A Message for the Advocates & Activists Among Us

How do we break down the walls? I'm talking about the walls of suspicion, hostility, misunderstanding and fear? Last week I saw the walls go up again, over an uproar about Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech during the Golden Globe Awards. A speech that was barely political yet highly controversial.

Streep said, “Disrespect invites disrespect; violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.” She received equal amounts of criticism and praise, and I sat back listening to each side. One message resembled another from my youth...

What I’ve learned since this election is that I need to listen more. I need to understand opposing views, while sharing empathy and kindness, so that I can help to break down the walls that divide us.

Have you felt similarly? Has it been easy? Because it has been disheartening (for me) when the people I love have a different moral and ethical compass than I do. They prioritize basic human rights differently than I do. And yet I can’t give up on them or my faith that one day we can unite for the greater good of all humanity. Yes, it's idealistic and yet I believe that we must continue to be a ray of hope in this fractured and divided world where suspicion, hostility, misunderstanding and fear are telling us to build walls - not break them down. I was reminded of this again at church on Sunday. We have to continue to believe in the dream that we can be one humanity where love brings us together for peace, equality and unity - once and for all.

I have been quieter than normal in recent weeks out of respect for my elders, my family members and my acquaintances, and I have read or listened to their points of view. I know many of you can relate. And now, that we are awake... truly awake... it’s time for us to lead. We can continue to listen and take action at the same time. It’s time for us to be the role models that we want to see in this world and “Make America Love Again” and in order for us to do that we can't remain silent. It’s time to harness our unique power and share it with others because each of us has skills, perspectives, experiences and traits that we can use to serve and lift others, like Martin Luther King, Jr. did so many years ago. It’s time to be the examples of empathy, courage and inclusivity that our nation and world so desperately needs... because hate is far too great of a burden.

Except there seems to be some confusion regarding this president-elect and feelings towards him. Some have shared a quote that says, “wanting him to fail is like wanting the pilot to crash the plane that we are all on”. I don’t know a single person who wants him to fail on either (political) side. Why would anyone want our future president to fail? This is our country and our lives are at stake!

And, if you believe in the inclusivity of ALL human beings, that means you believe in success for all of them. That same success applies to people of any age, gender, race, ethnicity, ability and more, including the president-elect.

Do I hope to God that he proves me wrong with his recent appointments, his actions and behavior? Yes, I do. I really do hope and pray that I am wrong. Although, I will not hold my breath and I will not be complacent because I am both a citizen and a patriot, and speaking up against injustice is my human and moral obligation. So I urge us all to continue to listen and learn from the experiential, cultural and racial lens of our neighbors, communities and strangers, and stop making judgements or assumptions if we truly want to heal this nation and break down these walls. We must find a way to bridge this divide.

If you are like me and you are finally embracing your role as an advocate and activist, please know that you aren’t alone and we've got this!

There are so many organizations that need our support! If you will be at the Women’s March on Washington you can sign up for a day of action and advocacy training here. If you are in the NYC area, my friends at Ellevate Network have put together a Post-Election Advocacy Workshop that you can sign up for here.

We will continue to “fight passionately and unrelentingly for the goals of justice and peace” and as MLK urged in his The Birth of a New Nation, sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church on April 7, 1957, we will “be sure that our hands are clean in this struggle. Let us never fight with falsehood and violence and hate and malice, but always fight with love”.

So next time someone tells you to shut up or act your part or behave a certain way (like they tried with Meryl Streep), remember the famous line from Dirty Dancing... “nobody puts Baby in the corner”. Don’t let them dim your light. You matter. Your voice should never be silenced. You deserve to be seen and heard because you belong. You deserve to dance, speak up, or march for what you believe in!! When they try and put you in a corner and make you one-dimensional it is because they want you to play small. They want you to fit in to a mold that makes them feel comfortable (ex: your job, your role, your title). Your truth is too much for them to handle and that is their problem. 

The time for comfort has past. I do believe that we will be feeling more discomfort than we have known in quite some time. And with great discomfort comes great growth or progress. This has become personal for many and we will not sit by and let hatred win. It is time for action, advocacy and activism now. And whenever I have a doubt about my words, actions or choices in standing up for what I believe is right, I always come back to one of my favorite quotes...

“You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” - Marianne Williamson

Let’s outshine the darkness. Let’s be the boldest and bravest versions of ourselves. Let’s break down these walls that divide us. Let’s show the world what we are made of... peace, unity and love. Let's use our voices and unite this Saturday, January 21st to take a stand for what matters. Together, we will march all across this great nation and world - as one!

In sisterhood and solidarity,

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Sarah Lehberger

Easton, CT

Sarah Lehberger is a photographer based on the shoreline of Connecticut, just 90 mins from New York City, in the small town of Easton. She specializes in photography that celebrates working Moms and their families. She is also a Co-Founder of She Will Thrive, providing business coaching, retreats and workshops to women entrepreneurs, creatives and small business owners.

Sarah's career started in the news and entertainment industry. A storyteller at heart, she began photographing weddings in 2003 while also working full time at Getty Images, NY in their editorial department. Sarah enjoyed the fast-paced and glamorous events she would collaborate on, yet deep down she was craving more purpose driven work. In 2005 she decided to leave the corporate world to launch her full time wedding business, which received numerous awards and features throughout the industry.

In 2013 Sarah rebranded her business so she could continue her mission to celebrate women, with a new focus on mothers. She feels strongly about empowering women and creatives to succeed, and has been a speaker at conferences such as ShootDotEdit's Unlimited Happiness Tour, Inspire Photo Retreats, as well as a past coach and mentor for Team X Academy.