10 ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement going forward
Don't forget that often, silence is violence.
This article was originally published on August 1st 2016, following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of the police in the US. It remains as relevant today as it did then. For an up-to-date list of fundraisers to support, click here.
"What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?" asks actress Amandla Stenberg in the widely-shared video Don't Cash Crop On My Cornrows. If Americans accepted the black family down the street as much as the Jackson Five, black culture would be both accredited and respected and black lives would unquestionably matter to all. However, given the recent rise in police shootings on black folks (#AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile, and, unfortunately, many more), we are reminded that this is not the case. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is once again in the media spotlight — but why is it that we need violence against the black community to show that black lives matter? How can we, especially non-black folks, effectively and proactively be in solidarity with the BLM movement? We've compiled a list of 10 ways of how you can support the Black Lives Matter movement.
1. Educate yourself
It is not a black person's job nor duty to educate you on their own oppression. Do your own research on institutionalised and societal racism against the black community (start by reading here and here), the Black Lives Matter movement, white privilege (read this and this), non-black people-of-colour (POC) privilege and try to go outside of your Twitter feed. There are plenty of books, articles, and essays out there — even movies like Fruitvale Station or Do The Right Thing. Don't forget to be critical of major mass media outlets (read up on it here) and research the backgrounds of sources — be smart about what you are reading, watching, and listening to.
2. Acknowledge your privilege
Even with all the research you are doing, know and actively recognise that, if you're a non-black person, you will never be able to fully comprehend or understand what it is like to be black or gain access to that perspective. Acknowledge this privilege and use it to challenge racial injustices towards the black community. For instance, speak up if you see a limited representation of the black community in your school's faculty or workplace. Be vocal if you see a sales associate keeping an extremely watchful eye on the black family at a store.
3. Confirm that anti-blackness does exist
Not only do we have to uphold that black lives are important, especially as holding non-black identities, but we should also address anti-blackness within our own communities — both in everyday acts, like a server brushing off the black customers at a restaurant, and at the structural level, such as the low demographics of black students in higher education. It's super important to affirm that the black community faces injustices and racism at both levels. One way to challenge it is to start with your family. Right now there is a community-sourced Google Document (specifically for non-black Asian POC), "Resources for non-Black Asians on Anti-Blackness," that is circulating around the internet with helpful tools like this crowd-sourced letter to explain BLM to immigrant parents who may not quite understand the importance of BLM.
4. Say his/her/their name
And make sure it's heard. Using social media outlets, share articles, videos*, and any links pertinent to BLM with the aim of educating and raising awareness around the importance of the BLM movement. Vocalising your support is especially crucial among your own respective communities.
*Before sharing violent and tragic videos, be aware that they can almost desensitise black deaths and be extremely distressing to the black community
5. Offline participation
While sharing on social media can spark change, you also have to physically attend and participate. Join demonstrations, protests, marches, and events for BLM, like Los Angeles' Underground Museum's recent event, Holding Court: Black Lives Matter, an event for critical thinking and community building with BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors and Black Lives Matter Network Art + Culture Director Tanya Lucia Bernard. Numbers propagate change!
6. Support black businesses and organisations
Numbers can also propagate change financially. On July 15, NON Worldwide, a collective of artists of the African diaspora, organised a day to exclusively buy from black-owned businesses. Non-black folks can be more conscious of buying from black-owned businesses (such as the ultra-cool Union LA) and donating to organisations aligned with the BLM movement.
7. Know when to step back
Black voices matter too. Be respectful of black-only spaces and make sure that you are not taking space and attention away from black folks. Remember that you are there to support the movement and that this movement is not for you. BLM ally, TEDxTeen speaker, and activist Rebecca Dharmapalan, who has worked alongside several black artists and activists in order to generate a movement of solidarity and empowerment for women of colour, highlights another important aspect of this: "One of the most important steps to support our black sisters and brothers is listening. Listening is not a complex task, as it doesn't require one to add input, personal struggles, or needs. Listening includes empathy, humanity, and altruism."
8. Create space for black representation
Create platforms for black peoples' voices when they are not present. Rather than speaking for them, with this, we are instead sharing their voices in spaces that their bodies won't always be able to extend to. When you see that there is no black representation in a syllabus for a literature class, offer up works by black authors and apply this to other situations and settings.
9. Know the difference between being in solidarity and an ally — and be both
East Bay filmmaker Summer Mason, who is dedicated to creating platforms for black expression, describes the importance of being both an ally and in solidarity with BLM: "While allyship is when you back someone up when they say something and is inherently performative, it is also an active way of participating. Solidarity is being able to practice this performance on a day to day basis. They help construct spaces for black people to flourish. It's just as important to break down it as it is to build."
10. Celebrate black excellence
Black lives should not only matter when they are lost. We must, as Mason puts it, both "mourn black tragedy and clap to black excellence!" Don't just share articles like Jesse Williams calling out Hollywood's exploitation of black people and black culture, but articles like this as well!
Text Perwana Nazif