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Allyship in This Time of Civil Unrest
A note from the publisher, Christina Butcher
Now is the time to stand up and support Black community members across the country in the fight against police brutality, systemic injustice and racism.
Yes, this is a fight. And yes, we need to stand in solidarity as a community of supporters, allies and activists to ensure personal safety and freedoms of Black people, especially, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), generally, as they are continually targeted by police and racists across our country. Refusing to take a stand in some way, even in the smallest, most personal show of support you can muster, counters the efforts of activists and reinforces the corrupted systems in place. Complacency is complicity. I’ll say that again. Complacency is complicity.
As a company, Blue Cactus Press stands with Black Lives Matter and supports the wider, continuous efforts toward racial equality and justice in the U.S. We are working to increase the ways we support Black community members and take action to counter racial injustice. We can do more, and this is the start of that.
As a Woman of Color, I also stand with Black Lives Matter and support the work it, and other organizations, put into changing our socio-political landscape for the better. I see this work and I’m eager to participate. As a pregnant woman though, my physical limitations keep me from participating in many of the ways I’d like to. And I admit, I have been slow to accept the reality that my body is not my own, and to temper my mental and emotional desires to “do more” in this fight. I know there are many of you out there, as well, looking for ways to take meaningful action despite your own physical, mental and emotional barriers. So, in an attempt to lay out an actionable plan for myself and others, I’ve written a list of things we can do to be better, stronger allies with Black and BIPOC community members in this time of civil unrest.
Ways to Be a Better Ally
Recognize and check your privilege
Ask yourself what kind of privilege you walk through the world with and think about how you can dismantle it (or use it to the community’s benefit). There are countless types of privilege we might have (being light-skinned and/or “passing” in a society built to benefit White, middle-class landowners; being able bodied and/or unencumbered by mental illness; being financially secure with disposable income; having access to technology and educational resources; etc.) which must be recognized and put aside to truly see a situation for what it truly is. Doing so can help us identify situations in which we need to get out of the way and allow others (people without those privileges) enough space to be seen and heard.
Read books, speak to elders, listen to speeches, talk to people in your community, attend classes, do whatever you can to learn about our nation’s violent and oppressive history towards Black people, the widespread and continuing racism within our political and cultural systems today, and related issues we face on local, regional, and national levels. Education is power. It is foundational to change. Here’s a list of books on anti-racism that we all can benefit from reading. Here’s a list of Black-owned bookstores you can buy those books from.
Spark dialogue and listen within your community
Have conversations with family members, friends, and acquaintances about what’s happening, how you and they are feeling, and what you can do to support each other and the fight for equality. If you are White, DO NOT automatically reach out to your BIPOC friends and ask them what you can or should do. You must do your own emotional labor. Your friends and community members are tired, stressed, scared, frustrated, overwhelmed, and deserve the respect shown by your coming to the conversation with your own ideas, information and willingness to listen. Listen first, then build from there. Here’s a new, local podcast sparking meaningful dialogue: Tacoma, We Need to Talk.
Support and amplify Black voices
Now, more than ever, is the time for many of us to get out of the way and make space for Black voices to be heard. So let’s do that. Share and amplify the voices of Black leaders and activists by tuning in to their podcast, video, or speech; reading their articles and books; and sharing their content across whatever platforms your can (social media, blogs, websites, texts, flyers, printed books). There’s a time and a place for allies to be heard, as well, but right now we must focus on listening to and raising up the voices of Black communities (which are and have been) so deeply and negatively impacted by racial injustice in the U.S. A few Black leaders/mentors/activists/poets/bad bitches we follow include: Rachel Cargle, T’wina Nobles, Christian Page, Kellie Richardson and Kim Rinehardt. Notice that they all lead (and live and heal and participate in community) in different ways, whether visible to you, or not.
Patronize Black-owned businesses
If you don’t already know of businesses in your community that are owned and led by Black people, go find them. Make a list, share it with others, and spend your money at these establishments. Here’s a list of Black-owned businesses in Tacoma, compiled by Tacoma Urban League. Here’s a list of Black-owned restaurants in Pierce County.
Sign petitions and work to get them in front of lawmakers
Head to Change.org, or other sites that allow you to digitally sign petitions and add your name to petitions for Justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others who’ve died needlessly because of police brutality and injustice. Call lawmakers and demand change. Send them letters. Blow up their twitter feeds. Donate a few dollars to help support activists working to get those petitions on lawmakers desks.
Fiscally support activist and grassroots organizations
If you have the means, donate money to organizations supporting activists on the front lines and/or fighting for social justice. These could be local bail bond funds, financial campaigns in support of families who’re rebuilding their lives after loved ones were murdered without cause or recompense, and/or grassroots organizations dedicated to increasing awareness of and countering racism. Consider donating to The People’s Assembly, a Tacoma-based social justice organization, Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County Freedom Fund, or the fund for Manuel Ellis’ Family.
Attend a protest, rally or demonstration
Get on social media, text your friends, or read the news to learn about when and where upcoming marches, rallies and demonstrations are being held in your area. Attend them. Stand in solidarity with others who’re fighting for justice. March if you’re able bodied. Sit on a grassy hill further from the action if it all overwhelms you. Clap or honk from afar if you’re in the area but can’t attend. Share the details about these events with others in your community.
You may have noticed I did not include self-expression as a form of allyship in this list. Although I firmly believe self expression (i.e. creating and sharing art) can sow necessary seeds for dismantling systemic racism and injustice in our nation, I do not believe those seeds are enough to overcome them. To do that, we must take action. Expression without action is not enough.
Christina Butcher is a queer Chicana poet, publisher and veteran from New Mexico. She has a passion for storytelling and community involvement. She lives in Tacoma, Washington, where she writes and works as a bookseller at King’s Books. She’s also a teaching artist with Write253, a youth literacy non-profit. Christina’s debut poetry collection, Still Clutching Maps, was published in 2017 (Blue Cactus Press). Her poetry has appeared in Creative Colloquy, Papeachu Issue 3, Timberline Review, WA129+, and Milk Gallery. Christina’s journalism has appeared in City Arts, Grit City Magazine, Hilltop Action Journal, OLY ARTS, The Ranger, VOICE Magazine and Weekly Volcano. Follow Christina on Twitter @bluecactuspress and Instagram @ccthemighty.