In ‘20 we grieved, In ‘21 we learned, In ‘22 we started to make adjustments
This year we get intentionally local
A 2023 plan to support Black lives in your community
January: Observe Martin Luther King Jr. day - by staying far away from social media. Do not share a single meme. Instead, actually read Martin Luther King Jr’s work. May I suggest, Letter From A Birmingham Jail or Why We Can’t Wait. Read slowly. Journal your responses. Let it start your transformation.
February: Be a Canadian that resists the myth that historical oppression of Black bodies only occurred in the United States. Do this by engaging and supporting the work of historian Natasha Henry. Commit to learning something new about Canadian Black history. Start here. Your life will be enriched.
March: Observe the places where you spend the most time. Let’s call it your context — your job, school, office, sports team, kids’ activity, congregation or neighbourhood. Be observant within your context to find, and listen to, the Black voices around you.
Is there a Brother in your office who is often quiet?
Is there a Sister in your department who keeps getting interrupted during meetings?
Is there a Black parent on your kid’s sports team?
Do you know of any Black folks in your context who are new(er) to Canada?
Buy them a coffee. Get to know them. Ask about their story - with no agenda. Offer as few opinions as possible. Be mindful of your potential defensiveness.
April: Connect with these folks again. This time, buy them a meal.
When the time is right, ask this one question: When it comes to the betterment of Black lives, what is an important issue to you right now? I promise you, if you have any built up any trust, you will receive a meaningful answer. You will be guided away from the hot button controversial nonsense and steered towards relevant issues.
May: Take a break from social media. Clear your head. Spend your newfound time engaging the issue your local voice gave to you. Read, listen and learn. The time away from social will help you resist the temptation to broadcast your new knowledge before you’ve had time to process. Instead, prepare yourself to speak to real people within your context. You’ve got some important conversations ahead of you. Remind yourself: You are only responsible for speaking up, not winning an argument.
June: Start to share what you are learning to relevant people in your context. Questions are a great way to start. (“Interesting that you should bring up that movie, did you know that many Black people find it offensive?” / “I’ve been reading this fascinating book lately. Could I share with you a couple of ideas that stood out to me?”)
Note: This part of the plan is not meant to arm you for conflict. Yes, interrupting racist behaviour is necessary, and it is not an easy thing to navigate, but prepared for fight often leads to hopefully allies picking the wrong battles.
The loudest opponents to the key issues that concern Black folks are not always the biggest threat. Instead, it often is those who are mired in ignorance or indifference. This plan is about helping people ‘know better’ so they can ‘do better.’ Be a person that graciously helps others to learn.
July: Connect your circle to some Black businesses that could use some support. Host a BBQ for your friends. Buy products from these businesses and talk them up to your guests. Be genuine. Find products you like. Enjoy the search.
August: Begin strategically doing random acts of kindness for Black people in your context. Be anonymous. Be generous.Yes, this is a daunting idea, but it is also the most exciting. It is a chance to use your creativity to bless others. You can start anywhere -- big or small, individually or in a group (For the record, I really really like Donut Monster). From there, kindness is contagious. Be the spark of kindness, and bless Black lives in your context.
September: Book one or two meetings with the Principals from your local schools.
Ask them two things:
What are the needs of the Black students in your school?
What are your plans for the betterment of their lives this year?
This could get uncomfortable. You may have some awkward silences. Be willing to sit through them.
October: Book a meeting with both your MP and MPP. Ask them the same questions. Be prepared for it to get even more uncomfortable.
November: Start encouraging your school, community, church or organization to prepare for Black History Month. December is lost to the holiday and in January those who have yet to start are scrambling. Remember your conversations in April? You now know some real issues where you can direct attention.
Ask meaningful questions of your organization: What do we need to learn? What are some things about Black history that we can celebrate? How can we involve local Black communities in ways that are mutually beneficial?
Connect with local voices. Avoid the massive event. You do not need to create a show.
Make plans to reconvene in January. There will be much more energy for February because you got something done this month.
December: Bless your family and friends with some colourful gifts. Do your holiday shopping by supporting Black artists, writers & creators. This does not have to be forced - just do some research. If your Dad likes country music, there is certainly a Black country singer you can find. If your Mom likes skincare, there are plenty Black owned business that would be worthy options. If you have any readers in your family, there are Black authors for every genre (and there are worlds to discover through organizations like this). Enjoy the search, open some eyes and tell the story of your journey.
In 2023, let’s get intentional about loving local — relationally, financially and politically. This plan was not for your platform or to enhance ego. This plan is not designed to be monetized as social media content. This is about meaningful change for Black lives. For all our grieving, pondering and conversing in the last three years, we have the chance to make intentional and meaningful change. Are you ready to take some steps?
Yes, I did borrow this idea from Dave Chappelle’s “Kindness Conspiracy,” presented on Saturday Night Live Whatever you think of Dave’s recent work, he is right about this: “Random acts of kindness for Black people. Do something nice for a Black person, just because they’re Black. And you gotta make sure they don’t deserve it… The same way all them years, they did terrible things to Black people, just because they’re Black - and they didn’t deserve it.”
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Love the structure of the piece, it feels like a road map. What an excellent resource! This is something so tangible I feel I can refer back to again and again.
Insightful and thought-provoking. Thank you for the suggestions that I may not have considered otherwise.