What are YOU going to DO?
A week after the election I went to a community meeting that was convened by a local non-profit. The purpose of the meeting was to bring together a diverse crowd and discuss how to be good allies. It was a small group but everyone who was there was ready to engage. We started the meeting with introductions that quickly devolved into tears. The fear and anxiety in the people in the circle was palpable as each one described all the ways they were feeling vulnerable from the impending new administration.
After an hour of facilitated sharing and conversation, we broke into groups based on what we felt we had to offer in the way of action. One group wanted to work on influencing state policy, the other on local community engagement. We brainstormed for about 20 minutes, rapidly exchanging ideas and noting all the things we knew we could do, taking into account the expertise and experience of each member of our group.
By the end of those 20 minutes, the rooms was charged. The tears and anxiety were gone. People were sitting up straight, and speaking with conviction. The two groups got back together and shared what we had come up with. None of our ideas were earth-shattering. Most were based on the hyperlocal influence each of us have. But we all left with another date on our calendars, and hope in our hearts.
This was perhaps the most dramatic example I’ve ever witnessed of the value of agency. When we feel helpless or at the mercy of our circumstances, it sucks our life, our will right out of us. But the moment we feel like there is something we can do – even if it’s a small thing – we are empowered. To have watched this group of people transform from weak and frail to powerful and invigorated in the space of two hours was almost magical.
After that I sat down and came up with a list of all the things I am prepared to DO in the coming years.
And now, I’m asking YOU.
What are YOU going to DO?
I’m asking you because I want you to feel your power. I want you to know that the action you take is going to not only help others, but help YOU to maintain hope, focus and strength as things get rough for minorities and the entire spectrum of progressives.
Those who can’t do much – who feel limited by physical, emotional, financial constraints – you most of all need to choose a course of action. Even if it’s one thing that you can do, then do it with all your might and know that it’s helping. Need some ideas? Here you go:
- Pick local and state candidates you can support for the midterms. Canvass, phonebank and promote them on your social media.
- Vote, and make sure people around you are empowered to vote. Offer to give rides to people on election day.
- Make an appointment and go sit down in your legislators’ offices, and tell them your concerns face-to-face. (Even if it’s a staff member, you’re making a point). This is YOUR RIGHT as a voter. They aren’t doing you a favor by meeting with you.
- Contact your legislators when you need them to take action. Email is ok. Personalized letters are better. Calls are great. And in-person is best.
- Donate to local races. Even if it’s just a few bucks. That shit adds up.
- This excellent playbook for political organizing was created by former Congressional Staffers – and contains actionable items for everyone who is interested in impacting the political process going forward.
Social Justice Action
- Volunteer at organizations that are serving people impacted by the new administration – refugees, community healthcare, LBGTQ youth services, immigrant services, environmental organizations, etc.
- Go and meet people in your community who are passionate about the cause that is most important to you. Network and socialize with them. Build relationships with like-minded people through in-person contact.
- Fundraise for organizations that are set up to defend first amendment rights.
- Reach out to interfaith organizations and join their activities.
- In your own faith community, make sure clergy have the resources they need when they are helping those with mental health issues.
- Pray. Hard. With a bare soul, and a willingness to accept the outcome.
- Go to your mosque, church, temple – and spend time with your faith community – be a visible member of your community.
- Organize committees in your faith community to address social justice issues or political action.
- Ask your faith leader to speak on important subjects affecting marginalized and vulnerable individuals during their weekly sermon, khutbah or derasha. Help them with information and research to make their job easier.
- Be a voice for reason when you see conversations online and offline escalating. Ask questions, stay in control and demonstrate respectful dialogue.
- Demand good, verifiable and factual information – from everyone – even those on your own team.
- Be proactive in putting out information that people can use to DO things. Promote actionable items and events that empower people to get involved. And then show up yourself.
- Develop critical thinking skills. Push yourself regularly past your own discomfort when you’re thinking through ideas and be willing to examine every idea from every angle.
- Be kind.
- Be kind in the face of public derision.
- Speak out when you see something wrong.
- Elevate the voices of people who are suffering, who need help. Call the press and anyone who will listen and point them in their direction.
These lists are by no means exhaustive. But they contain things that most anyone can do regardless of age, mobility, or financial position. I would invite you to leave a comment here if you have other suggestions for things that can be done by individuals and small communities to empower themselves and effect a change.
One final note: we often get so invested in our course of action that we fail to see the value in what others are doing. It will take a lot of people doing a lot of things to fight the coming onslaught of illiberalism, and frankly, I think it’s better for individuals to concentrate on just a few actionable items with all our power than to try to do everything in a mediocre fashion.
Respect what others do. Each of us is doing what we can. If someone can’t support you in YOUR action, it doesn’t mean they don’t believe in you – it means they have to focus on their own efforts.
Godspeed, good people.