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Turning Words Into Action

I have always prided myself on being informed, but, after listening, researching and looking inward this past week, I’ve realized that I still have a lot to learn (and unlearn) about being a true ally. That’s uncomfortable to admit. The perfectionist in me never wants to do or say the wrong thing. But I’m realizing that the only way to move forward in a meaningful way is to be willing to sit in that discomfort and learn from it.

This past week I’ve been opening the pages of suggested books on anti-racism, engaging in uncomfortable conversations and digging further into the products and platforms that I support. What I found showed me that I need to be doing a lot more to ensure that I’m listening to and empowering a diverse community. 

For example, I consider myself an advocate for the earth yet am unfamiliar with many black environmental activists and how their perspectives can advance my understanding of the issues I care about. I often recommend products here on the blog, but few are made by BIPOC. In the last week, I’ve discovered so many black-owned brands who are making beautiful products that rarely get the press or support they deserve. I need to do a better job of seeking out diverse companies and perspectives—whether that’s beauty products, experts or clothing brands. It’s made me recognize that I sometimes default to what is easy, or what I’m already familiar with, and don’t do all the research that I should.

So where do I go from here? What can I DO moving forward? This is not a short-term party, this is a long-term marathon. I’m still just scratching the surface. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes. There is a lot to learn and there is no overnight fix. But I am committed to educating myself and my family to be part of the solution, however long it takes. I pledge to be more mindful of who I’m supporting, who I’m connecting with, and how I’m using my voice and my platforms. 

Below are some of the steps I’ve been taking to turn my talk into action this week, as well as some of the valuable resources I’ve been sharing in my Instagram Stories. I’d love to hear about any actions you’re taking or resources you’ve found to help turn this shared moment into a movement for real change.

 

Who I’m Following

A meaningful way to support and better understand the perspectives of BIPOC is to watch, read and share the inspiring content they are already creating. I’ve learned A TON from so many of the anti-racists educators, activists and artists that I was introduced to over the last week. It’s made me re-evaluate what I want to see in my feed and how I can use my platform to amplify a more diverse range of voices and ideas. My new must-follows: 

Mikaela Loach

Green Girl Leah

Mary Heglar

The Conscious Kid

Sustainable Brooklyn

Rachel Ricketts

Michelle Saahene

Privilege to Progress

Layla F. Saad

Climate in Colour

Whitney R. McGuire

Dominque Drakeford

 

What I’m buying

Supporting more black-owned businesses with my pocketbook and my platforms can make a real impact. One of my favorite finds this past week is BLK + GRN, an all-natural marketplace by all black artisans that sells a curated selection of everything from skincare and nail polish to organic tea. I also signed this petition, which calls on major retailers to pledge 15 percent of their shelf space to black-owned businesses. Sephora has already committed and I hope to see many more retailers follow their lead. If you’re not sure where to start, the apps EatOkra and Official Black Wall Street can help you find local black-owned restaurants and businesses to support in your neighborhood.  

 

What I’m Reading

Between the World and Me is a powerful book written by Ta-Nehisi Coates as a letter to his teenage son. It’s opened my eyes to what it’s like to raise a black child in the current climate in America. And reminded me how important it is to read stories and perspectives that are different from my own. He truly is one of the most talented writers I have ever read. And I loved his journey and retelling it to his son. It’s a journey that is thought-provoking and indelible.

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo is an uncomfortable, but essential read. The author breaks down the culture of racism and provides answers and actionable ideas on how we can move forward and work together to dismantle racism.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. I’ve learned a lot from Oluo’s honesty. I appreciate that she’s incredibly straightforward and never tries to sugarcoat this difficult and complex topic. 

 

Where I’m donating 

The Loveland Foundation. Founded by educator and activist Rachel Cargle, this organization provides financial support to black women and girls so they can access therapy and mental health support. I was happy to make a pledge.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund helps provide legal assistance to poor African Americans and is dedicated to bringing greater justice to all Americans through education, policy research and coalition building.

 

More helpful resources:

 

Change starts with all of us. Let’s keep up the momentum.

 

 
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9 Comments

  • Suzanne

    Thank you Gen. I have felt completely overwhelmed by my ignorance. I have been trying to listen and read, I hope your resources give me a better jumping off point. ❤️

  • Marion

    Well done, beautiful initiative 👍❤️🇨🇵

  • Erin

    Thank you for this – I’ve been finding and sharing resources to everyone I know on all my social media platforms and I love finding others’ resources to pass on. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a teacher, it’s that information can sometimes be the best way for me to plant seeds of change into others’ minds . . . would that I could change more 🙁

    Another organization I’ve been looking at is ACLU – the American Civil Liberties Union. They focus on many different civil liberties issues – from the current issues that have been plaguing us for a LONG while to other issues such as capital punishment, LGBTQ+ issues, and the like. 🙂

  • Michaela Kilbride

    Hey Gen,

    I teach Drama in the UK. I teach about Racism. I explore it through Acting & Performance. I feel I have been an activist for a long time. I have rallied on behalf of Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in London by four white men and the police did nothing. It took his parents bringing war down on institutionalised racism in the MET Police then hismkillers were arrested. But I don’t think it solved anything. I do work about him most years for the last 17 years of teaching. I teach about Matthew Shepard ‘The Laramie Project’ a very powerful play written on behalf of Matthew because he was murdered by two white men for being gay. I even had his mum write me an email thanking me for teaching about Matthew when I satrted teacjing about him 17 years ago. The play and Matthew’s story is on my Drama curriculum every year, it is going nowhere! Whilst I can agree I need to read more Black Literature, although I have ready many plays, I cannot help but feel everyone has come out an felt horrified, protested, been angry, wanting justice BUT I ask myself ‘Why now?? What happended to George Floyd didn’t just happen, we have had numerous individuals murdered by police for a long time and we would have a little noise then it fades somehow. Then this happens to this lovely man and everyone rallies. In my head I am thinking, yes we need to take action on behalf of GEORGE FLOYD and what he went through but what about the others. We need to recognise that the deep foundations of politics, systemic ideology in the police, and the conversations we have with individuals in our lives that we can then begin to change this situation. I just think racism is a cowards disgusting bad habit and it makes me so angry when I hear these horrific stories. I am looking into how I can help now as my school haven’t gone back because of COVID 19. So I am generating resources on YouTube, instagram activists, literature to read and images to look at to send to my students to educate themselves and try to empower even just one of them. Sorry for the rant – not aimed at you at all. I love what you have said, I love you have given us so many people and resources to look through and I appreciate how you feel about the situation. I too like you Gen would like to be part of the solution 🙂 Love to you and your family 💜

  • Valerie Goike

    This was a great article. I have also been doing my own research by reading I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown.

  • Robin Tomblin

    It’s important that you are taking positive steps and discussing these as we all need to try and do as much as possible to eradicate racial bias in this country and you provided a way for all of us to try and make a difference.

  • Elina

    Hi, Gen! I don’t live in the USA, but I live in the same world that Americans live in. It is clear that racism is there, as well as here, and like in the rest of the world. It is a cancer that is eaten by people in America, in Europe and in every corner of the world. It is painful, sad, and unworthy that things like these still happen today. But it is comforting that there are people like you, interested people, people who care about educating while educating themselves. I consider myself a young woman who has a lot to learn about many topics. I am happy to know that through your blog, through your thoughts and your feelings, people like me can deconstruct themselves and begin to build a healthier mind, open and prepared to defend the rights that must be defended. Thank you for helping us educate ourselves more correctly. I think that is the way to generate real change, together. Thanks, Gen!

  • Kim Jacobs

    Thank you for leading the way with this. It’s important that we all, at the very least, commit to educating ourselves and our children on the issues facing the oppressed. I believe that everyone should be treated equally, that no one should be targetted or persecuted because of the colour of their skin, religious beliefs or gender preference. It’s strange, I never really considered myself a person of privilege but the more I understand about the Black Lives Matter movement, the more I see what the meaning of the word ‘privilege’ means.

    We can’t all protest, or write eloquent speeches, but we can set ourselves on the path to education and changing ourselves, and hopefully those around us.

  • ADELE THOMSON

    I agree with a lot of what you are saying but now the situation is out of hand. The protests have gotten ugly and many people have been hurt and killed. Businesses have been burned down and it’s done in the name of BLM. ANTIFA has joined in and they are terrorizing the country. Policemen and their families are being harmed. What are your thoughts on this? All lives matter.

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