On August 27, 1963, I was a protected white college student driving with my parents to Washington, DC to join the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Deciding to go there was not easy. Letters to my then boyfriend (we later got married) remind me of how worried we were about possible violence and wondering if we would be welcome. After long trips, we decided to meet in DC and walk together, joined by my parents.
Like us, they had never done anything like this before – but they believed in what we were going to walk for, and also that I needed a chaperone.
What Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Said
In my mind, I can still imagine where we were: under a tree on a corner of the reflecting pool with a perfect view of the stage. I can still hear the voice of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and feel the tears streaming down my face as his words made me see a reality outside of my own life experience and inspired me with hope.
“I dream that one day this nation will rise up and live the true meaning of its belief: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’…. I have a dream that my four grandchildren will live one day in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
And I still remember feeling surrounded by tens of thousands of hopeful, welcoming, peaceful people whose skin color was different from mine but who shared a vision of what America should become. Marching that day set my husband and I on a path to standing up for social justice throughout our lives.
The nonprofit organization Zero to Three offers tools to take action to improve outcomes for babies and families.
Now, at 75 and sheltered again – this time due to COVID-19 – I’m struggling to figure out how to get off the sideline and stand up against racial injustice. I think about how I can join the younger generations, like my parents joined me, and be an effective ally in this fight.
Like so many others, I take the time to learn about the history of race in America, a story neither my children nor I ever learned in school.
But I also feel compelled to act. As I have learned throughout my life, there are many ways to advocate for a better world. Here are six that I — we — can do even during shelter at home:
1. Defender of Voting Rights
This is perhaps the most important step you can take now to advance justice. Go to the website of the non-profit, non-partisan association Electoral Participation Center to make sure you are registered.
If you can, under your state law, go ahead and request a mail-in ballot; it’s the safest and easiest way to vote.
To encourage other eligible Americans to vote on Election Day, check out resources from another nonprofit, nonpartisan site: when we all vote. the Women’s March Foundation lets you easily write personal notes to voters – a proven way to increase turnout. And to ensure our elections are free, fair, safe and secure, join the League of Women Voters and others in urging Congress to approve the funding needed to help states protect the right to vote.
2. Advocacy for criminal justice reform
Find out what’s happening where you live. Does your police department train officers in de-escalation? Ban chokeholds? Publicize complaints against agents?
Press local and state leaders to make the changes needed, using advice from Black Lives Matter on the M4BL site. With help from the ACLUurge Congress to end police militarization and over-policing in our communities.
3. Advocate to expand opportunities for all ages to serve
National service programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps bring people together across racial, economic, and generational divides to address pressing social issues.
The bipartisan CORPS Act that Congress consider increasing the number of AmeriCorps positions and developing Senior Corps telecommuting technology. Learn more about this bill from the nonprofit, nonpartisan U.S. Service Commissions. Then call to urge your senators and representative to support it.
4. Advocacy for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be similar to the one created in South Africa after the end of apartheid. It would acknowledge the pain and impact of four centuries of structural anti-Black racism in America and offer concrete policies and reforms to address it.
You can join City Year national nonprofit service founder Alan Khazei and Harvard professor Cornell William Brooks in calling on elected officials to support Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill (D-California) to establish the commission.
5. Advocate for a good start in life for all children
By nearly every measure in every state, children living in poverty and children of color face more barriers to success, including low birth weight, unstable housing, and limited access to experiences. quality early learning.
Additionally, major disparities begin before birth, especially for black children, driven by systemic racism and social injustice.
The Zero to Three association offers tools to take action to improve outcomes for babies and families — from “emailing your policy makers, to writing your local newspaper, to diving deep into planning state policy solutions.”
6. Advocate for Black-Owned Businesses
You can do this by using your purchasing power to support change and encouraging others to do the same.
Shop at black-owned businesses and bookstores. Join the campaign to urge major retailers to pledge 15% of their storage space to black-owned businesses.
And donate to programs that advance racial justice and equality, including Equal Justice Initiative, Black Lives Matter, and Showing Up for Racial Justice.