Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to co-host a conversation with Maria "Masha" Alyokhina and Alexandra "Sasha" Bogino — Russian artists and political dissidents who are members of the collective known as Pussy Riot. Their words were inspiring and motivating, to say the least, and I could tell by the looks on many faces in the crowd that there were a lot of people who, like me, needed to be in a room with other humans. Other humans who have felt scared, sad and angry since last week's elections.
But as I sat there on stage with these powerful women, all I could think was: Even after being sent to a labor camp in Siberia for two years for their art, they remained unafraid. If they could survive a penal colony and come out warriors ready to fight a government actively working to silence them, I could survive my own country's election of a fascist, too.
Maybe you're feeling a little paralyzed by the results of this election — I hear you. I am, too. I'm here to tell you that you are not alone, you are needed in the world, and you are important. Still, I know many of you are floundering.
The good news is, your time, energy, talent (and money, if you have the means) are sorely needed. If you're looking to connect with your community, you want to help others who may be struggling in the aftermath of November 8, or if you're just interested in becoming a more proactive human ready to assist others, I hope I can help. Below are fifteen ways I've found to fight the power and support humanity.
1. Donate to local and national nonprofits serving marginalized and oppressed communities.
We've got a list of great, local nonprofits serving Colorado to help guide you and get you started (also: see my Twitter for a thread on Denver-based organizations that I think are great). If there are specific groups or communities that are close to your heart or align with a passion or personal experience, just Google “nonprofit” along with a word related to your interest, like, “Indigenous community nonprofit” or “low cost healthcare nonprofit.” Chances are there’s at least one local or national organization that could use your money. One-time donations are great, but if you are able to offer a recurring donation to your favorite nonprofit, a consistent amount, no matter how small, can go a long way.
2. Learn a second (or third) language.
Communication is a powerful tool. The more ways you can disseminate information, the more people you can connect with in the world around you. As our immigrant population grows, each of us has the chance to be a link between new residents and established communities by learning a second language. I have personally made a commitment to learn Spanish, as I live in a predominantly Spanish-speaking community and would immediately see the positive effects of being able to better communicate with my friends and neighbors.
3. Find a social-justice organization that fits your value system and join it.
Social-justice organizations serve many purposes. Some are advocacy groups for human rights issues; some work to bring divided communities together. There are social-justice groups working in conjunction with political causes to amplify for civic engagement, while others take a more radical approach to health, and economic and community crises and barriers. Showing Up For Racial Justice, Black Lives Matter 5280, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights are just a few examples of local social-justice organizations that could use your time and talents right now.
4. Volunteer in a way that utilizes skills you already have.
Time is a gift, and if you have some to spare, there is definitely an organization out there that could use you. Again, aligning with your own passions and interests is beneficial for you and the nonprofit you choose to work with, so do a little research before jumping in. Spend a few hours a month canvasing for a political candidate you support or deliver meals to homebound individuals. Maybe you're a graphic designer or a paralegal or a plumber; all of those skills from your everyday life can be used by nonprofits all over the world. (Check out a website like Leaders Rise Up for potential connections to organizations that need your talents.) You’ll be able to help your community and, most likely, expand your own network in the process.
5. Get involved with local politics.
Don't ever let anyone tell you that your vote or your voice doesn't matter. From calling your local and national representatives and sharing your concerns about the government to volunteering to help a candidate or polling place during the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, there is so much you can do. Never forget: Politicians are elected by you. Need more help/guidance? Earlier this week, a former congressional staffer shared her tips on how to make phone calls to congresspeople effective.
6. Stand up for others — especially strangers — in public spaces.
Public spaces can often act as free zones for violent or aggressive behavior because we, as bystanders, are afraid of interfering. If you see someone being harassed and you feel safe enough to approach the victim, let them know they aren’t alone. Stand by someone who is being verbally attacked. Make eye contact with a stranger who looks as if they may be drawn into an unsafe encounter. If you're unsure of what situations call for your support or you're not quite sure how to approach a stranger in a supportive manner, there are plenty of resources out there to help. This comic on "What to do if you see Islamophobic harassment" helped me, as did writer Feminista Jones's piece on bystander intervention and the #YouOKSis movement and this video on five ways to disrupt racism.
7. Get off social media.
And go outside. Seriously. Take a break from the social-media world, get some fresh air, and work on creating more opportunities for face-to-face interactions. It’s easy to put a laser-focus on all the negativity flowing through our newsfeeds, and often it can be hard to pull away from the online conversation, even if it has devolved into a screaming match between two people hiding behind their avatars. While genuine connection and access to information are benefits of social media, it can also become a place of destruction where personal relationships are easily fractured or end because of a disagreement. It’s easy to become a caricature of yourself online, wasting priceless hours fighting with a stranger when you could be out in the world, helping a neighbor.
8. Seek out voices that are different from yours – not just politically, but personally.
If you can strike healthy balance between time spent online and time living an in-person life, think about who informs your worldview. Humans can gain so much by offering — and accepting — differing perspectives from each other. If you use social media, follow people younger than you, people who live in different parts of the world and people who don’t look just like you. In the face-to-face world, pay attention to how much you actually listen to the people around you. You might be discounting someone's perspective because they are different from you and you don't even know you're doing it.
9. Gather in-person instead of on Facebook.
Facebook can be a great platform for finding people or groups that align with your interests and can be a place to exchange information and experiences online. But sometimes we forget how one-dimensional our communication can be when we aren’t standing face-to-face and aren't able to read body language and other social cues. Being able to meet up with friends and strangers in real life can change everything. If you have a great group of Facebook friends that is geographically able to connect in person, do it. Beyond holidays and celebratory moments, think about inviting friends and family over with the explicit purpose of talking about social issues face-to-face in a comfortable setting.
10. Be choosy about your news sources.
If this election showed us anything, it was how easily fake news went viral. Not all online publications are created equal; even those tasked with telling the truth can sensationalize an issue. Don’t just grab a headline and run with it. Vet your sources before you share stories online. Go to the website you’re sharing from and look around — Google authors’ names, find out who the publisher is, Google sentences and headlines and see if they have been plagiarized from other sites. It only take a few clicks to find the origins of a news story, and your discretion will help stop the spread of false information. And we’ll all be the better for it.
11. Know that you don't have to consider yourself an activist to participate in activism.
There is no official course on activism, and there is no one entry point for allyship. Becoming an advocate and offering support to others in your community can start with a simple conversation with a neighbor. Some folks consider themselves activists and have spent a long time learning, protesting, organizing and being part of a unified voice that fights an oppressive system.
Other people are just now waking up — due in big part to this election — to the struggles of their friends and neighbors, and they are looking for ways to be an ally. If you are new to activism, be patient, read up and seek out seasoned voices in your community for guidance. If you are well-versed in activism, please don't shame others for just now "waking up"; it only divides and alienates others who want to help. Reach out and offer a hand, if you can.
12. Support alternative, public and nonprofit media.
Reading, watching and listening to multiple news sources is always a good thing — but finding media that doesn't totally depend on commercial revenue is a necessity. A good mix of public television and radio, local and cable news and news and opinion websites is great, but make sure you're adding the voices from independent, nonprofit newsrooms to your daily consumption, too. ProPublica is a great example of a nonprofit, independent and investigative media source.
I also recommend finding news sources that didn't originate in America. Sites like The Guardian, Haaretz and Al Jazeera offer an outside view of America that can help create a broader picture for us of what’s going on in our country. Many global publications have writers on the ground in the U.S. reporting on what’s going on here, but it will still be framed slightly differently than our own country's news, and that can change everything.
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13. Support local artists.
Art can be an agent for change. It can offer commentary on current events, question what we think we know, give historical context to current conflicts, and offer a personal perspective outside of our own. By supporting local creatives and artists of all mediums by buying their work, attending their events and shows and spreading the word about what you see, you are adding to the social discourse that is so crucial in times like this. Westword's ongoing 100 Colorado Creatives series serves as an excellent guide and starting point for finding artists of all mediums who work hard to create necessary and thought-provoking work right here, right now.
14. Talk to your family about racism/sexism/homophobia/xenophobia/transphobia/ableism.
Easier said than done, I know. Sometimes our closest relationships can be the hardest places to talk about social and political issues. I know that many people are thinking of avoiding going home for the holidays this year because talking about the state of America with relatives who may see things differently (or are just straight-up racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic, ableist, etc.) is just too painful. No one's mind will be changed overnight, but it is up to us to start the conversation. Our fellow humans (who are often also our family) are depending on it.
15. Know that you, as a human being, are enough.
This election has given too bright a spotlight to hate speech, it has divided people who at one time stood on the same side, and in general, it has alienated many of us from our own communities. As we continue to attempt to survive and thrive in everyday life, it is important to remember that you are enough. Being yourself is a radical act. Don't stop.