Why I'm a Progressive Funder -or- Why I'm a Radical Activist Who Happens to Have Some Money

I was recently asked to speak to a captive audience on the subject of why I’m a “progressive funder.” I was more than happy to oblige, with one minor change: I preferred to answer the question of why I’m a radical activist who happens to have some money. Knowing that I’d likely ramble and run over time if I didn’t get my thoughts together, I figured that I might as well make a list. Here it is:

Because my family has always kept interesting company.
Because I grew up in a house so vast that it made me uncomfortable whenever new friends saw it for the first time.
Because I had an older sister who introduced me to the music of the Dead Kennedys at an impressionable age.
Because I’ve always believed in science.
Because I’ve been harassed and intimidated—and even had firearms drawn on me—by law enforcement more often than by criminals. And because I know that others have had it far, far worse than I have.
Because my family has always watched the news and has always yelled at the television while doing so.
Because I once attended a conference on the topic of sustainable development as an excuse to visit the city of my mother’s birth.
Because one of my best friends from high school was arrested in the Battle of Seattle, and I later wished that I’d been there with him.
Because my father is always eager to have what he refers to as a “broad philosophical conversation.”
Because I’ve learned that the simple act of getting a candidate into office is not enough for real change.
Because, in my family, applying for citizenship is like collecting Pokemon.
Because I’ve had the privilege of visiting communities on the front lines of fossil fuel extraction here in the United States—and the horror of learning from them what’s been happening to the water that they drink and the air that they breathe.
Because I had a roommate in college who was always turning off the lights.
Because I’ve seen the tensions that money can cause and the cruelty that it can enable—even within my own extended family.
Because, while I’ve always enjoyed post-apocalyptic or dystopian science fiction, I don’t know how much I’d enjoy living it.
Because eight months ago I arrived in Dewey Square full of questions and ideas. And because two months later I was removed in handcuffs with a pair of broken glasses.
Because both my heart and my experience tell me that regular people—when empowered and organized—are stronger than any institution.
Because if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.
Thanks for reading.