Sr. Helen Prejean Offers Advice on Activism in the Wake of Charlottesville


Sr. Helen Prejean, a leading activist against the death penalty, tweeted some thoughts on activism yesterday:

  • We all need to get involved in our communities and act for justice. Here are some thoughts and ideas on getting started with activism:
  • Activism is like riding a wave in a tiny boat. You can feel this immense power under you. You know you’ve connected to something powerful.
  • Be ready. Be poised. You’ve got to have depth and you’ve got to be spiritually grounded or you won’t last long in this endeavor.
  • You’re going to be engaged with people who are suffering terribly, and the forces arrayed against them will feel unassailable.
  • Often enough, the outcome is going to break your heart. The suffering and defeat gets inside you and gnaws at you as if it were your own.
  • It is this experience of compassion in you that will jolt you out of your small ego-absorbed self and stir your heart to try and try again.
  • We don’t have to look far to find an arena for human rights. Just look at what’s happening on the streets in #Charlottesville.
  • What’s important is that when we wake up to an injustice, we must immediately act. Take a concrete step right away, no matter how small.
  • Not to respond to injustice immediately is to risk paralyzing ourselves. Action is a freeing thing.
  • Find your passion, find the injustice that offends your moral sensibilities to the core, and then take action right away.
  • Write a letter. Join a protest. Contact your elected officials. Most importantly, make a personal connection with people who are suffering.
  • My first concrete action after I woke up to injustice was to move into the St. Thomas housing project in New Orleans with some other nuns.
  • My African American neighbors became my teachers about the “other America” that they experienced. Thank God they were so patient with me!
  • I went to the emergency room with Black mothers whose children were sick. We had to wait up to ten hours to see a resident doctor.
  • My ministry in St. Thomas took me to the killing chamber at Angola Prison where I witnessed a man’s execution in the electric chair.
  • And here I am, 30+ years later, still working to end the death penalty. I’ve witnessed five other executions since that first one.
  • Martin Luther King said it best: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
  • I offer you my life experience in hopes that it might help illuminate your path as we press onward together in this struggle for justice.