In the days since George Zimmerman’s acquittal was announced, I have been at a loss for words. And perhaps that’s good. I have shared a lot of other people’s words, most of them feminist activists of Color, and in this time, perhaps those are the voices that most need to be heard. There is not much I can say right now, nor is there much I should say. Now is the time for people like me – people of race, class, and gender privilege – to listen.
As we listen and reflect, though, it is important that we are not simply get stuck in despair and inaction. Collection action toward justice is truly the only thing that will ensure the travesty of the death of Travon Martin (and the injustice in our “justice” system that it represents) is not lost or forgotten.
And so, in the midst of my sadness, anger, and frustration, I took to the streets on Monday night. MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) organized a march and rally that drew between three and four THOUSAND people to downtown Minneapolis. We heard some powerful speakers shout their truth, we stood together as one, we chanted, and we marched. And it felt good. For many of us, it was a healing action that helped us push past inertia and toward concerted, concrete actions for justice.
While I was out marching, I also received an email. It came from an incredible activist that I consider a mentor and role model. The email was simple. It consisted of 33 suggested actions for responding to the Zimmerman verdict. Some were simple. Some were complex. All were powerful.
Whether you’ve been integral to organizing marches and petitions or stuck in inertia, this list has something for every person.
So please . . . Take some time, consider these suggestions, and consider seriously the ways that you can stand for justice moving forward.
33 Ways to Act for Justice for Trayvon Martin
This list will help identify non-violent actions you can take to help eliminate racism and other forms of oppression, both at the individual level (self, friends, family, acquaintances, etc) as well as at the institutional level (work, schools, banks, politics, justice system, etc).
“If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King
“Do one thing everyday that scares you. Those small things that make us uncomfortable help us build courage to do the work we do.” Eleanor Roosevelt
“One has to speak out and stand up for one’s convictions. Inaction at a time of conflagration is inexcusable.” Mohandas K. Gandhi
1. Participate in a personal Fast for Trayvon Martin’s family and for justice. Contemplate how you truly feel about this and what else you are willing to do, or continue doing, to promote social justice.
2. Organize a Community Fast. Contact Daniel Escalante for more information on how to do this.
3. Take a specific action each day for 17 days, the number of years that Trayvon lived on this earth, even if the actions are small.
4. Talk with your family about this situation. Share feelings, not just opinions, and finish with identifying what each person can do to end racism or other forms of oppression. And, identify what your family can do as a family unit.
5. Start a “Reading to End Racism” program at your school or district. Participate as an RER reader if you already have an RER in your area. This way all students and teachers in a school can discuss racism and what can be done to eliminate it. Contact Daniel Escalante for more information.
6. Send an email or letter to your elected officials asking them to publicly voice their support for Trayvon’s family as well as their opinion of the verdict.
7. Acknowledge that people of Color (and their allies) have worked hard to end racism and that it’s time for more White people to take a stand. People of color will back them up, I promise.
8. Start an email petition and send it to your White friends.
9. Wear a hoodie in protest/solidarity.
10. Post a sign on your house, car, work that expresses your stand on the verdict and your support of Trayvon’s family.
11. Have a discussion at your place of employment, school, or community organization; discuss how you’re feeling about this, and, most importantly, identify ways people can take action.
12. Write a letter to the editor asking that White people take a step beyond expressing their outrage and use their power and privilege to take action.
13. Talk to your local Teatro or Street Theater Group, asking them to take action by putting on a special community performance intended to raise awareness and to encourage taking action.
14. Organize a protest at your local “justice center,” intended to educate people, not to promote a confrontation. Pass out information that helps, not hurts the cause. Be prepared for a confrontation if it happens. Write the phone number of your lawyer on your hand, just in case you are arrested.
15. Create artwork to share with others. Write a poem, a story, build a sculpture, paint or take a picture, build an alter, write a song, make some jewelry, etc.
16. Pray for the oppressors, that they might soon connect with the source of their aggression, and heal enough to change their behavior. As some members of the Lafayette Latino Boys Group concluded, “…Maybe some people are racist because they don’t feel good about themselves. Maybe somebody hurt them when they were younger. Maybe ending racism involves helping the oppressor feel better about themselves so they don’t want to hurt others.”
17. Organize anti-racism discussion groups amongst your friends and then, as a group, identify ways to involve people who may not be your friends.
18. Learn as much as you can about racism and other forms of oppression. Be aware that feel uncomfortable is part of the learning process. Share what you learn with others.
19. Organize or join a book or movie discussion group.
20. Organize a film, poetry, music, or dance festival that promotes a more just society.
21. Write an op-ed piece in the daily newspaper.
22. Sign the NAACP petition asking the Justice Department to file federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman.
23. Support grass roots social justice organizations in your area.
24. Contact elders in the struggle to ask for wisdom – – what do we do now?
25. Send this list of ideas out to all of your family, friends and associates in other cities/states/countries via email or social networking. Encourage them to add to our list and/or start the movement within their own networks.
26. Every person of $$means$$ who cares about the Black community should help raise the money to start a constructive, non-dogmatic Not-For-Profit organization that serves Black boys. And it should be named in some way after Trayvon Martin.
27. Additionally, constructive organizations that are already working on this issue should consider changing their name.
28. Do something non- violent and as public as possible. That said, timing is most important this summer to find the pressure points of Congress — write Congress, broaden your network to get to make contact with them, to pass the necessary legislation to reinstate and expand section 4b of the Voting Rights Act. The sacrifices that people made for the right to vote in the south, the lives lost, just 50 years ago….Race and democracy still needs to be front and center in any social justice actions.
29. Do something to build a stronger Black- Brown (defined as Hispanic/Chicano/Latino) coalitions. Between the recent action on the Voting Rights Act and the floundering immigration bill, there seems to be a right time—now— for a stronger and empowering conversation and action plan. Dividing up our coalitions and or only aligning ourselves for elected candidates and fundraising for their causes isn’t enough.
30. Or take on “17 things I will do” to remind oneself, learn something more about the case law, how it might impact your local public policy issues, etc. and also take steps to send a message about what you learn.
31. Align forces and strategies in your local county to see at least one person of Color is elected to a county-wide office in the next five years.
32. Read Raymond Rodriquez, “Decade of Betrayal”, about the deportation of Mexican-Americans during the Great Depression; and discuss as a diverse community group.
33. Watch the new series The Bridge, a fascinating new drama on FX about Mexico and Texas border issues; meet and discuss weekly episodes.
Final thought about the above list in general: So maybe you order the list by things to do Now, starting this week…and then things to do during the school year or later…..There are some things on the list that are actions of longer term, like Reading to End Racism activity, for example.
If you have questions about any of the above ideas, please contact Daniel Escalante.
Things I would add to this list:
34. In every community in the United States, there are examples of the police brutalizing young people of Color with impunity. In Minneapolis, Terrance Franklin was murdered by police and clearly covered up the event to avoid prosecution. In Denver, Alonzo Ashley was murdered by police for the crime of suffering from heat stroke while spending time with his girlfriend at the zoo. In Oakland, Oscar Grant was shot in the back by police on CAMERA for riding the subway and (allegedly) participating in a fight. In all of these cases (and in countless others), police were let off scott free. Join the voices of committed activists who are calling on county prosecutors through the country to prosecute criminal police who are brutalizing communities of Color.
35. Read “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander with friends and family and discuss the book’s findings and the implications for criminal “justice” in our communities.
Only when we rise up together and act for justice will we see the change we want to see in the world around us.
Please share our ideas for action in the comments below.
Update: Check out these fantastic suggestions from Racism Review.