This personal guide to activism in America today, is all about the battle for the hearts and minds of people in this country.
The fight against racism is a deep issue of our time.
It’s not something that we’re called on to help people of color with. But it is something that we are called to Lead on.
And if you are a Leader in any other area of your Life — here is your test to prove that you are a real Leader that matters.
We simply need to become involved with today’s Civil Rights, as if our lives depended on it because in total honesty and truth — all of our Lives depend on it.
This summer Sandra Bland is dead… as so many other young Black Americans.
The 28-year-old black activist was driving to her new job in Texas on July 10 when she was stopped by police for changing lanes without indicating. Truth: Black people have zero margin for error. This ridiculous traffic stop ended with Bland’s arrest and, two days later, what police claim was her suicide. Setting aside her controversial death, what preceded Bland’s detainment is itself an urgent human rights issue.
If you haven’t watched the video of her arrest, you should. And please don’t miss the videos of her fully alive and vibrant, speaking out against police brutality. And please keep remembering while you watch the videos of her speaking — that she’s dead because of Police Brutality and probably because she was outspoken against it.
If you haven’t watched other videos of cold blooded murder by the Police — do it now. Go see on youtube Walter Scott being shot in the back. Watch Freddie Gray having his neck broken. See the unambiguous assault and harassment by white adults and then by police officers of mere children. Children who did nothing wrong anymore than attend an end-of-school year pool party. And if you have chosen to avert your eyes because it hurts too much, I invite you to schedule a Reality night with YouTube videos of Black People’s Oppression in America through Death.
Such videos are emotionally calamitous, but crucial in helping deniers, dismissers, apathetics, and apologists; acknowledge the ugly Life experiences of black people in America today. We must become allies and interrupters of the process of Oppression.
During the Underground Railroad, a light in the window of a home signified a safe “station”. A moment’s respite from persecution and a night’s rest.
Maybe we need to turn on the Light tonight for our Brethren — the People of Colour — being persecuted in our times. Here are a few ways to put the light on the window:
1. Put a Black Lives Matter sign in your yard. Yes, it will get stolen and defaced. Get another one. Encourage neighbors to do the same. Manage interactions and model the way. Community Organizations are made up of people not organizational charts.
2. Engage with your friends and family to talk about racism, white fragility, privilege, and white supremacy. These will be uncomfortable, daunting, treacherous conversations. Will you get it right every time? No. Will people drop out of your life? Yes. But you can learn, adjust, move forward. What is important is staying in the conversation.
3. Get informed. Read “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson or “The Half that Has Never Been Told” by Edward Baptist, or “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander. Get knocked with “Between The World And Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Read anything by Coates for that matter. Start reading. The well is deep.
4. Talk with your children about racism, skipping the sunshiny lie of colorblindness. Include discussions of who has privilege, who doesn’t and why. Talk frankly about who you eat with, who you pray with, who you love; discuss who is and isn’t part of those intimate groups and why that is. Provide books that feature black characters and characters of color and talk about them. A few of so many greats: Please, Baby Please; Shades of Black; Amazing Grace; Black is Brown is Tan; and Tar Beach are beautiful options for the littles. Brown Girl Dreaming, One Crazy Summer, and any of the Ruby and the Booker Boys series for the middles and olders.
5. Form partnerships with people of color at your child’s school and agitate for equity. Make Meetings. Create Meetups. Create environments where people love coming to interact and grab their hearts right then and there. Share information. Energize positive emotion. An often neglected leadership behavior. “Just do your job,” doesn’t work with smart, talented people who are doing jobs that require brain power.
6. Speak up whenever you hear a comment or joke that disparages any marginalized community. Describe shared vision in the short-term and long-term. Vision gives meaning to work. Meaningful work inspires energy, commitment, and fulfillment. It’s difficult to feel excitement over things that don’t matter. Describe negative behaviors to avoid to all your friends and family and close knit groups.
7. Write op-eds and/or letters to the editor. The ever-present story of injustice and violence equals endless opportunities to take a public stance. Let the sparks fly from your fingertips and hit that send button to correct the abundant and widely-accepted use of sanitized and coded language under the pretense of fair and balanced reporting.
8. Urge your local and national organizations from Boy-scouts, to Girl-scouts, to Rotary clubs, Mason clubs, and all your local churches, in order to organize Youtube Murder nights. Get them to hold discussions, and carry bible studies on the subject, and help them bring all their energy and activism to the Black Lives Matter movement. The hard-won right to give people Freedom to Live, didn’t happen without the support of the privileged majority. Abe Lincoln wasn’t alone in this. Pressure them to pay it forward.
9. Call/write the local city officials in any of the cities where violence against black people is documented. You sure to find the ones because there are so many. Urge them toward systemic change and accountability. Provide context. Help people see how they fit in. Purpose motivates.
10. Get involved with Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a national network of white people who stand for black and brown lives. There are local contacts in every city, including San Diego. One guess as to whom ours is. Great results are the result of great relationships. You don’t have to choose between the two.
11. Seek out your local black-led organizations to find out what they are doing, and more importantly, what they need. Talk less, listen more. Attend rallies and protests, but don’t take the mic. Don’t co-opt the message. Follow their lead.
12. Where are we going in the next three months? Vision is the picture. Goals are the steps.
Where are we going with the distant future in mind. How does short-term vision align with long-term? What matters now?
Spend more time on the next three months than the distant future. It’s within your control. The distant future is too distant to guide an immediate decision. You need a near future to make immediate decisions.
There are many more things to do on this Black Lives matter movement as a Leader. And the easiest thing to do is to become a Civil Rights leader. And if you are any kind of Leader — this is your moment to shine.
Go ahead now and identify and reward behaviors that produce positive environments for all people of Colour and Creed. Promote discussions…
Join simple groups like the Facebook Black Lives Matter group: http://www.facebook.com/hashtag/blacklivesmatter
Go to Tweeter and post tweets at #blacklivesmatter
Invite people and talk to in your home porch…
Get the discussion going in your Organizations, in your Companies, in your Churches — just go ahead and share the word, and spread the message. Always evaluate the progress every month and recruit others…
If things don’t work at first — adapt your tactics and try again.
Bring up all the issues the other folks avoid. Develop talented supporters, followers, engagers.
Affirm strengths and circumstances. Offer training opportunities for the young ones, by providing assignments, such as leafletting, doorbelling, stuffing & mailing envelopes.
Repeat and Repeat again. learn the lessons and share the Results. Give feedback. Give far more Feedback than you think is necessary.
Whatever you do, don’t fall back to doing nothing.
Live a little…
Be an activist.
Be an interrupter.
Be an Activator.
And for God’s sake — please don’t forget to leave your window light on.