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Advocate and Nassar survivor kicks off project to aid new activists

Morgan McCaul
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio
Morgan McCaul gave a victim impact statement at Larry Nassar's sentencing in January 2018.

Morgan McCaul was looking to start something.

Currently a rising junior studying at the University of Michigan, she has been in activism circles for years now. McCaul has appeared on local news, panels, and was even a speaker for this year’s Ann Arbor Women’s March, specifically in promoting awareness of sexual and domestic violence.

McCaul is also a part of the army of sister survivors who helped take down Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University sports doctor convicted of sexual abuse.

Now, McCaul has started theThe #YouArePower Project. Launched at the end of April, the project aims to connect activists with existing organizations in the state of Michigan.

Credit Morgan McCaul
The #YouArePower Project

“After having conversations with people about where I would fit in that landscape [of survivor-based activism] and what I would be able to provide that wouldn't be reinventing the wheel, I just kept encountering the same thing,” she said.

Post #MeToo, many have launched organizations surrounding the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault, McCaul explained. With the new projects and groups being created, service providers describe growing numbers as a static.

“[It’s] fantastic and it's great that there's an awareness growing, but that we've kind of diverged resources and time and energy away from existing organizations that are well oiled machines and are more than capable providing services,” McCaul said. “It's like people already have built these great things, but they're not accessible to the large majority of people either. They don't know about it or they don't know how to help in the most efficient way. So I saw that as an opportunity to serve as a coalition builder."

The website lists organizations to get involved with, including SafeHouse, the domestic violence shelter of Washtenaw County where McCaul volunteers, and Survivor Strong, also created by Nassar survivors Trinea Gonczar and Amanda Thomashow.

Credit Morgan McCaul
The #YouArePower Project manifesto

"Morgan is a close friend and many of our conversations revolve around how we want to improve the world," Thomashow wrote in an email. "She is full of brilliant ideas, so when she started talking about #YouArePower I knew she was onto something, and we were glad to partner right away. She is creating an incredibly important resource that we are excited to be part of."

Thomashow wrote that she sees a resource like YAP strengthening the work and efforts of nonprofits through its connection and networking.

While looking for new partners, the YAP website promises an expansion to other sphere of activism work such as reproductive, immigration, and LBGTQ+ justice.

Since the practice can be sometimes be alienating, YAP also aims to help open the door to new and budding advocates, creating resources such as a guide for the introvert activist.

“Our ideal audience is anybody who's passionate about an issue and wants to get involved,” she said. “We really want to tap the power and the potential power of people who want to be engaged but aren't sure how to be engaged and are afraid that something about their personality or their communication styles, such as being an introvert, keeps them from it.”

“We really want to empower people to realize that activism is a deeply personal pursuit and they can get involved and use their power in a way that fits their skills and fits what works for them,” she added.

A large of part of YAP is taking online interest and activism and pushing it into real impact change within the community.

The group's tagline is: “This is what digital democracy looks like.” McCaul says the slogan came from very personal experience— from her own scrolling through Facebook and hearing about opportunities from the grapevine. In building a hub for advocacy work, the hope is that more people can see all of these opportunities to participate in the community.

McCaul said social media has been helpful for raising awareness and creating inclusive vocabulary— and she hopes that YAP is the liaison between social media and taking action within a community or organization.

Since many non-profits may not have the budget for marketing and communications, it would be difficult to reach out to young people — who primarily engage with causes close to home on the internet. In response, McCaul has hopes for YAP to go national in five years — her grand vision is that it could be a national database of nonprofit organizations, accessible and consumable to an audience of followers.

For now, as it kicks off, the project will be more local. Her next steps include reaching out to new organizations to partner with and feature on YAP’s new platform.

From building the WordPress to the designs of the logo, the project is wholly McCaul’s baby. And as for the name — it came to McCaul naturally.

“It reflects the idea that we all have power and we can all make change our world in a positive way, in our own individual way. I really believe in the power of the individual and it can be amplified when we join our voices together.”

Nisa Khan joins Michigan Radio as the station’s first full-time data reporter. In that capacity, she will be reporting on data-driven news stories as well as working with other news staff to acquire and analyze data in support of their journalism.
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