Why do you do what you do?

Caitlin Perrone and Taylor Hampton, two University of Texas at Austin Journalism students spent a couple weeks in March following me around to activist events to create this video. The portrait they created answers why I spend time in the hot Texas sun (and sometimes travel to other places) to document and participate in street activism.

A rainbow flag flies in a march to the Texas capitol.

Last month, GetEqual TX & Equality Texas led a march to the Texas Capitol for LGBTQ Equality.

Taylor and Caitlin filmed me at three events, along with a brief interview in my home:

Occupy Austin General Assembly: though our numbers are still small, Occupy continues to meet weekly as a group and in multiple working groups on topics like education and ending homelessness. We are currently holding our weekly assembly on the south steps of the Texas Capitol, or sometimes inside the building itself as filmed here. Our next major event is for May Day, though other smaller autonomous actions are planned.

Texas My Medicaid Matters march and rally to fight cuts in medicaid and to support its expansion. This coalition will continue to put pressure on the Texas legislature for the remainder of its session.

The Texas March for LGBTQ Equality created by GetEqualTX and Equality Texas. Activists plan more Austin-area direct actions related to this cause.

I’m queer and disabled. Though I’m not on medicaid, many of my friends and activist comrades receive this assistance. I know how important it is to their lives — in the case of a number of my friends who now lead rich, independent lives with homes of their own, cuts to medicaid and other programs that provide them with personal care attendants and other necessary services could banish them to the prison of assisted living facilities. It’s easy to feel empathy and want to support their autonomy and freedom.

Once you start down that path of empathy and solidarity, you quickly realize how all our grievances are connected. If I identify with the plight of gays who can be fired for their sexual orientation, it becomes harder not to also identify with anyone whose freedom and autonomy depend on the whims of powerful men that do not deserve their power.

This is why I believe that the umbrella of movements and causes that forms around revolutionary moments like the Occupy encampments is one of the strengths of modern people’s movements, no matter how much the mainstream media and the pundits it inspires insist that it is weakness.

The other night a friend told me “these are exciting times to be alive.” As dire as it sometimes appears, I agree wholeheartedly. The reason I risk arrest and state violence, the reason I so often strain my health and meager budget to report on activist events, is because I really believe something important is happening both on the streets and in social media channels, and I want to be part of it — not just at the neutral remove of press releases or fair and balanced sound bites, but involved intimately as a gonzo journalist.

I do what I do to inspire more people to do the same, no matter the cause that inspires them to march for equality and social justice.

Decorated wheelchair: RIck Perry ride this for a month and see if you still oppose medicaid expansion.

We must encourage loud voices that challenge our leaders.

Photos by Kit O’Connell released under a Creative Commons license.