Amid all the recent social unrest, so many of us are wondering, what can I do to make the world a better place? To make the question more complex, we are also in the middle of a global pandemic. Covid-19, the novel Coronavirus, has ravaged our entire world. For months we have all been in quarantine, quietly getting caught up on much-needed rest only to be rudely awakened to a harsh reminder of how far we have to go as a country as it relates to race relations.
Here are five ways you can be the change you want to see while also staying safe.
Register to Vote.
I know we say this about every election year, but for real people, 2020, is an important election year! 2020 is a presidential election year, but also be on the lookout for local and statewide elections. In Memphis, we are voting for court clerk, school board, state representatives, and more. Hopefully, we will be able to vote without leaving the house. Last week, a Davidson County Chancellor ruled that Tennessee’s limits on absentee voting during the pandemic constitute “an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.” Friday, the State of Tennessee appealed the ruling of the Chancellor. If all goes well, hopefully, we will be able to absentee vote by mail, stay on the couch, AND continue binge-watching Hulu from your cousin’s account. Bonus, if you know a young person that recently turned 18, make sure they are informed and registered to vote. Not sure if you are registered? Check your voter registration status or register to vote at www.vote.org.
Support a Community Bail Fund program.
In recent years, the money bail system has been a topic of conversation in many spaces. The advocates against money bail suggest that it places an undue burden on the poor. Every day, 465,000 people are held in local jails even though they have not been convicted, and because most of them can’t simply afford bail. Always remember that bail is not a punishment for committing a crime, but merely an assurance that a person, charged with a crime, will return to court. People hear the word “bail” and wonder why they should donate money to help a “criminal.” What if I told you there are people in our community being held in jail for non-violent offenses, like protesting against racism and police brutality. Would that change your mind? If so, you can donate to local community bail programs such as Just City and the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.
Systemic racism and inequality are evident when discussing the racial wealth gap. By 2053, the median wealth for Black families is projected to fall to zero. One way you can get involved in closing this gap is by being intentional about supporting black-owned businesses, hiring black vendors, and attending black events in Memphis. Purchase an annual subscription to Tri-State Defender newspaper, or open a checking account at Tri-State Bank. Make it a custom in your business that all RFP’s and RFQ’s must be shared with at least two black vendors. Need help finding more information? Check out Memphis BBD, Buy901, Downtown Memphis Commission Black-Owned Business Directory, and cdcoevents.com.
The best defenses we currently have to Covid-19 are practicing social-distancing, cleaning our hands, and wearing masks. If you are a protestor, attempt to utilize these weapons in the fight against the virus. Also remember that it is hot in Memphis, so stay hydrated.
If being in the streets and protesting ain’t your thing, consider offering protestor support. Please consider donating items such as masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, water, and first aid kits to the Black Lives Matter Memphis chapter and Indivisible Memphis.
Lead the Challenging Conversation.
Say it with me, BLACK LIVES MATTER. We have to have difficult conversations with our folks. Whether it is your family, friend, co-worker, or classmate, use your voice to educate our “ALL LIVES MATTER” loved ones. How many times have you decided to be silent instead of making people uncomfortable? I know I have done it more times than I care to remember. Fifty plus years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King right here in Memphis, we still struggle to find the words to have meaningful cross-cultural conversations in our community. We have to have difficult conversations, mane. Host a family dinner, set up a zoom call with friends, post your experiences on social media, throw a surprise intervention for people struggling to understand Black Lives Matter. Conversations and being vocal about experiences allow us to start examining our various privileges and realize how our privileges enable us to see the world.
2020 has not given us the clear vision that its name promised. This year has been difficult, complicated, and we have to get through this as safe as possible as a country. We are truly fighting two pandemics at one time, and we have to be careful and safe to minimize the casualties of these invisible wars. Rest in peace to all those that have lost their lives to these wars already—may those that are able, continue to fight the good fight until your work here is done.