How To Stay Lit In Your Activism

Keeping the candle burning and making it count
03/28/2017 12:43 pm ET Updated Mar 29, 2017
George Becker via StockSnap

*This piece was originally published on Medium

Every day, Donald Trump’s administration targets another vulnerable or marginalized population. These attacks occur both directly and in underhanded fashion. The punches come from all directions and they land in many different forms: Hateful rhetoric. Religious travel bans. Aggressive enforcement of immigration laws to selectively target Latinx people. Policies that perpetuate social and economic inequity. Budget cuts to vital public services and programs serving poor people and communities of color, and so on.

Yes, it’s real. Yes, it’s scary. And yes, these blows have understandably caused fear and panic among those most impacted, as well as their allies. For those involved in the resistance struggle, the current administration’s swift actions have us scrambling to support and protect those immediately impacted. Actual lives are saved every time implementation of these policies meets resistance. It’s critical, but it’s also exhausting work. There are so many causes to invest both time and money into, but to what end? Is it better to give a bit of yourself to multiple issues, or to focus on only one? Almost every day there’s something that makes your blood boil, or makes you feel hopeless. So, how can we continue to act and resist while avoiding burn out and not becoming overwhelmed?

To help with this, we’ve created an action guideline to actively resist policies, proposals, and other actions that threaten the rights of people of color and other marginalized/vulnerable communities. We prioritize supporting individuals and communities most impacted by the Trump administration, followed by strengthening their secondary support systems.

Pay attention to current events.

First keep yourself informed, find out what communities are being threatened and how. Pay attention to what is going on around you in your own family, with your friends, in your community, as well as nationally. What is being done to support and protect vulnerable people? What is being done defensively against particular threats? Both will need to be supported, so use the current events to inform which one to focus on at a particular moment.

Follow the lead of the most affected.

Those most impacted are the experts on what they need and what efforts should be prioritized, it is very important to support that. Offer your support and be mindful of not trying to come in and undermine existing authority, expertise or knowledge, especially when it comes to initiatives led by marginalized communities. Step in as you are requested or needed, do not step in to make everything about you and take over the show.

Build on what is already happening.

During this resistance struggle there will be moments to create something new, but also moments to simply add your support to people or groups who are already leading the way. Does it make more sense to build something new, or just help support someone already doing it really well? Do some research and think about how to make the greatest impact.

Pay your teachers.

Many online activists accept donations. If you have the resources, and especially if your social media favorites (teachers) are from more marginalized populations, pay them.

Be a loving and vigilant friend.

We previously wrote about this; remember that interpersonal support is an important part of activism. Be aware if there are affected people who are terrified right now and need immediate support. Be a vigilant and loving friend and be ready to be there for them as they need.

Remember you are not acting alone.

We recently saw someone use the metaphor of a choir with respect to singing, and how everyone in the choir take turns breathing, but overall the song keeps going. Everyone has to contribute their voice to the song, but there will be moments where we step up (singing) and moments when we step back (breathing); however, we never completely step out. Remember you are not doing this alone, we are all singing together.

Focus on how you personally can make the greatest impact and commit to it.

Activism means different things to different people but all are important, “Your natural gifts and passions are your best contributions to the resistance.” Focus on what you are good at. Focus on what is the most accessible, and then keep getting better at it (How much time you can realistically commit during a week/month? Is there a specific organization you feel connected to in your community? Would a regular volunteer shift make sense? Or making phone calls for political actions? Can you do a regular donation schedule?) Think about how you can make the most impact while centering people of color and vulnerable populations. Know what you can commit to and be reliable. This struggle is for the long haul and your commitment must be as well. It can be tempting to jump from one crisis to the next, but think about the particular ways you can be the most effective and the areas where your greatest contribution might be taking the lead, vs where it is just lending a helping hand.

Join our weekly action calls.

In order to help people focus and prioritize, we will be posting weekly action calls based on the priorities listed above and in line with our racial justice and anti-oppression goals. They will be designed to target pressing current issues, and focused on how to maximize impact, and lift up the efforts of the most affected.

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