Carrying the torch into 2021: Advocacy under new leadership
4 ways to take action in 2021
TL/DR: 2020 was a challenging year, but it inspired us to make a difference in our communities. Carry the torch into 2021 by breaking down big goals into small, achievable tasks that you can do every day.
2020 was the year that tested us on so many levels. The global pandemic challenged us to focus on gratitude as we stayed at home and dealt with our collective grief. This past year called us into action, reminding us that anything we have to offer in support of our communities counts.
The Black Lives Matter movement spread globally and increased our collective awareness of racial justice (and the systemic lack thereof). Natural disasters, like the wildfires that painted the sky orange in Australia and the West Coast of the United States, put climate change in perspective.
On top of all of that, we experienced an historic election. Millions of us showed up at the polls ready to make changes to the current administration. LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, and economic relief all hung in the balance, and the ballot came to mean more than we ever thought possible.
We made it through a rough year, and now we’re stronger than ever. As we enter into a new presidency and, hopefully, a more positive 2021, it’s critical that we take this energy with us and continue to self-educate and take actionable steps to create change in our communities.
Here are four ways to water the many seeds that we planted in 2020 and continue to advocate for positive change in the new year.
1. Be willing to learn about important issues
Make an effort to read books, browse articles, watch movies, or listen to podcasts that help you learn more about the issues you care about. Even ten minutes of reading, listening, or watching per day adds up to much greater awareness in the long run.
It’s important to embrace progress instead of perfection. With all the information available out there, it’s impossible to know everything or to be an expert on every issue. What matters most is the willingness to keep learning and the humility to keep shifting your perspective, working to understand ideas that seem completely new or foreign.
Approach issues such as Black Lives Matter, gender pronouns, menstrual equity, and medical racism with curiosity and care instead of pride. In uplifting the lives and voices of disenfranchised people, we have to set aside our egos and humbly listen for ways to make a difference.
2. Pass the mic
Allies have the important task of speaking out against racial microaggressions, erasure of gender-diverse people, and any number of other subtle-yet-important instances of injustice that take place in social settings. Even if these things don’t affect you (in fact, especially if you were born into a position of privilege), using your voice to show your support will help create a safer environment for others.
If you’ve mastered your own voice and advocacy, that doesn’t mean your work is done: It’s also important to pass the mic, especially when people of color, women, and queer folx need space for their stories and perspectives to be heard. Practice saying the phrase, “Thank you for sharing” when people with less privilege speak up about their experiences.
Listen actively for ways to make changes to policies, rules, or the status quo. When injustice occurs, ask the people who are harmed what kind of support they need and find ways to make it happen. Zoom meetings are a good place to start:
If you notice that one of your white colleagues is dominating the conversation while other BIPOC colleagues are also trying to pitch their ideas, for example, send a quick note in the chat. Here’s a template you can use: “[Insert colleagues’ names here] was trying to say something. Let’s listen to their ideas.”
3. Be kind to yourself, first – then spread kindness to others
When we take care of ourselves, we have more capacity to take care of those around us. So, first things first: Get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, and eat nourishing foods. Think back to those iconic Snickers commercials — you aren’t yourself when you slack on your self-care routine.
Self-care doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It can come in many forms: shopping for new underwear, watering your plants, practicing yoga with instructors on YouTube, and so much more. Kindness towards yourself will inspire kindness towards those around you. And, right now, the world needs every last bit of kindness we can muster.
When we do eventually make it past this pandemic, take care to show nurses, delivery people, restaurant kitchen staff, and other essential workers a little extra appreciation. If you’re getting takeout or you’re finally able to eat at a restaurant, make sure to leave a generous tip.
When speaking to customer support specialists on the phone, try to ask how their day is going and make friendly conversation. Thank them generously for making time for your call and helping you solve your problems. While grocery shopping, do everything you can to comply with the store’s social distancing procedures to make less work for the folks who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities fed.
4. Integrate advocacy into your daily routine
It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true: Little by little, if we each do our part, the world becomes a safer, better place for all of us to live. The key to making a difference is knowing how to break up these big goals into bite-sized, achievable tasks.
Find an accountability partner who can help you stay on top of one task per day. Here are a few examples of daily tasks that make a difference:
- Donate $1 per day to an organization that you care about (we included a few suggestions below).
- Post one thing on social media that can be informative to your friends and family.
- Read about an important issue for 10 minutes.
- Take 5 minutes to write about what happens when you dedicate time and energy towards advocacy. You’ll be surprised at how much positivity it can bring into your life!
- Vote with your wallet! Support small, local, and minority-owned businesses instead of buying from big box stores.
As the headlines on the news seem to get crazier by the day and as we watch history being shaped before our eyes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed: Sometimes, it feels like everything is out of our control. But it isn’t. Each and every one of us has the power to change the world.
First, take care of yourself. Read. Watch. Listen. Immerse yourself in varying perspectives, stories, and narratives and work to develop a deeper level of empathy. Encourage healthy conversation among friends and family. Take little, consistent steps. Before you know it, things will start to happen and you’ll get to enjoy that priceless feeling: Knowing you did your part to make the world a better place.
Resources, petitions, & organizations to support
BLM & CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM:
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Movement for Black Lives
- Color of Change
- The National Council For Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls
- Coalition for Rainforest Nations
- ITIF’s Clean Energy Innovation Policy Program
- Climate Emergency Fund