A Beginner’s Guide to Resistance

Recently, I’ve been so distraught over our national state of affairs that I had to do the only thing that has proven to cheer me up time and time again: watch Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Now if you haven’t seen this film, I recommend you pause reading this newsletter for about an hour and a half, borrow someone’s Hulu Account and watch it. I’ll wait.

Great. For those of you who still with me, you have great taste in movies. For those who took the time to watch the most iconic comedy of a decade (don’t fight me on this) welcome back. In the film, Sister Mary Clarence, played by Whoopi Goldberg, is called upon by a group of nuns to help revive a struggling parochial school in danger of closing. When people suggest they give up, she says “We are closing, but we’re not closed yet. So let’s go out with a bang.”

I can also apply this to our situation. The world feels like it’s splitting at the seems, with rampant gas-lighting, destruction of American institutions, disregard for truth or ethics — ya know things kind of suck. But the party’s not over yet. We can fight this. And, in the past few days, I’ve received a lot of messages asking how we combat the current administration? How can we make an impact? How do we be better allies? I am going to share a few lessons I’ve learned from films in my childhood, and relay some of the advice I’ve given other people.

Step One: Watch These Films

Sister Act and Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit, Newsies, Honey, and Lean On Me.

I know, I know It sounds crazy, but trust me, these films are cinematic gold and they teach valuable lessons about community organizing, listening to your community to gage their needs, rallying for support, embracing diversity, etc.

It’s rather difficult to find a social message film that doesn’t fall into the White Savior category. These films are fun and helped shape my views on activism at an early age. And there’s dancing involved so that always helps.

Sister Act teaches the value of female friendship, of accountability, and how breaking tradition without reinventing the wheel can benefit us all. When a community is lost, as it was in the first Sister Act, a difference of perspective is sometimes what it takes to make a radical change. When forming your team of freedom fighters, make sure it’s not a homogenous one. The best ideas spring from your own Rainbow Coalition.

Sister Act 2 embodies the motto “Do not accept what you cannot change, change what you cannot accept.” When the convent felt over their heads in reviving their local high school, they call in for backup. In both instances, they put their ears to the ground and listened intently. What does their community need? What do their students need? They devised a plan for a solution, and put that plan into action. Using some creative fundraising techniques, they were able to mobilize the community to support its school system and re-instill some faith and confidence in their students. Plus, Miss Lauren Hill, Kathy Najimny and a young Jennifer Love Hewitt. You can’t go wrong.

Honey is a testament to the value of community programs in decreasing the school to prison pipeline, and the healing power of the arts as self-expression, especially for underserved communities. This film hits close to home for me, because dance programs, much like the one that Honey Daniels creates were a staple in my childhood. Also, Missy Elliott cameos and it’s amazing.

Newsies: A Disney classic. The semi-true story of how Christian Bale leads one of the largest marches of child workers in New York City in the early 20th Century. A David and Goliath story that speaks to the power of grassroots organizing, nonviolent protest, and strategic resistance — not to mention the value of uninhibited journalism of events that counter the interests of big businesses. It’s so relevant it’s scary. Did I mention Kenny Ortega directed it? Again, you can’t go wrong.

Lean On Me, a personal favorite in which Morgan Freeman stars as an inner-city educational crusader, fighting to prevent a local high school from being overtaken by the New Jersey Government over falling test scores. Honestly, this is just a great movie and reminds me of why Betsy DuVos can’t be Ed Secretary.

So, we’ve had our movie marathon and got a decent burst of inspiration. What’s next?

Step Two. Google It.

I know it’s so much work, I am so sorry, social change don’t come easy. I say “Google it” for a number of reasons, chief among them is the protection the emotional stamina and well-being of POC, LGBTQIA+, WOC, PWD, etc who the burden of education is often placed on.

Many people say “It’s not our job to teach you how not to be racist/sexist/etc. etc.” which is true. I take that burden upon myself because I feel that I am equipped to do so, but not everyone is. A lot of what has happened in the past few years is incredibly triggering for many people, and having conversation after conversation about it is taxing. So don’t become “that” person and take some initiative. Use your resources. Need to know how to get involved with your community’s policy efforts? Google “How to get involved with my community’s policy efforts.” Want to figure out how to be a good ally to Women of Color? Google “How to be a good ally to women of color” and then find an article WRITTEN BY A WOMAN OF COLOR. If there is history you are fuzzy on or cultural dynamics that you need clarification on, crack open a book before you ask.

Then you can find a close friend — I beg of you please do not message randos you haven’t seen since high school because you don’t know anyone else — and have an informed conversation about best practices, specific issues, etc. When you come into the conversation with the appearance that you care enough to ask preliminary questions before coming to us, it takes a bit of the pressure off. And again, if any of you have asked me for advice, I am totally willing to answer. Always. If I don’t feel comfortable or if I am not in a place to do so, I will tell you, but I made a promise to myself to try to educate whenever possible because I have the bandwidth and knowledge to do so. But, again, choose your moments carefully. There are certain things that you can learn about by simply paying attention. Who do you pay attention to, you ask?

Step Three. Follow Follow Follow.

Going back to our “google” advice from before. Find Nonprofits, activists organizations, research centers, etc. that relate to the topic you want to know more about. The find the Director, the head of education, policy, community organizing and do two things:

1. Subscribe to their newsletter if they have one, and 2. Follow their personnel on social media.

If you need a jumping off point, here are a few to start with. If you have suggestions to add, comment, email, or tweet Alicia D. Carroll!

Linda Sarsour

Tamika Mallory

Carmen Perez

Rahiel Tesfamariam

Justice League NYC

#MyPWI

Shaun King

Clint Smith

Deray Mckesson

Geena Rocero

Johnetta Elzie

Raquel Willis

Jose Antonio Vargas

Dream Hampton

Anastasia Somozo

This is the easiest way to get regular updates to issues in the realm of this community. Many communities have public forums, whether it be twitter or a message board, podcast communities, what have you. Discern the hashtags they may use, the sites they use and just read and listen. Read real stories from real people with that experience. What issues do they care about? What solutions do they think is best? If they post action steps, is that something you can also do to help out? Spend more time listening then speaking (or tweeting) when it comes to issues within communities you aren’t inherently a part of. Which brings me to step four.

Step Four. Join a Group. Pay Attention.

Find a community of people that host open forums., Twitter chats, meetings at community centers or libraries, workshops, resistance training programs, etc.

Some places to start looking are your local chapters of National orgs:

N.O.W.
NAACP
Emily’s List
Women Action Media // Women’s Media Center

Or other organizations or nonprofits:
ACLU
SPLC
Stay Woke
Rainbow PUSH Coalition

Websites and Blogs:

Urban Cusp 
Echoing Ida
Angry Asian Man

Step Five. Read Read Read. Listen Listen Listen.

Read voraciously. Read the literature of the movement, its founding texts, its platforms, organization principles, think pieces, op-eds, podcasts, videos. Everything.

Some places to start:

Guide to Allyship

The Resistance Manual

Organizing 101

Indivisible Guide

Podcasts for the First 100 Days

The MLK Day Reading List

Media & Rape Culture Syllabus

This is by far the most time-consuming step, but also one of the most important. If we don’t have historical context of where our movements have gone before us, then history is doomed to repeat itself, and we won’t improve our methods. We have to know where we’ve been to know where to go next. I feel like a broken record but, again I say, do your research.

Step Six. Be Quiet When it Matters. Be Loud when it Counts.

Step Six is to prevent the “____splaining” epidemic we have on our hands. I cannot tell you how many times I have been cut off, or spoken over by people who appear to want to help…but the question was directed at me. Not them. So to protect our sanity, here’s just a few guiding principles to consider:

  1. Don’t speak for others, speak for yourself.
  2. Don’t infiltrate the communities you aren’t a part of.
  3. Remember to lift up other people’s voices to amplify them, instead of drowning them out with your supposed woke-ness.
  4. Do not assume people’s circumstances or experiences. Just because someone is ____ doesn’t mean they’ve experienced _____ and vice versa.
  5. Remember that being an ally doesn’t mean being loud. It doesn’t mean always being heard by everyone. It means being effective. It is strategically placing yourself in situations that aid the cause at hand.

It’s hard to explain, but sometimes movements need surrogates. If I try to explain to an ignorant bartender what sexism or racism is and micro-aggressions, the message may not resonate. Sometimes it takes a guy to do that, and that’s okay, for now. I am not too proud to ask for help if it means progress, but I should still have the opportunity to speak my truth and my experience from my perspective before someone comes bulldozing through trying to save me. I am capable of saving myself. Allyship is about leaving space and providing support. It’s about letting others take the lead and guide you to the live they envision for themselves. If you fight with someone or fight for someone, let them show you a helpful way to do that.

Step Seven: Show Up.

Don’t be accused of Slacktivism. Don’t just tweet. Don’t just share articles — show up. And that can mean calling your representatives. That can mean sending letters. That can mean attending rallies. That can mean donating funds or services. That can mean attending teach-ins or workshops. Support. Show up for them, and they’ll show up for you. Freedom is a team sport. Our liberation is bound together. The faster we all realize that, the more progress we’ll make. (i.e., this)

Step Eight: Ask for Help & Organize.

So you’ve done your research, followed the organizers, checked your privilege, subscribed to the newsletters, attended the teach-ins, emailed your representatives, donated to the organizations, what do you do now?

Well, first, if you are still fuzzy on a subject you want to be knowledgeable of, ask for help. We got you. We are in this together.

And then find a cause you can truly fight for — long term — and do just that. Organize. Recruit. Fundraise. Petition. Canvass. Do what you can with the time and funds you have to offer. The revolution begins now. I thank you in advance for your service.