3 Ways To Stay Involved And Make A Difference

Photo by ARTP on Unsplash

Let’s be honest; if you are a person of color, then the world is potentially scary for you lately. Despite the fear, however, you want to do something, anything! Yet, you realize that you might not have the time. How can you be active in your community or with issues you care about if you’re swamped with work, school, or life? (The oppressive machine keeping you in check, people.)

Here are a few examples of what I found to be most helpful when I can’t be physically active in my community:

1. It starts at home
To be engaged you don’t need to leave your house. Sometimes, we feel anger or sadness which results in wanting to be physically active, but that feeling doesn’t need to equate full out activism via joining a protest or organization. It can be as simple as having someone to talk to that’s close to you about the issues you care about. Start by talking to close family members and sharing your feelings with them. Heck, even talking to your partner about current events can be a great beginning. Then take it a step further, talk to someone within your family that doesn’t share your point of view. Those types of conversations are challenging, but they’re an excellent way to solidify your values, expand them further or change your opinions.

2. Find alternative ways to spend your money
We know that dollars can equal activism. When you donate to a charity, the act of giving to an organization making a change that you value is a great way to help, but there are other ways. If you’ve exhausted your will for charitable giving then why not spend it on clothes, shoes, art, candles, skin care – literally anything that you use on a daily basis? However, do it the right way, by purchasing those things from your local community. Exercise your spending power with those who need it most. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at your local shop, then look online. Our community is savvy and is starting to understand the value of the internet, give them a boost by visiting their websites and providing them uplifting reviews. If you still can’t find what you want from your local google search then look for latinx, or POC owned shops anywhere. Your money provides a living for those small business owners who need it most. Let’s show corporations where economic bounty actually lies. To spread the wealth with our POC communities by boosting our local economies is a perfectly acceptable form of activism.

3. Have time and talents, why not provide a small service?
Have social media skills? Offer to manage an Instagram account for your local taqueria. I think skills in the business marketing fields are the most undervalued or underappreciated for small POC businesses. The local grocery shop could have fantastic deals, great products, and amazing customer service, but no funds for marketing and outreach. In which case, they’ll always be outperformed by more prominent grocery businesses because of their ability to pay for advertising. In that same vein, if you do have professional marketing skills, why not offer classes to local small businesses? Teach them how to create a marketing budget, how to start social media accounts, and how to do local advertising. Regardless, any skill that you could potentially offer is bound to be helpful for someone. Every little bit counts.

As you can tell, there is a multitude of ways to be charitable with your time and money that don’t include being physically present. If every one of us provided one tiny gesture of service, we would all be better for it.

Taking Opportunities When They Come

If there’s anything I’ve learned while starting this new activism journey, it’s that everyone must seize opportunities when they come. There’s no time to mull around about it. There’s urgency to everything happening around us. Activists live life in the fast lane. It seems like the perfect profession for those that love an adrenaline rush or love to be in the spotlight.

I wish I were that person.

Last week, I saw an article (here) where researchers found there is such a thing as an “ambivert.” I cackled, loudly. It’s difficult to get me to laugh so enthusiastically at online articles, but this one had me. It makes me happy to know there is a word that describes my personality. If you’re confused, an ambivert is someone who is an introvert and an extrovert (or they fall on a spectrum in-between those). Yeah, I know. I don’t know what the personality “switch” is, but I can go months without wanting or needing to be around anyone. My idea of a perfect day is staying home, sitting on my couch, facing the window, lighting a candle, drinking some tea or coffee, and reading a book or working. On those days I can tolerate going to a coffee shop but only if it’s relatively empty. Then there are those days when I want interaction with ALL the people. I go to events, heck, I go to my mom’s house where everyone is always hanging out. Those are the days where I can’t get enough of being out of the house and talking to people. Why do I do that? Who knows…

This matters for my activism because most days I lean towards my introverted side. It makes taking significant opportunities emotional, arduous, and stressful for me. Interactions with big groups of people for planning meetings or networking events usually mean I’ll be the one listening to everyone speak while I hover on the sides of their conversations. When suggestions or requests are being made for collaborative efforts, I often hesitate to talk instead of adamantly or enthusiastically participating.

Two weeks ago, the organization where I am volunteering was asked to have our president speak at Yom HaShoah for our local Jewish temple. The week of the service the president was going to be out of town. He asked for others to volunteer, but no one was able. I recognized immediately that this was the opportunity to request partnership from our Jewish community with refugee assistance or volunteering aid, but I hesitated to speak up. I waited until no one else was able or willing to take an interest. After I typed up my response to assist, I waited a few minutes to hit enter. I was pacing all over the kitchen. Ultimately, after a few days of working up the courage to volunteer, I still couldn’t send a quick reply. Here’s the thing – I KNEW I could do it. I knew I could write the speech; I knew it wouldn’t be difficult. DUDE, I EVEN KNEW I WOULD HAVE NO PROBLEM SPEAKING PUBLICLY. Even so, I still hesitated. I still walked around the house like a crazy person looking for something that doesn’t exist – my kids thought I’d lost my marbles (probably literally).

Anxiety manifests itself so differently for everyone. For me, I always know that in the end, I can accomplish what I set out to do, but every time, taking the first step is the most demanding task.

Finally, on April 11th, 2018 I spoke at our local Jewish temple to about 60 people for over 7 minutes and the only thought I had when it was over, was that I need to speak more often so that I can be better. It’s too bad I can’t skip the anxiousness entirely to go straight to the feeling of accomplishment (insert annoyed face here) I have at the end.

My wish for those contemplating taking a step forward to help the world is to take that step – even if you need a few days to think about it because your anxiety spikes knowing that you’ll need to interact with others. If in the end, it seems like a reasonable sacrifice to make – if like me, you think you can overcome those hurdles in the end – then do it. At best, you’ll find the work rewarding, and the world will be better for it. At worst, you continue doing what you were doing before but knowing that you tried.

Note: I uploaded my speech to youtube, but it is awful quality. If you wanna see it anyway, then there’s a link to it here. I was gonna copy/paste my speech here but – plagiarism – and I don’t necessarily wanna copyright it so I won’t be sharing it, unfortunately.