Protests are important – but must be accompanied by real policy advocacy.
That was the main point reiterated by five movement leaders at the 2022 Women’s Leadership Summit panel titled “After the protest: policy change through social movements.” Moderated by longtime activist Brandi Grayson, the panel included Milwaukee County Supervisor Dr. Sequanna Taylor, EQT By Design founder Annette Miller, Hmong American Leadership and Economic Development founder & CEO Mai Xiong and American Family Technology Project Manager & DEI practitioner Angela Jenkins.
All agreed that protest for social change are important.
“I think protests are really important because it really allows the emotional steam to come out and to be present,” Miller said. “You need to understand the magnitude and the scale of the harm or the trauma or the pain or the need, and it tells the story in a way that inside activists and people focused on policy can’t do. And so that is another so you need all of it. You need the protest. And you need the storytelling that comes from the protests … I think that is why protests are really important because I think, as a society, we need to see the magnitude of the impact. That is vital, it is vital. And so I just think that it’s really important for people to have that, as one of many things that need to happen. Protest can’t be the start and the end. The protest is one measure of understanding magnitude, and scale.”
“I think that protest sends a very clear message to those who may be feeling isolated, that they’re not alone in this, that there are like minded folks in the community, and we’re showing up, and they could be part of it,” Jenkins said.
However, the panel said protesters can take steps to ensure true change can happen.
“If you are not changing policy, then you’re just protesting,” Taylor said. “I’ll often tell those individuals that I’m either organizing with or marching with or walking with, there has to be some deadlines. If you’re going to protest, what are the wants and needs that you’re putting into place?”
“As you talk to organizers, they’re at capacity,” Xiong said. “I think it’s really important for us to get new, young folks (who are) passionate about it. If you’re passionate, and you’re at these at these protests, I think it’s really important to also be part of these other pieces. As we have legislative days talking about policy, and we’re trying to look for stories, we don’t want the stories just at the protests, we also want the stories directly going to our senators.”
The second annual Women’s Leadership Summit took place June 20 – July 1.