What to Do About Charlottesville

Help folks targeted by those who would erase them

When I feel hopeless and impotent, the quickest cure is to be of service in some way. When I read the news of the disgusting (and wholly unsurprising, for those who’ve been following along at home) racist march in Charlottesville, I wanted to know how I could help.

Well, first I got angry.

And I said some unkind things.

(I honestly feel pretty okay about most of those things.)

But then I remembered the other part, the part where I feel better when I do something. Maybe it’s selfish in a sense, but if it helps folks, maybe it’s the good kind of selfish. Anyway, some simple Google searching led me to write a Twitter thread on local nonprofits. But since not everybody is on Twitter, I figured I’d write a quick blog post that you can share on FB, via email, or however you like. Here are some places that would likely be grateful for your support during this troubling time (and, to be honest, at any time — nonprofits can usually use the help.)

Disclaimer: I don’t work for any of these organizations and I’ve never worked with them. But I found some good information online that pointed to them as important pillars of the community (and a few suggestions came through after I wrote my original thread), so I’m sharing them here. Hope you’ll find something that appeals to you. Even a little bit of money helps.

NAACP Albemarle-Charlottesville (Branch 7057) merged two NAACP branches in 2001. The Albemarle branch was founded in 1953 and the Charlottesville branch in 1947.

Black Student Alliance at UVA is doing the work (consider sharing some kind words on Twitter, too.)

Charlottesville Pride is an LGBTQ organization that runs a variety of programs and events in Charlottesville.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic serves various communities, Charlottesville among them.

National Organization for Women, Charlottesville chapter seeks to empower women in Charlottesville and beyond.

Meals on Wheels of Charlottesville serves nutritious meals to many individuals, particularly homebound seniors who may have no other visitors.

African American Teaching Fellows is an organization working to increase diversity among teaching staff in a system where only 10% of educators are African-America.

Brody Jewish Center of the University of Virginia is the Hillel branch at UVA (and here’s a good primer on the long history of the Jewish community in Charlottesville, thanks to the Institute of Southern Jewish Life).

Congregation Beth Israel is the only synagogue in Albemarle County. Drop them a kind email and tell them you’d like to donate.

IMPACT Charlottesville is an interfaith organization working for social justice.

The Women’s Initiative provides mental healthcare to women regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.

The Arc of the Piedmont helps adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Virginia Centers for Independent Living comprise an organization that helps adults with disabilities to lead independent lives as full members of their communities.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge provides mentorship to young people in the Charlottesville area.

Piedmont Housing Alliance helps diverse clientele in the Charlottesville area access affordable housing and attain financial solubility and independence.

Legal Aid Justice Center provides legal assistance to low-income individuals and seeks equal justice for all who live in Virginia.

Beloved Community Charlottesville specifically seeks to meet hatred with love in a very creative way.

The Haven provides respite and care for homeless folks in downtown Charlottesville.

Interntional Rescue Committee has an office in Charlottesville, where they work to settle refugees in the surrounding area. (Thank you Lauren Kathryn Berry-Kagan for commenting with the helpful link.)

Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA) does extraordinary work.

Great Expectations is a personal favorite of mine. They work through the whole state of Virginia to help foster youth (a vulnerable and diverse population of young people) transition to work and community college. These kids usually don’t have much or any support from their family of origin, financially or otherwise. They may have bounced around to various homes and endured a lot of trauma in their lives. GE provides mentorship and guidance for the hundreds of youth who age out of foster care and services each year.

Now, Virginia is a diverse and beautiful state. (My main problem with Virginia is that it takes so damn long to drive through, but otherwise, I’m a fan.) The people who marched the other night don’t represent all Virginians, or even most Virginians. (And yeah, some of them were from out of state, but I’m sure plenty of ’em were from in-state. That’s not my point here.) There are a lot of good people in Virginia, and many of them benefit from, work for, volunteer with, or donate to the organizations listed above.

I leave you with this: VA is the birthplace of one @MissyElliott. That alone is evidence the place can yield greatness. Don’t lose hope just because some people are the worst. Some people are the best, too. The rest of us are somewhere in between, but we keep striving for better. Charitable acts are one way to help us get there.

Update Sunday, August 13: There are GoFundMe accounts set up for the family of Heather Heyer, murdered by a white domestic terrorist yesterday, and Deandre Harris, whose skull was cracked open by white domestic terrorists yesterday in a parking garage right next to the Charlottesville Police Station. You can read more about Deandre in an interview with Yesha Callahan of The Root right here.

I wrote a thread on Twitter about white Americans’ responsibility to engage with and educate one another, even those we don’t want to claim as “our own.” Because those white terrorists who marched on Charlottesville — some of them beating and one even murdering those who disagreed with them — are not imaginary monsters from another dimension. And they’re not all white men. There were a few white women among them, and more white women back home supporting, enabling, or approving. It’s tempting to imagine Charlottesville to be some wild aberration in American history, but it is not.

I’m not an expert. I really don’t know as much history as I should. I know even as I work on myself I still have my ignorance and prejudice too about various things. I certainly walk with a lot of unearned privilege that protects me from experiences of certain types of pain. I say all this so you know I’m not preaching, “Well, I read all the books and went to all the marches and by the way did you see my Instagram selfie of me looking adorable holding a sign? I worked on my makeup.”

We don’t have time for guilt, which is often a useless emotion and which wastes time when folks are dying in the street and being beaten right next door to the police. We have time for personal responsibility. I know I have a lot of white followers who are figuring this stuff out privately, and it might help to see somebody else awkwardly try to figure it out publicly. I’m not often eloquent and I make some mistakes, but I do make an honest attempt to talk about stuff we’re often taught to sweep under the rug. And if you read things I write and think I sound stupid in spots, which I very well may, use that and go, “Okay I’m gonna be smarter than her.”

A lot of us, even those of us who consider ourselves pretty with-it and aware citizens of the modern enlightened world, are still waking up belatedly to stuff our friends of color (and family members of color and coworkers of color and strangers of color) have known forever because they’ve lived it. It’s a little precious to be surprised by what happened in Charlottesville. We wouldn’t be “shocked” if these kinds of stories were part of our own family’s heritage of experience. So it’s time to listen and learn and act.

I believe in the Superhero Sidekick theory of helping, which is to say that if you’re trying to ally yourself with the interests of an oppressed group of which you are not a part, you pull a Robin, not a Batman. You’re not the star of the show, so you don’t direct the mission. You listen, you learn, you assist. You definitely don’t lounge around and wait for the superhero to do all the work and then take all the credit. You also don’t throw up your hands and wail, “WHAT WILL WE EVER DOOOOOOO? THIS IS HOPELESS!” when Batman is right there going, “Um, Robin? There’s like ten things you could do today that would help everybody out. You listening?”

In that spirit, here’s THE CHARLOTTESVILLE SYLLABUS from the UVA Graduate Student Coalition for Liberation. It’s full of resources, most of them by and/or featuring the voices of people of color. And these are the people to whom folks like me ought to listen, particularly when it is uncomfortable. And these are the folks from whom we learn.

If you need a little spot of hope, I got an email from Great Expectations earlier today saying they’ve gotten a lot of donations this weekend. And an acquaintance told me he donated to the Legal Aid Justice Center of VA and they sent an email saying they’d gotten over 200 donations as of this morning.

You can still be a good person and be ignorant, but you become a jerk when you refuse to acknowledge the ignorance and take the steps to educate yourself through reading, watching, and listening. I’m trying to become less of a jerk, which is about as humble an endeavor as possible. You don’t get brownie points or awards for the act of trying to be less awful. You just get to be less of a jerk, and more helpful. You might also make some more friends.

Anyway, hope this helped. Off to sidekick training school. Be well and take good care. You deserve it, even if you don’t feel great about yourself, or the country, or the world right now.

Update August 18th, 2017: The folks at Legal Aid Justice just told me that since 8 a.m. on Saturday, August 12th, they’ve received over $57,000 in donations from over 780 donors from around the world. AMAZING! Thank you to everyone who has donated, and to all who’ve shared this post and the Twitter thread linked above. Keep those donations coming and support whichever organization listed above means the most to you.

Update November 7th, 2017: In the intervening time since this piece was last updated, I’ve deleted several years of tweets. I wanted to have a bit of a fresh start around my birthday. I’ve edited this piece slightly because it linked to a series of Twitter threads that have since been deleted. All the pertinent information remains. I just didn’t want readers to click through to nothing.