Every quarter, Positive Activism seeks to discover a new activist and find out what what really makes them tick! This fall’s spotlight piece features Aly Wane an “illegal alien” fighting for peace, equality, and the fair treatment of immigrants. Read on to find out more about Aly.
Q: Where are you from?
I’m originally from Senegal, but I have lived most of my life in the United States
Q: What issues are you most involved with?
I am mostly involved with antiwar, economic, and migrants’ rights issues.
Q: How did you become involved in activism?
I grew up Catholic and was very influenced by the social justice message of the Gospel. This deepened when I got to spend some time with the Catholic Worker movement, which is a group of Catholic progressives who focus on what they call “structural sin.” Basically, they focus on the ills of society: poverty, racism, inequality,etc…It was there that I learned a lot about nonviolent social justice movements like the civil rights, women’s rights, anti-nuclear, and environmental justice movements to name a few.
Are there any specific groups or organizations you work closely with?
I’ve worked with quite a few over the years, but the most significant ones were Unity Acres, a homeless shelter, the American friends Service Committee ,a Quaker group, and now the Syracuse Peace Council which is primarily an antiwar organization
Q: Do you have any pointers for people that aren’t activists yet but want to join the community?
Two things: Don’t try to “save the world” by getting involved in every conceivable issue. Pick 2 or 3 issues (or even better, just one) and concentrate your energy on those issues. The easiest way to burnout is to try to do it all. Speaking of burning out, my second recommendation is to do self-care as you work on these issues. Doing social justice activism often means being exposed to the trauma of the world. You will often find yourself working on painful issues, some of which you will not even solve in your lifetime. It is important to cultivate things that bring you joy, energy and peace. And always know how to take a break: “the problems of the world” will always be there. It is just as important to take care of yourself as it is to take care of your work. If you don’t your work will suffer, and you will run out of energy. Remember to enjoy life.
Q: Have any great stories to share (something you accomplished, something you did or saw, something you were part of, etc)?
Probably my best moment as an activist was revealing to my community that I was undocumented. I had been working on migrants’ rights issues for a few years, and had worked with many undocumented immigrants on their deportation cases, but I was too afraid to let the community know that I was an “illegal alien” myself (though I reject this dehumanizing term). I found that there was more support in my community than I thought. It was kind of an “irrational” act because my lawyer counseled against it, this act of vulnerability also deepened my work as an activist.
Read a piece by Aly about his “coming out” as an undocumented immigrant.