What defines an activist? Is it based on image, action or beliefs? So many people run around claiming the title of “community activist” that it is hard to tell who is active in community affairs and who is just a hack pretending to be an activist within said community. The sad part of it is that because of the actions of pseudo-activist types, the work of real activists suffers. Supposed, self-proclaimed activists who are actually hacks – or “hack-tivists” as I refer to them – give a negative impression of all activists.

Living in this town for the length of time that I’ve lived here has exposed me to real community activists, and it is time that somebody gave credit where credit is due. But before I pay my respect to those that deserve it, I must point out some criteria that do NOT make somebody an activist by any means.

Writing an editorial in the Daily Nexus (or any other publication) such as this one and many others I’ve written does not make you, or me, an activist by any means.

All it does is make you an opinionated bastard such as myself. My mom was right; I am just like my dad – too opinionated to make an actual difference. Writing a two sentence, six paragraph letter to the editor in a fashion that makes no sense whatsoever does not make you an activist either, especially when you criticize any attempts at anything without providing any actual attempt at a solution. It may seem eloquent, but in effect, it’s dumb. Pretending to know the facts based on late-1960s/early-1970s blind idealism without substance can cause a lot of harm to any movement and just gets in the way of real activism. You can know all the local history you want, but if you’ve learned no lessons from such history and refuse to change with the times, you’re bound to blunder.

So who are some of the real activists in this community? Let me begin by saying that there are, and there have been, many who have worked to make an actual difference. You may know some of them, some of them you may not, but the fact remains that being active in community affairs and attempting to make a difference was their main focus. Some were successful, others not; the efforts are what matter most and results are only a function of implementation of ideas.

Let’s start off with Harley Augustino. His work with the Isla Vista Tenant’s Union to make housing in I.V. affordable and safe and to assure that tenants get the proper representation in tenant/landlord disputes has been nothing less than exceptional.

Then there’s Dianne Conn, Eric Cardenas, Arianna Katovich and Dr. Harry Nelson. These folks have worked on a multitude of issues, ranging from stopping the Clearview and Del Playa seawall projects, to working on the Ward Memorial Freeway modification plans and raising public awareness about genetically engineered foods. They are currently advocating for Isla Vista’s inclusion in the Goleta cityhood plans. Their work on these issues has also been nothing less than exceptional, but this is just a minor list.

I’m sure there are many more true activists out there that I’ve forgotten to mention here, and if this is the case, then I sincerely apologize. The ones I don’t apologize to are the hacks. The people mentioned here are always active and on the frontline of issues pertaining to the community. You may or may not agree with some of their views, but in no way does that diminish the fact that they are truly active in their cause and represent their case on the issues in a logical way that makes their brand of activism the real thing.

In the general scheme of things, everybody has their role or purpose, and to be an activist takes more than just living any role or part; it takes involvement and dedication to one’s beliefs and ideas. These people I’ve mentioned have done so.

I’m just a long time Isla Vista resident and an editorial guy. In no way, shape or form am I an activist and I have never made the claim to be such, because it would be a false claim. And so it is with the knowledge of what an activist really is that this editorial is written. Just my way of giving props where they’re due.

So, I say to the “hack-tivists” pretending to be activists: Get a clue as to what a real activist is before you make the claim of being something you’re not. You’re not helping by impeding the work of true activists. To those true activists that are actually going out there and making a difference, all I can say is, “Keep fighting the good fight.”

It is never an easy fight and sometimes the efforts go unrecognized, but at least you have the unique distinction of being the ones to make a difference when all is said and done.

Henry Sarria is a longtime Isla Vista resident.