salon

ferguson solidarity: 10 ways to get involved

hands up
“so we protest and march at rallies…then what? how does that change things?”

these thoughts from my partner about the protests occurring since michael brown’s murder reminded me that many folks may want to join the movement to end police brutality, but aren’t clear on the importance of political organizing or the steps to take.

i’m sending encouragement and love to those new to movement building and share the recommendations below on how to capitalize on this critical moment:

1. know the facts. it’s important that we know the facts surrounding not just mike brown’s murder, but also those of countless other black men and women who have fallen victim to the police.  for quick references, check colorlines, the root, salon and an amazing article titled “this is why we’re mad about the shooting of mike brown” on jezebel.

2. be critical. what do claims of looting and mike brown stealing cigarellos from a convenience store (that didn’t call the police) have to do with his murder? be a critical consumer of information and notice how those in power will criminalize a victim before taking decisive action to pursue justice.

3. go beyond mainstream media.  some of the most comprehensive accounts of what’s happening in ferguson aren’t coming from fox news or cnn, but folks who are on the frontlines and reporting live. these twitter accounts are my favorite sources: @antoniofrench, @felonious_munk, @awkward_duck and @trymainelee.

4.  use social media wisely. hashtags are an invaluable resource. by simply clicking #fergusonsolidarity, #ripmikebrown, #mikebrown, #handsup, #dontshoot and countless others people around the world can get the latest news and stay connected. it’s also a channel to display demands to elected officials.

5. plan an action. but first, pay attention to those in ferguson. take the lead of those on the ground in ferguson when planning a solidarity action in your city and determining your demands. i highly recommend checking out the dream defender’s tips on the subject.

6. remember power concedes nothing without a demand. this brings me to my next point: rallies can galvanize the masses and bond those pursuing justice; however, they should not just be chanting sessions. while you have a microphone and people’s attention, state your demands clearly. here’s a list of the initial demands from community members in ferguson that was shared on twitter: demands

7. brace yourself. if you plan to play a leadership role in a direct action or protest, plan beyond the actual event. those protestors who are inspired to do more will need to know your next steps. don’t lose the momentum.

8. make a financial contribution. reach out to those on the ground in ferguson via your direct connections or social media and find out how you can help fund their movement. there are suggestions going around on twitter if you’d like to learn more.

9. stay woke. there are interlocking systems of oppression facing black and brown communities throughout this country, and your hometown or neighborhood could be the next ferguson, missouri. get involved now with organizations serving youth, pursuing food justice, seeking to end police brutality and other causes to serve as an agent of change.

10. never forget. now that your consciousness has been raised about the plight black people face in american society, never forget. righteous indignation should propel us to pursue social justice by any means necessary. as a voter, consumer and community member, seize your power.

let’s stand in solidarity with the residents of ferguson and force the world to end the system of white supremacy by recognizing the value of black lives.

with solidarity,

t

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working in retail while white, fit, tan and privileged

abercrombie-and-fitch-ad-campaign-courtesy-fo-abercrombie-and-fitcholiver lee bateman’s recent article for salon chronicled his experience as an assistant manager for abercrombie & fitch and is an eye-opening account of bias and discrimination. according to bateman, the company recruits people who are “quality and collegiate” and define such to almost exclusively include college-educated white people who are physically fit and tan.  the elitist environment is condoned by regional managers and corporate executives who want to build a brand based on “you can’t sit here” type of marginalization, and bateman’s account of how a black employee was treated at his store made me cringe:

the regional manager’s adoration didn’t extend to our finest worker, a tall, chubby, and openly gay african-american who had bright green braces.  although we tried to avoid scheduling him when we knew the RM was due to visit, chronic labor shortages on account of the company’s low starting wages and obsession with brand representative beauty ensured that he was often working 30+ hours per week.

“you have to get that guy off the floor,” he’d tell us. “he’s a fucking disasterpiece.”

this piece resonated with me not because of bateman’s revelations about the company — absent his article, one can figure those out by the racial discrimination lawsuit, nearly all-white models in in the company’s advertisements and extremely loud techno music in the stores — but because i could relate to the black employee who faced microaggressions by his all-white peers. i worked retail after college and as an assistant manager in a high-end store, i helped supervise a store that lacked staff and customer diversity. one day, i was written up by my manager because i hurt the sales representatives’ feelings by not building a more “personal” relationship with them (i’m not making this up). despite the fact that after sitting down with each employee no one could give me a clear answer about what i had done to offend them, i internalized my manager’s criticism, seeing myself as the stereotypical angry black women. i now know the real issue was that i didn’t fit into the store’s “brand” or dominant culture, and for me this turned out to be a blessing in disguise because i had goals to achieve that were much larger than my co-workers’ microaggressions.

you can read the rest of bateman’s article here.