The Four Most Important Activist Qualities


Activism quote by Alice Walker

A week after the U.S. 9/11 I was in France conducting an art workshop for painters from various parts of the globe, and I was thinking about the Chilean 9/11. I suggested a little quiz — ten definitions of an activist, and from those ten those engaged in plein aire painting had to choose four definitions that would combine to make a good activist. The definitions went something like what’s below.

Select four answers to the question of what should constitute a good activist:

  1. The activist should belong to a proactive non-profit.
  2. The activist should identify himself or herself with a successful hero or heroine from the past or present, attempting to emulate that person.
  3. The activist should focus on what’s commonly considered our most pressing social or environmental issues.
  4. The activist should recruit as many others as possible to be on board with civic engagement.
  5. The activist should be familiar with the daily reports from alternative media outlets.
  6. The activist should read reputable history books regularly.
  7. The activist should nurture his or her imagination.
  8. The activist should pay attention during all waking hours.
  9. The activist should be open to new ideas.
  10. The activist should be respectful of others’ efforts to transform society.

The painters leaned heavily on emotional identification, action, and the issues angle. But the “correct” answers — as per my mindset at the time — were not popular with the artists.

To learn what those “correct” answers are, please contact me at your earliest convenience. [Pause.] Ah, I’ll just tell ‘ya ’cause I’d like folks to get with what I advocate these days… which is what I advocated then, seventeen years ago. Which happens to be what I believed in the sixties.

Look at the last four listed, and spend a little time thinking about why I might make them priorities. You can, then, contact me for elaboration. How’s that?

Rachel Olivia O’Connor is a member of the Oxman Collective. She can be reached at


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