has been a brief period where day to day life just simply got in the way – because I let it. So, currently, I am working to re-establish a connection with my community to engage others in discussion. Not just about nuclear weapons, but about activism and being civically engaged. To achieve that, I took to the internet. I created a blog called The Conscious Activist where I, along with other talented voices, write about real activism. Many people tend to critique “Social Media Activists” but I think reaching out to the people who are vocal online could be a very valuable asset. Words can inspire. And I don’t think we should be taking those people’s opinions for granted.
Having such an interest in political media, how do you manage to maintain the drive required to act with how unsettling the political circus is nowadays?
If I could figure out how to settle down our politicians, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today and there wouldn’t be a need for so many people to stand up to these issues. But here we are.
I am fortunate because I am easily inspired. That’s how I maintain my drive. I know that sounds odd- but let me briefly explain. I find inspiration in simple acts of kindness. I find inspiration in seeing people be happy and loving life. I find inspiration in music, art, literature. When we let these issues- such as nuclear weapons- threaten our lives and rights, where do all of those inspiring things go? They will be gone. I love life and I love people’s creativity so much that it drives me to want to protect that.
If we allow ourselves to become complicit and indifferent with human suffering, all of those beautiful things in life will be gone. So maybe the drive to march on in the face of social and political turmoil can come from ANY passion you have in life if you look at the big picture.
Media is only as useful as the lengths it reaches. What are you doing to spread your site to others? Us millennials are supposedly masters of social media, after all.
Instead of making this site about MY goals, MY work, MY writing, I want it to be ours. I think creating a space where we can have a discussion about these issues as opposed to a screaming match is really important. This site is people supporting people through the ups and downs of activism.
I think the beautiful thing about this project of mine is connecting with other amazing people. It’s small now, but more and more activists, from every walk of life, are getting involved on our site every day. If you allow somebody to have a creative space, they will want to share it with people. It’s a ripple effect.
Time to take a breather. What inspires you?
I am long winded- as you can see from my answers. So I’ll keep this one short. Genuine kindness and understanding inspire me. I don’t care if you and I have opposing views, if we are having a discussion and instead of thinking of the next thing to say, you’re genuinely listening and TRYING to understand my point, I walk away feeling successful.
If someone gave you 50 dollars and expected you to give them back 75 dollars next month without drawing from your personal money, how would you make it happen? Would you be able to make a profit in the end?
Ha! I love this question!
Realistically, it would have nothing to do with my work on the blog or in activism. I would take the 50 dollars and buy supplies to make wall hangings and sell them for profit. I could put in 50 dollars to make 3 large wall hangings (Wood, yarn) and sell them for 25 dollars a piece.
Back before either of us were born, there were large revolutions that combined political discourse with artists and musicians. Do you see any notable examples of this happening around you today? Would you consider this a new revolution of political discourse in this incredibly politically decisive time?
I think art and music are some of the most influential tools in activism. I wouldn’t trust a person who said they aren’t touched regularly by art or music. In any capacity. In urban areas, you see graffiti artists painting murals to highlight social issues. It’s a beautiful and rebellious act that reaches so many people. It makes somebody walking by stop and think- if they glance up from their phone.
Something else in art and music that is really powerful is the rebirth of the mental health movement. You see so many artists address the issues of self love and mental health awareness when these issues used to be taboo. There are so many ways art and music influence civil disobedience.
What does success look like for you? Would success be the repeal or introduction of a particular piece of legislation? Would success include having hundreds of thousands of followers participating in your site and acting accordingly? What are you doing to achieve your goals currently?
I think I see success in many things.
Of course, ideally, I would love to see the abolition of nuclear weapons from Earth. But I realize that might be a daydream. Sometimes you have to claim victory in small steps.
In a more broad term, I would love for this site I (we) created to become a supportive resource and venue for activists to come to. And even musicians and artists. You so, aptly, put in the questions above that artists are HUGE influencers on these issues.
But I would love to point out that activism looks different to different people. It could be planting wildflowers to support the honey bee population. It could be writing your representatives about school budgets.
Activism is not a cookie cutter definition. It can be what you make it.
Activism is for art. For music. For love. For life. And not one of us is not touched by that.