I believe that for every action, there is not only a reaction, but an indelible receipt marked on our lives - creating our spiritual ledger. I think of what I want my ledger to look like, what motivates me, and how those motivations will encourage or hinder my contributions to the world. -Mekaelia
Motivation, Action, & Inaction by Mekaelia
Humans are incredibly complex creatures - at least that is what I’m led to believe by history, science, and observing family, friends, and the general public. But nothing makes this point more clear than when we (humans) are faced with events that motivate us to action.
For the last two weeks, I’ve watched dozens and dozens of people (mostly human - jk) demonstrate their inner motivations in public dialogue and street protests, on social media, and in backyards and garages. Some have been motivated by the anger, fear, and confusion triggered by the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; while others have been motivated to join in “support” of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) by dumping buckets of clean ice water on their heads.
Now, I do not intend to posit one action against the other. Participating in peaceful street protest vs. videotaping yourself getting drenched with water in support of a horrible disease is not the point here. I am most curious about our motivations. I think I’ve personally witnessed about three dozen friends and family members participate in the ALS ice bucket challenge. So I took the opportunity to ask 10 of them, what they knew about ALS. What is the disease? Who does it affect? Did they actually donate money? Why had they decided to participate in the ice bucket challenge? Only 2 of them actually knew what ALS was. No one knew that most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 75, with the majority after age 60, (ALS Center). I took the opportunity to ask about police brutality and violence. Who gets killed by police? Consensus was much stronger there. People had a sense that young men of color are targets for police violence, but didn’t know to what extent. Vox recently acquired FBI data shows that while Black American’s only make up 13% of the US population, they make up 32% of police homicides.
However, when I asked why they hadn’t acted given this knowledge - apathy began to rear its head. Somehow, the motivation disappears. Whereas, participating in a challenge about a disease they knew very little about brought about notions of pride and unity; the idea of acting in support of something that affected their own family members brought about helplessness and inaction. Would they participate in a protest? Did they consider joining one of the peaceful rallies held around the country, around New York City?
I believe that for every action, there is not only a reaction, but an indelible receipt marked on our lives - creating our spiritual ledger. I think of what I want my ledger to look like, what motivates me, and how those motivations will encourage or hinder my contributions to the world. My conversations with friends and family reinforced my understanding that we do not all share the same motivations. There are many whose actions are motivated only by anger, and in turn, their anger motivates me to action.
So I’ve encouraged many of my friends to join me in an ice-less challenge. To help fight bigotry, hate, and racism. A challenge that will help address the racism that affects young men of color around the country everyday. I’ve invited them to sign the Color of Change petition: that makes a very clear case to the online platform GoFundMe, to take down their pages in support of police officer Darren Wilson and return profits made from his personal fundraising campaign.
Some actions are not made visible by stunts, but the alternative, inaction, is made visible in the lives of people every day. I try my best, to choose wisely.
Mekaelia Davis is a change agent, a daughter, and a Program Manager at the Aspen Institute. In her role at the Aspen Institute, Mekaelia helps manage the Aspen Institute Ascend Fund and Network – a $1.5M grant making effort across 24 states and the District of Columbia, that invests in cross-sector, collaborative approaches to creating economic opportunity for low-income children and their parents. Prior to joining Ascend, Mekaelia completed a National Urban Fellowship at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, managing investments across five Maryland community colleges and CBOs in the Maryland/DC region. She earned a Master of Public Administration degree at Baruch College, City University of New York. Mekaelia was recently a Fellow with the Center for American Progress Leadership Institute, loves to laugh, and resides in New York City.