How To

How to start a movement

Passionate about a cause and want to make a difference? Get mobilised with nine steps to starting your own movement from creative collective gal-dem

USA. Washington, D.C. August 28, 1963. The March on Washington.

USA. Washington, D.C. August 28, 1963. The March on Washington. © Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos

The gallery for revolutionary art becomes the streets themselves

Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture, The Black Panther Party

Spurred on by the civil rights movements of the 1960s, artists and intellectuals have worked together to use creativity to fight racial injustice. During the age of Black Power, collectives were formed, principles were outlined and a new visual language was developed that reflected black history, culture, experience, and hope for the future.

Chicago-based AfriCOBRA collective used black identity, style and attitude to nurture solidarity and self-confidence. Emory Douglas's hard-hitting posters depicted the struggles of African American communities. Black photographers like Roy DeCavara captured and told the stories of black lives first-hand.

Almost 60 years later, across the globe, collectives are still working creatively to improve visibility, challenge underrepresentation and reflect the histories and experiences of people of colour.

It’s no secret that the mainstream media doesn’t represent or reflect us, so we're doing it for ourselves


We asked Niellah Arboine from gal-dem, a creative collective of over 70 women and non-binary people of colour to share gal-dem's experience of creating a collective addressing underrepresentation in the mainstream media.

Read on for nine steps from Niellah on using your creativity, friends and networks to start your own movement ...

Step 1: Choose your cause

What are you for? What are you against? What are you passionate about?

Choose your cause

Choose your cause © Mel Lou

gal-dem at Yarls Wood

gal-dem at Yarls Wood © gal-dem

First, find your passion or your cause. Think about what's important to you how best to express it. Unfortunately, Women of Colour have often been lumped into one group and our representations left in the hands of others so our stories weren’t being told accurately. gal-dem was born out of frustration: we weren’t seeing ourselves represented on our uni campuses or in the media so we created an online space with content written by us for everyone to digest. Through our platform we’re able to write about our passions, from arts and culture to politics and fashion.

Step 2: Read up

Learn about the current social, political or economic situation in relation to your cause.

Once you’ve found your cause it’s time to learn more on the topic. See what’s already out there, perhaps there’s like-minded people you could draw inspiration from or collaborate with? If you’re a writer, read the works of those before you. If you’re an activist, research other activists with similar interests.

Read Up

Read Up © Mel Lou

Step 3: Find out who's with you

Get some people together who share the same passion as you.

Photograph of BORN N BREAD

gal-dem 1st birthday. Photo: Ailsa Fineron © gal-dem

University or school networks, social media and word-of-mouth are great ways to find like-minded people. Talk your ideas through with friends; the social circles you already exist in are usually built up of people with similar passions. Writing about your ideas on social media (no matter how formed your concept is) can be another good way to link up with people. gal-dem begun with our editor-in-chief reaching out to people at her uni, on Facebook groups and through friends of friends. Get out there, talk to people, and network – you never know who you’ll meet.

Step 4: Spread the word

Get yourself out there! Use social media and word of mouth to share your mission and get visible.

Luckily, we live in an era where we no longer have to rely on the same few media outlets for news, politics or social commentary. Nor do we have to wait for those established institutions to be more inclusive. With the birth of social media, self-publishing and DIY, there’s a range of ways we can share and digest news with a plethora of opinions! Now, more than ever, we can create on our own terms. If you’re an illustrator set up an Instagram account. If you’re a spoken word artist get on YouTube. Social media and word of mouth means we don’t have to wait to be discovered, or for someone else to make space for us. Put yourself out there and pave your own way.

Spread The Word

Spread the word © Mel Lou

Wadsworth Jarrell Revolutionary 1972 Private Collection © Wadsworth Jarrell

Wadsworth Jarrell Revolutionary 1972 Private Collection © Wadsworth Jarrell

Step 5: Be creative

Think of creative ways to broadcast your message.

Be Creative

Be creative © Mel Lou

Once you’ve homed in on your passion, have fun with it! Be creative. Explore interesting and dynamic ways to spread your message. Create merchandise or collaborate with other creatives to broadcast your message and reach more people. One of the first things gal-dem did was make tote bags with our logo on. They are cost effective and easy to produce and it’s great to see people carrying them and supporting your work! Find what works for you and your movement – be bold.

Step 6: Set some principles

Choose some core values and stick to them.

No matter what you do, it's important to stay true to yourself and to your cause. gal-dem are all about inclusion and helping promote marginalised groups so we work with people who align with our beliefs and give us space to stay true to our values. Don’t be afraid to say no if an opportunity doesn’t match your principles. Sometimes turning things down may seem counterproductive; but more will arise. It's crucial to stick to your beliefs and what you set out to do. Never compromise on your values.

Watch some of gal-dem introduce themselves and their key values.

Step 7: Mobilise the grassroots

Speak to people in real life and activate people in your locale.

Although gal-dem is an online magazine and our primary focus is written content, we think it's important to go beyond digital. We often attend protests, speak on panels, facilitate workshops across the country and even have our own club nights. A digital community is great, and has the ability to reach people globally, but we want to create safe physical spaces and reach people in real life. Physical communities are really important and a great way to network and connect with people on a personal level.

Step 8: Get some momentum

Whatever you're doing, do it regularly. Create a platform and keep it active.

Consistency is key. Whatever it is that you’re doing, it’s important to stay active and vocal. Once you’ve built up a following or a platform, it's vital to keep your content coming out regularly. Maybe your movement is a personal journey, even then it’s important to stay driven and remember you’re doing something you love and are passionate about. However, self-care and wellbeing are crucial. Sometimes you’ll find you can’t do everything all the time – it’s okay to take a break and it’s okay to ask for help. Your wellbeing should come first. Luckily, gal-dem is made up of over 70 contributors so we’re able to share the workload between us. It’s important to have a support system where possible.

Step 9: Be brave. Be bold.

Don't be afraid of making a statement. Petition. Protest. Start a movement.

Be brave be bold

Be brave. Be bold. © Mel Lou

You have a voice so use it. Nothing changes if you don’t speak up. It’s okay to be vocal in your thoughts and opinions, whether it's as simple as signing a petition or protesting on the streets. gal-dem always use our platform to speak out and take up space in an industry that often excludes us. If you want change you have to be willing to get out there and create it. Be loud, be political, be strong in your beliefs – you don’t know who you could be inspiring and reaching.

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