10 Lessons Rosario Dawson Taught Us About Activism

Happy birthday, Rosario Dawson. The Puerto Rican-Cuban actress turns 37 today, and we’re celebrating by recognizing the powerful role she plays outside of Hollywood: an activist. Here, a few lessons this fierce mujer taught us about movement-building and social change.

MORE: Rosario Dawson Arrested During Washington D.C. Protest

1. Lessons Rosario Dawson Taught Us About Activism

Challenge the Status Quo: “We cannot stick with the status quo. It is killing us," Dawson said during a Democracy Spring rally in protest of big money in politics. That day, the actress got arrested for crossing a police line. It wasn’t the first time Dawson’s advocacy got her in handcuffs, either. She was also arrested in 2004 for protesting then president George W. Bush.

2. Lessons Rosario Dawson Taught Us About Activism

Support Causes That Matter to You: The Hollywood star brings her influence and pocketbook to support numerous local, national and international organizations, charities and campaigns, from community-based programs for niñas of color through The Lower Eastside Girls Club (LESGC) as well as environmental groups like Global Cool, campaigns on extreme poverty like ONE, organizations for LGBTQ activism like PFLAG, foundations for AID research like amfAR and campaigns to end mass incarceration, among many others. 

3. Lessons Rosario Dawson Taught Us About Activism

Make Your Own Movement: If there’s not a major organization for an issue Dawson cares about, she’ll create it herself. In 2004, the Cuban-puertorriqueña co-founded Voto Latino, a civic media organization empowering young Latinos to be agents of change in building a stronger and more inclusive democracy. 

4. Lessons Rosario Dawson Taught Us About Activism

Take to the Streets: Whether protesting political corruption on Capitol Hill or marching for the rights of same-sex couples at PRIDE, Dawson doesn’t let her celebrity keep her from hitting the streets. 

5. Lessons Rosario Dawson Taught Us About Activism

Use Your Voice: Marching isn’t the only form of activism, however. Whether speaking at a rally, penning an open letter or tweeting her beliefs, Dawson isn’t afraid to use her voice for a cause she believes in. 

6. Lessons Rosario Dawson Taught Us About Activism

Be an Ally: Solidarity is important to any cause for social justice, something Dawson understands. While a cis straight New York-born Puerto Rican-cubana, she shows up for movements that don’t directly impact her identities, issues like immigration and LGBTQ+ rights.

7. Lessons Rosario Dawson Taught Us About Activism

Hold Leaders Accountable: It can be difficult to call out our activist leaders, especially when they’re someone whose work we really respect. But holding those with the microphone accountable is crucial for any movement to move forward. Dawson taught us this in March, when she penned an open letter to civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, simultaneously thanking the mexicana for her service and respectfully checking her for the “disservice” she’s been doing in more recent days by “becoming an instrument of the establishment.”