Editor’s Note: As part of our current Patheos Book Club on Adam Taylor’s new book Mobilizing Hope: Faith-Inspired Activism for a Post-Civil Rights Generation, we invited a handful of “modern mobilizers” to share their stories of how they are mobilizing hope in their communities. This post is from Lauren Selbert, ACT:S Advocacy & Campaign Fellow.
From s’mores and midnight volleyball to art walls and dudes in morphsuits playing Twister, McDaniel College’s ACT:S To End Malaria “Night of Nets” event the other week took off in an explosion of creativity. The success of the night proved two things: that advocacy has no creative limits, and that passion is catching.
The scene: string lights twinkled from all the trees, music throbbed through the air, and bed nets rippled in the wind, strung up as a visual reminder of the tools used to fight malaria. Students sketched on a giant art wall or lay sprawled on the sidewalk, scribbling the words “END MALARIA” in colored chalk. Other students clustered around cans of spray paint and piles of stencils, decorating t-shirts with mosquitoes and Africa silhouettes. Some stretched out on the grass to watch the new End Malaria video by ACT:S and RELEVANT media group.
McDaniel’s Advocacy Team, a group of about 30 students who organized the event, figured out the key to advocacy: make it fun. Make it crazy. Everywhere I turned, there was some quirky, fun, interactive experience to snag my attention. (When I discovered students toasting marshmallows over the flames of a mini grill, I was sold.)
Students were tapping their feet to the music, laughing, letting their creativity flow. Advocacy needs energy, and this event had loads of it. “I loved our setup, how we had many things going on at once that you could come and just find what interested you most,” says Mara Seibert, an Advocacy Team leader who organized much of the event. “And it was so visually appealing with the lights and the nets that it made people want to stop by.”
One of the biggest visual appeals was the “Art Wall”—a long strip of white paper backed by cardboard and propped on easels—set up next to a table covered in pastels, paint and markers for people to use. “The Art Wall was one of our most interesting and creative things,” says Seibert. “I think it totally added to the event, because it was a kind of acting-on-your-feelings thing—you could express how you felt about malaria, and it also attracted people’s attention and made them think.”
At the end of the night, 25 students camped out under tents and bed nets. Advocacy cards to Congress had been filled out, 65 t-shirts had been sold and decorated, and the team now had a wall of artwork to put up around campus. Most importantly: more McDaniel students now knew about malaria.
“You have to put time and dedication into planning a production like this,” says Seibert. “But once you do that, it comes together really well. I’ve had people coming up to me all weekend and saying that they had a blast.”