November 6, 2001

Grassroots Organizer Gives Guide to Activism

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The African, Latino, and Native American Students Programming Board (ALANA) sponsored a lecture by Elizabeth Toledo, a Californian Grass Roots representative, last Thursday in Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium.

In the lecture, attended by 40 students, Toledo drew from personal experiences in describing her quest to overcome adversity by focusing on self-actualization and the representation of minorities. As she spoke, Toledo outlined her ten-step process to self-actualization.

Step one: Join a group — even if just to be a “number,” because there is power in numbers. Step two: “Recruit for pre-existing organizations to spread information of worthy causes.”

Another step Toledo delineated was called, “pledge-a-bigot,” through which individuals take steps to counteract any action that goes against what they believe. As she said, she enjoys “making their energy [her] success.”

Another of Toledo’s steps demonstrated how picketing and protesting are viable means of expressing beliefs as long as they are “disciplined and non-violent,” she said.

“It was nice to hear reasons behind activism articulated so eloquently,” said Julian Russo ’05.

As a member of the National Organization for Women and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Toledo expressed her desire for people to join groups where individuals can contribute and make a difference. She articulated a need to remember the issues that have taken the “back burner” since the Sept. 11 tragedies, especially affirmative action and the majority of the tax relief money going to The Ford Motor Company.

Diversity was also among the themes Toledo called on. She encouraged greater awareness and action in situations where one person was singled out as the ‘token Latino’ or ‘token lesbian.’

Having served as ‘the token Latino’ on many boards, Toledo spoke of the importance of grass roots campaigns, which educate the public on various political topics — “heart and soul of a community.” It was in this light that Toledo mentioned Californian Congressperson Zoe Loftgren, who she helped with a more community- rather than media-oriented campaign, that ultimately lead to the candidate’s electoral victory.

Toledo noted the general public’s tendency to forget true heroes in society, as she feels they are guided to appreciate only those whom the media places in the spotlight.

Sara Dougherty ’03 wanted input on how she could change her communities both here at Cornell and in her hometown of Boston, and felt that Toledo “empowered [her] with some great ideas to work with.”

Archived article by Samantha Sichel