The Current

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There's a new podcast in town, and it's called "The New Activist." These are the stories of men and women who are changing history today. We talked to its founder and leading host, Eddie Kaufholz, IJM's Church Mobilization Director (Southeast), to find out more about the show—and why we should all tune in.

Q&A with Eddie below, and as soon as you're ready, fill your earbuds with the inspiring action-packed sounds of "The New Activist."

Why was a podcast the right medium for this conversation?

Podcasts, by their very nature, are about you. You choose when you listen, you choose what you listen to, and you allow that show to influence your heart and mind. To that end, "The New Activist" and the stories that are told on it aren't about the person being interviewed, they're about the listener: you. And the show is about how you are going out and making a real difference in the world.

Summarize The New Activist in five words.

You are the New Activist.

How are you choosing people (activists) to focus in on?

The hosts of the show are not the arbiters of what does and does not constitute a worthy activist. We are simply listeners, and when a story catches our ear about someone who is doing something significant, we tell you about it. Maybe the person is well known, maybe they're not. But the commonality among all the people we interview is that someone about them inspires us, and hopefully inspires you. Side note, contact us if you have any great stories to share!

How does "The New Activist" fit into today’s wide offering of podcasts?

Yep, there are about a trizillion (not a word) podcasts in the world and really, why add another one to the mix? Well, the answer is simple: because we need to. We need to to be hearing the stories of brave women and men who have seen a problem and have done something—anything. We need to be hashing out what it means to do the work of justice in a kind, inquisitive, and thoughtful way. And, we need to be learning from great people so that we can go and do likewise. I'd love it if there were dozens, trizillions even, of these kinds of stories being told all over the media.

What are some of your favorite other podcasts?

I know you're probably looking for some sort of activism, justice, world changer kind of podcast from me. But the truth is, I can't get enough of The West Wing Weekly. Let me tell you about this show. Two guys, Joshua Malina, along with Hrishikesh Hirway (from my other favorite podcast, Song Exploder) talk about one episode of the once popular NBC show, The West Wing, on every episode of The West Wing Weekly. It's amazing. And, much of the sound design of TWWW (that's the uber-fan acronym, by the way) is what inspired the pace and tone of "The New Activist."

What does it mean to be an activist?

You know, I've asked this question to a lot of people, but I've never been asked it. To me, an activist means being aware enough to see something that isn't as it should be, and brave enough to do something (anything) to help.  I don't think of activist as necessary an epic title, it's simply a title for someone who leverages their life for the sake of others.

What makes "The New Activist" a fresh message?

Fun fact: It's not a fresh message. From Jesus to Harriet Tubman to Malala Yousafzai, people have been standing up declaring change. Yet with every generation, we need to be reminded that we're created for more than ourselves. We need to be reminded that we are born to cloth the naked, feed the hungry, and attend to the orphans and widows. The only thing fresh about The New Activist is that some people are hearing it for the first time - which is an awesome privledge.

Why “new”? What distinguishes activism of today from activism of past generations?

With every generation comes new challenges and new ways of affecting change. For example, I just shared a Tweet from IJM that is inviting people to use their tech skills to end slavery ( Now think about how many "new" ideas there are in that previous sentence. It's relatively new that people are waking up to the reality that there are still slaves in the world. It's a new idea that an organization is working to end modern day slavery. And it's a new idea that that organization has a voice on social media and has a need for tech-minded folks to join the fight.  Yet even in the midst of all that "new," there is still the very old idea of loving your neighbor. Everything old is new again.

With so many causes out there, how do we pick one?

You don't. You find something you can do now, and you do it. So often we get locked in the idea that we must find our thing, our one true passion, before diving in. Yet in reality, we'll probably help in a lot of different arenas in our life. What we can't do is get locked in a waiting/holding pattern and ignore the fact that our neighbor could use us—now. I'm all about being strategic in life, but I also believe that you won't miss your big, important, calling. So in the mean time, just say yes.

What is one of the most surprising ways that new media has affected activism?

I heard an interview this weekend on 60 Minutes about the new movie, "The Birth of a Nation." This movie illuminates the story of Nat Turner, a slave who led a rebellion is 1831. Anyhow, the director of the movie said something to the effect that "Nat used the tools he had at his disposal to lead the fight. At the time, he had axe handles and shovels. But now, he would have had Twitter and Facebook to rouse the masses." I think this is the core of what new media is, and can be. From helping people understand that there are slaves in the world to seeing and responding, in real time, to national and international injustices - we have a voice that we've never had. The question is, how will we use it?

Who is an example of one of the most promising new activists?

I really hate to be too on the nose with this. But the most promising new activist is you. I don't subscribe to the idea that famous names and huge organizations are any more or less world changing than the quiet service of brave, unknown, individuals. For example, most of the people who pushed through the most significant piece of anti-human trafficking legislation ever (The EMSI) are people we don't know. They are people who wrote letters and made phone calls. Those people have genuinely changed the lives of countless slaves and shifted the narrative of a generation.

This is the new activist; what are your predictions for what the next generation of new activists will look like?

More informed, more brave, and determined. Go get 'em, millennials.

Know any good activist jokes?

Three activists walk into a bar. The bartender says, "You're not welcome here." They all march out. (Is that funny? I'm laughing. I'm also pretty tired.)



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