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As someone with chronic illnesses, marching in the streets is just not accessible for me. Just because you can’t make it to a protest or direct action doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in activism. It’s ableist, sexist and otherwise problematic that protests are seen as the best, or even only, way to participate in social movements. Just like institutionalized racism is constant and not episodic, our activism needs to be constant and on many different fronts. Here are just a few ways that I have found to support The Movement for Black Lives, most of them can be done from bed.
1. Financial Support
As a disabled person I don’t have a lot of cash lying around to be able to give away. I do give what I can, but it is not much. If you do have money, give it. Just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean you can’t help raise it, though. It can be as small as sharing a fundraiser, or as large as writing a grant or planning a fundraiser. If you have a skill or talent you may be able to leverage that to help with raising money, for example making jewelry to sell, or offering resume writing services that can be auctioned off.
I think that a lot of times we don’t like to talk about the money needed for activism because capitalism is the worst, but money is crucial to the work that needs to get done whether for bail funds or helping to pay organizers. Also remember that part of white supremacy is white folks having more access to resources so I encourage my fellow white friends to think about that when figuring out how much money we can give.
Natasha Marin has created a site that has made it easy for white folks to directly support People of Color called Reparations. http://www.reparations.me/ It helps white people find concrete ways to help by posting “requests” from People of Color. Examples of requests include legal assistance or help with groceries. White people can also post “offers” such as resume assistance or other skills, goods, or resources. If you have skills that you can do while sick, you can offer them. You can also see of you can satisfy any of the requests.
3. Talking to People In Our Own Communities
Even those of us that are not able to leave the house much, or at all, probably come into contact with people either in person or online. It is up to white people to talk to other white folks about The Movement for Black Lives and why it is important and why people should get involved. Even just putting a “Black Lives Matter” sign up at your home can help get the conversation going.
4. Emotional Support
There is so much more to activism than protests. Because of sexism and femmephobia, many of the caretaking and emotional labor of movements gets ignored. However, at its core The Movement for Black Lives is a movement made of people who need support, and it is a response to the killing and devaluing of Black lives and bodies that affect all Black folks. As white people, we can offer emotional support to the people most affected.
It’s tricky because us white folks often make things about us, but if we can offer emotional support that is actually helpful by listening and holding space, it can be an important contribution.
We can also offer support by doing other kinds of caretaking like making food, helping with childcare, and cleaning, if we are able.
5. Remember, Use The Skills You Have
When I am really sick and unable to get out of bed, I struggle with feeling that I don’t have anything to offer social and political movements. It’s important to remember that we all have things to offer and skills we can contribute, even if right now we just need to focus on healing ourselves. As a person with white privilege, but who is also disabled, it can be a complicated and nuanced analysis. I try to decenter myself and contribute where it is useful, but also stand back and let the organizers and other people directly affected to decide what is useful for them and what is not. Be creative with what skills and resources you can offer.
6. Be Strategic With Your Energy
Finally, it can be especially important for disabled people and other people with limited energy (so basically everyone) to be strategic with our energy. I recently realized that certain ways I was engaging in racial justice activism were extremely draining and not causing much change. Now I channel that energy in a way that can support the movement while still being sustainable for me.
I want to make it explicit that disability and racial justice are intertwined. Obviously there are people who are both disabled and Black. Centering Black people and other People of Color in all of our organizing is crucial for true intersectional movements.
[Feature Image: A black and white photo of an interior with a large banner that says, Black Lives Matter. There are pictures on the wall below the banner. A person is standing in the center of the room. Another person is sitting on a chair. Source: rah.photography]