Jennifer Beals, actress and longtime advocate for equality rights, shares her recent experience at Standing Rock, and why she believes this movement is only the beginning.
Beals is the female lead of NBC’s Taken, the TV adaptation of the movie franchise, which premieres in February. She is best known for starring in the film Flashdance and her Golden Globe Award nomination in the TV drama series The L Word.
Beals started following the Stand With Standing Rock movement after watching Amy Goodman’s footage of private security officers using guard dogs against the water protectors. “When I saw it, well it almost woke up parts of my DNA that I didn’t know existed,” she says. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…and how outrageous and how destructive this kind of engagement is.”
Beals describes the site as a “extraordinary community” and a “focal point” for all the political issues America is now facing. She shares her recent experience at Standing Rock, why the movement remains critical and how everyone can be an advocate.
What support did you provide at Standing Rock?
While working in Toronto on Taken I started following it closely. I felt I needed to go to Standing Rock…I was at the camp day after the presidential election. It was the perfect time for my soul.
The Governor (of North Dakota, Jack Dalrymple), had called for an eviction on December 5th. I decided I have gotta go. I have got to be there. As it turns out I am on the board for the Center for Environmental Health and they authorized me to buy supplies for the water protectors.
On the way down there…I stopped at a hardware store. There were medics from the camp (at the store) who specialize in cold water rescue. They were having trouble with their PayPal account and they couldn’t get the supplies they needed.
They were concerned as the weather was getting cold... I said ‘I’m authorized to help with supplies maybe I could just buy the supplies for you.’ He started crying. We got the supplies.
Why does Standing Rock continue to remain relevant?
It is a focal point for environmental rights… the right to clean water… free speech… the right to assemble. Nobody seems to care if people get hurt…or if a pipeline bursts.
It is also about the right to sovereignty, where issues of racism are on obvious display. This movement is really the beginning of a bigger movement… for people to wake up that their civil liberties are not guaranteed. They will not be there unless you fight for them.
I am so concerned for the world. Deeply, deeply concerned. But I am given hope by what is going on there.
How can everyone advocate?
We are thinking about this a lot. Even more so than we would have before. Because of the election. Because so many things are in jeopardy.
If you are looking for ways to be helpful… identify what matters to you. Reach out to groups who are already doing work and think about how you can be of service to them.
Do they need help raising money…serving meals to families…advocating? Even if you think it is the smallest thing it can have exponential effects.