Protestors on bridge with one holding up a cardboard sign reading "silence is violence", highlighting the ways we can support BLM without money
Activism

8 Ways to Support BLM Without Money or Protesting

Many of us understand the profound importance of supporting anti-racism. However, not everybody is in the same position to lend support to the Black Lives Matter movement in the two most obvious ways: donating money and protesting.

What if you don’t have the financial means to donate money or the physical ability to join a march?

At the same time, some people may have dropped $20 in a campaign and marched in one protest but have since lost track of what’s been happening with the movement.

What if you want to make supporting the Movement for Black Lives part of your sustained struggle as an intersectional feminist?

Here are eight simple, meaningful, and ongoing ways you can make anti-racism an integral part of your politics.

1. Decolonize Your Mind

The first and most powerful thing you can do without having to join a march or leave your home is to start a lifelong journey towards decolonizing your mind.

Decolonial scholar Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o first wrote about decolonizing the mind as a foundational practice for African independence. He believed that language is central to our definition of ourselves in relation to the entire universe. By reclaiming African languages, Ngũgĩ believed Africa could restore the dignity of its philosophy, art, and culture.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is a Kenyan anti-colonial writer who has theorized and promoted the importance of decolonizing your mind, which is the first step to support BLM without money or protesting
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o reads excerpts from his work in both Gikuyu and English during a presentation in the Coolidge Auditorium, May 9, 2019. Photograph by Shawn Miller for the Library of Congress.

bell hooks has also written about decolonizing the mind numerous times in her books and argues that it’s vital to Black people’s self-esteem. According to hooks, the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy socializes everybody to hate Blackness, which impedes the emotional well-being of Black people.

Decolonizing your mind means letting go of the habits and ideologies that hold marginalized people back from self-determination. It requires cultivating the capacity to think critically and live consciously.

Black people need decolonization to challenge the internalized racial inferiority learned through white supremacist culture.

Those of us who are not Black need to challenge our internalized racial superiority and anti-Blackness.

Learning to love Blackness when almost everything else in our culture tells us that we should fear, envy, and revile it is not an easy nor quick process.

Decolonizing the mind begins with educating yourself. This site offers a wealth of resources to get you started.

What if you find a book you’d like to read but you can’t afford to buy it?

Check if your local library has a copy either available on their shelves or for interlibrary loan (as in they’ll get a sister library to send their copy over for you).

Most libraries also accept book requests from their members. Look for a page on their website like “recommend a title” or “suggest new material” (usually located on or near the contact page) and fill out the form.

reading support blm without money
Photograph by Polina Zimmerman

2. Check Your Privilege

Take the time to identify and understand your privileges.

What makes our privileges what they are is that we usually don’t need to think about them. For example, I don’t need to think about my physical safety around police officers because of both my light-skinned privilege as a Chinese Australian woman and my class privilege where I can easily present myself as ‘respectful’ through my dress, deportment, and speech.

Checking our privilege requires that we understand it’s not a personal accusation or attack. Privileges are not things we choose to have and they’re not things we can give away. Having privileges don’t automatically make you a bad person (nor does being oppressed automatically make you a good one).

What matters is how you use your privilege.

If you’re racially privileged like I am, you can use your privilege to draw awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement. Talk to your friends and relatives who may not be totally aware of the struggle.

Even if all you can do is send them a link to an article written at a level you think they’d understand, they’d be much more likely to read it than a random article that pops up in their news feeds.

However, let go of any expectation or responsibility that you need to ‘make’ your friends and relatives anti-racist.

While you’re more likely to meet them at their level, understand their confusions and objections, don’t take on the burden that you should be enlisting them in the anti-racist revolution after one conversation.

Start small, plant a seed with an article, a message, a resource, and give your loved ones room to grow on their own.

3. Follow and Listen To Black People

Take the time to stay informed about what’s happening in Black communities in your country, state, city, and neighborhood.

The official Black Lives Matter movement website is the best resource for staying up to date with U.S. news or follow them on your favorite social media platforms.

During the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd, many Australians believed racialized police brutality was a problem ‘over there’ in the United States and had nothing to do with us.

Some were later shocked and embarrassed to learn that we’ve had 437 deaths of Aboriginal people in custody after a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991.

Indigenous activists had to remind us that Bla(c)k lives matter in Australia too.

A week before the death of George Floyd in Brazil, 14-year-old João Pedro Mattos Pinto was killed by police in Rio de Janeiro. Police have since also been caught on camera assaulting a Black woman and bar owner and a capoeira mestre in the city of São Paulo.

Black lives matter everywhere.

Stay aware and informed.

Be a witness if you have to be (again, if you have racial privilege, your testimony may carry significant weight).

Share events and occurrences via social media, water cooler chats, and everyday conversation. Every little mention boosts social awareness and reminds everybody of the importance of staying engaged in this struggle.

4. Amplify the Voices of Black Thinkers, Educators, Activists, Artists

Actively seek out and follow Black people who advocate for Black lives.

Be their PR person for a day: share their posts, tweets, essays, podcasts, videos, and courses with your social network.

Here on this blog, you’ll find countless examples of Black intellectual excellence. Why don’t you start with my primer on the visionary feminist bell hooks?

Take this Open Yale course by Professor Jonathan Holloway on ‘African American History: From Emancipation to the Present’.

Find out if Black people are running any courses in your local area. You may not be able to afford to enroll in a course yourself, but you might be able to find anti-racist educators who you could introduce to your organization. Many organizations have a training and development budget that could cover the cost of having a Black trainer run a workshop for their employees.

Black filmmakers have been producing anti-racist films and documentaries for decades.

Black artists have created unspeakably beautiful works that you should experience, share, and patronize (if you’re fortunate to be able to do so!).

If you love fashion, @ausindigenousfashion is a gorgeous Instagram account showcasing Australia’s Indigenous fashion community:

5. Support Black-Owned Businesses

Racial inequality doesn’t only exist in disparities with criminal (in)justice. Economic disadvantage systemically marginalizes Black people’s ability to find work, get paid, get promoted, stay employed, seek funding, start businesses, and provide their goods and services.

Histories of colonialism and racism mean that Black people tend to lack the social capital necessary to create successful businesses. Customers also tend to perceive Black entrepreneurs as less ‘legitimate’ than white entrepreneurs and are less likely to patronize Black businesses. (The sheer number of corporate scandals and criminal offenses committed by white-owned businesses makes this racist assumption particularly irrational).

Websites like Black Wallet, Five Fifths, Official Black Wall Street, and We Buy Black offer directories of Black-owned businesses.

Eat Okra is an app that shows you Black-owned restaurants in the United States.

Following the Black Lives Matter protests during June 2020, both Google and Yelp now show icons indicating if a business is Black-owned to make it even easier to direct your money to Black people.

Alongside our patronage of Black-owned businesses, we can continue to have critical and nuanced debates about the role of capitalism in reproducing white supremacy. The solution need not be to go off the grid overnight and never buy anything again (if it is for you, power to you!).

We can simply start with being more intentional about where we invest our resources alongside the consistent, never-ending work of decolonizing our minds.

A sign at a protest saying "intersectional feminism is the only feminism", highlighting the many ways we can support BLM without money or protesting, such as through making signs
Photograph by Marc Novell

6. Be A Resource for Protestors

Even if you can’t join in on marches, lend your time and efforts in other ways.

Can you provide food, water, sunscreen, first aid kits, or other supplies that would be a welcome relief for people who have been marching, standing, and carrying signs for long hours? You could either deliver these to organizers before the protest or provide them on-site.

If you live near the site of a rally, can you offer a parking space for people who need to drive or deliver supplies to the protest? Can you also offer your home as a refuge for protestors in case they come into conflict with law enforcement and the situation escalates?

If you’re crafty, could you make a sign or two for protestors to carry?

Consider other skills and knowledge you might have. Lawyers can offer free legal advice to protestors about their rights. Savvy social media marketers and users could offer to help promote protests or create and run fundraising campaigns.

7. Process Your Guilt and Shame

We’re all grieving the loss of Black lives, angry at the state of our white supremacist world, and trying our best to heal from racial trauma.

Guilt and shame are common emotions that can come up for many people.

Take a moment to center and ground yourself when you feel overwhelmed. Ask yourself, what is one small thing I can do right now? If the answer is rest, do it. Then ask yourself that question again tomorrow.

Be aware of the pitfall of falling into spirals of shame.

Some people imagine that they should be marching in a protest every weekend. Or that they should be donating giant sums of money to every fund and not-for-profit. They then beat themselves up for not meeting that standard.

Don’t fall into that trap. Especially if you’re racially privileged, I’d like to gently invite you to consider the ways those forms of despair are culturally engrained practices that recenter our emotional fragility over Black lives.

Do what you can and don’t treat activism as a competition.

I’d also like to invite you to check in and ask yourself if any feelings of shame about not doing enough have led you to denigrate activists who you perceived to be doing more?

If so, could you celebrate and support them? Send them a message and express how proud you are that they’re fighting for Black lives when you couldn’t join them on the frontlines.

They’re likely also feeling like they didn’t do enough and that they could do more. Your kindness might be exactly the care they need right now.

Finally, if you did donate or join a protest, but mostly because it seemed everybody in your social circle was doing so and you didn’t want people to think you’re racist, could you also let go of your shame?

Come back to this post anytime and start from #1 and make your way down the list. As long as you stay engaged and committed to the struggle, even if you’re not the one who’s seemingly leading the march or running the fundraiser, you’re contributing to the fight for racial justice.

A woman lying on her stomach on a bed wearing a green silk shirt and texting on her phone, representing how she can support BLM without money or protesting by supporting her friends who can donate and march
Photograph by Retha Ferguson

8. Vote

If you’re eligible to vote, vote for the representatives who have a track record for supporting Black lives (and not just say they do).

Vote in the federal, state, and local council levels (sometimes we forget just how much power local councils have for day-to-day material changes).

Do not settle for the status quo. Relish democracy as long as we are fortunate enough to have it.

Learn More

Official website for the Black Lives Matter movement and @Blklivesmatter on Twitter

Featured image by Life Matters

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