With everything that’s happened in 2020, it’s difficult sometimes to see how we can make a difference. There are so many options, ways to help, questions, and ways we can also feel helpless. I know I certainly have. I’ve been thinking a lot this last month about my role in the world, how to participate without getting absorbed in simply re-sharing negativity. How do I engage with the world around me positively and effectively? How do I connect with what is happening right now?
At first, with the death of George Floyd and the ensuing peaceful protests (because that is what most of them were), I was overwhelmed. My feed filled up with intense content, powerful words and ideas and thoughts and opinions. There were book lists, lists of what not to do, historical facts, images, videos, signs…there was so much! I was spending hours scrolling through my feed. It took me about a week to re-balance, re-focus, and think about how I could best participate as an individual during this time.
So, I came up with a list of what I’ve been doing in the last few weeks to participate in the world and contribute in ways that I feel are important, keep me from getting too overwhelmed, and puts the focus on the voices and ideas that matter most, rather than my own
1 Sign Petitions
Signing petitions is a small way we can contribute our thoughts and voices to the Black Lives Matter Movement and the push to defund the police. Sign them, write about why you are signing, and then share them on social media so other people can sign too! Sign to support BLM, closing our prisons, increasing education, bringing police to justice, protecting the climate, and any other causes you hold close to your heart.
“One of the reasons that so many people of color and poor people are in prison is that the deindustrialization of the economy has led to the creation of new economies and the expansion of some old ones – I have already mentioned the drug trade and the market for sexual services.”– Angela Davis
Here is a list to get started:
And here is the link to change.org, where you can find a huge range of petitions to sign and show your support for tons of different causes, even if you don’t have the money right now to donate (if you do, though, see 5!): change.org.
“Instead of you ending my life. You should be ending racism.”De philosopher DJ Kyos
2 Go for a Walk and Pick up Trash (safely!)
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”– Dalai Lama
Whenever I take Bradley on a walk on the beach, I always use one of his doggie bags to pick up a handful (or 2 or 3) of trash. It’s a small, small step in the grand scheme, but it always makes me feel a little extra positive, effective, and empowered. The next time you go for a walk, bring some gloves or an old trash bag and pick up trash. Taking those extra 5 minutes each day to take care of our planet makes a small difference, but it sets such an important example for everyone around you. Plus, it’s a great way to remind yourself that you have power in some ways, even when the larger issues seem insurmountable and hopeless.
“There’s an inexplicable joy that exists on a brown child’s face and in the way they navigate their world long before they discover they’re hated.”– Darnell Lamont Walker
3 Educate Yourself
I’ve also been reading a lot more, mostly articles on www.newyorker.com, because educating ourselves on ideologies, systemic issues, racism, social injustices, and cultural concerns means we can have informed, intelligent, and sincere discussions with people about racial issues and how to fight them.
“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”– Toni Morrison
I’ve read several articles about what “defund the police” actually means, because it’s important to me that when I say “defund the police” I know what I am advocating for. Reading books and articles, listening to podcasts, and following BIPOC voices on Instagram are all ways to learn more and expand your horizon of knowledge!
You can Google hundreds of booklists and find authors to read instantly; you can search for hashtags on Instagram to follow—it’s easy to add 5-minute or 5-day reads into your daily life and experience!
“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”– Toni Morrison
Also, don’t stray away from more controversial content as well. Understanding what kinds of negative discussions, racist agendas, and problematic beliefs are out there enables us to argue against them more effectively, armed with our own acquired awareness!
4 Re-post difficult Instagram/ Facebook content
“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”– Malcolm X
Breonna Taylor is no longer trending, and with the fast pace of social media, it’s easy to stop sharing difficult and controversial content on Instagram. Your story doesn’t have to be solely dedicated to re-posting highly visceral content, but keep dedicating some time to sharing and re-posting topics for discussion. I’ve learned about tons of new accounts, concepts, and social issues from stories other people shared, and I pass it forward by doing the same.
5 Donate What you Can
“Healing begins where the wound was made.”– Alice Walker
I’ve donated small amounts to various organizations when I can. I understand that $5 or $10 here or there won’t solve global issues, just as 5 minute beach cleanups won’t solve global warming. But it’s a step towards bettering our world that I am able to take!
Figure out what local, national, or international causes are important to. Look around on social media for different charities. Donate your time or other resources if money isn’t an option. Every little bit counts!
Men simply copied the realities of their hearts when they built prison. They simply extended into objective reality what was already a subjective reality. Only jailers really believe in jails.– Richard Wright
6 Share Love more than Ever
Kindness costs nothing, but it is worth everything. Now is the time to help each other, call each other, keep working towards sharing love and kindness. Speak kindly, lovingly, but with commitment to those you don’t agree with. Re-post what is good in the world as well as what needs improvement. Do whatever you can to bring love and light into this world.
A smile is a light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.|– Denis Waitley
7 Wear your Freaking Mask!
I’m including this one because the politicization of mask-wearing is just bogus. Smokers move away from children, pregnant women, and non-smokers because smoking endangers them. We wear seatbelts to protect ourselves and others. People stop at stop signs because it means we don’t needlessly kill each other.
Not wearing a mask is not a political statement, it is an abject disrespect for other human beings’ lives and safety. Wear your damn mask. Front line workers and healthcare workers work in full PPE for 12 hours straight—we can all handle 30 minutes to go to the grocery store.
Wear a mask, wear a mask, WEAR A MASK!
Find your politicians, write to them, email them, call them. Use all this awesome knowledge you’ve acquired to find out what needs to be done on local and national levels to make real change:
Vote locally, vote in the next Presidential election. Vote, Vote, VOTE!
I hope these 9 ideas helped you think of ways to fend off the hopelessness of living in a society where people are murdered based on the color of their skin, their sexual orientations, or any other socially constructed measure of human worth. Don’t give up hope, don’t stop fighting for a better tomorrow, and certainly don’t lose yourself in the milieu.
It has always been the time—let’s make each day count towards a better world.
XOXO, Beach Bum Poet