Last summer, I had the joy of working for an amazing activism summer camp. Through mutual connections at the camp and in other nonprofit spaces, I was connected to an amazing social justice and political activist from the Bay Area, CA named Paula Orrego.
Getting to know Paula more through this interview is so inspiring. But I’ll let the words speak for themselves. Without further ado, allow me to introduce Paula Orrego, founder of Activist Open Mic.
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a “Happiness is.”
Paula: Happiness is standing in the firm knowledge and unshakable truth of who you are, despite the challenges life may hurdle at you.
Liz: Tell me a little bit about your work.
Paula: I am a solo activist. I organize and run my own activist events. I speak at schools, universities, churches, clubs, and conferences, as well as with local government officials, about peer bullying and mental illness. I write articles about a variety of issues for different websites.
My latest project I am working on is an Activist Open Mic. This is part of my "Speak Up, Stand Up: Becoming a Changemaker" series of events. The Activist Open Mic is a safe space for singers, poets, and other types of artists with a message to perform.
As a poet myself, I find that I often write about issues that I want to spread awareness about. These topics, however, are not usually suitable for your common family-friendly, coffee shop open mics. This led me to creating a space for people who, like me, were not afraid of diving into the hard topics and wanted to leave their audience empowered or with a thought-provoking message.
Liz: What does service mean to you?
Paula: For me, service means actively listening to what marginalized people are asking for and helping them, whether by directly assisting them or using whatever privilege you might have to help lift up their voices.
Liz: How can people be involved?
Paula: I would love for more performers to join the first Activist Open Mic on May 21st, 2020 at 5 pm PST! For more information, you can go to the Facebook event page.
Liz: How can people get in touch with you?
Paula: You can follow my activism journey on Instagram @starfire1408.
If anyone would like me to talk to their college, student ministry, organization, or other space about bullying and mental health, feel free to message me on my Instagram!
Liz: Do you have a favorite quote to leave us with?
Paula: One of my favorite quotations that I try to live by is: "Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show."