If you’re like me, your eyes are opened to more and more of the injustices in our world every day. And if you’re like me, you wish that there was something that you can do about them. I read a lot of books on social justice, but the books always warn, “Just reading isn’t actually doing anything. You’ll have to take what you’ve learned and put it into action.” It’s always scary. I have no idea how to do that.
When I discovered the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, I thought getting involved would be a good place to start. So last month I joined their virtual Feminist Socialist meeting. It was no one’s fault, but I felt out of place. Their ways of raising awareness are through fundraisers and event planning, neither of which are my skills. How do you raise funds when you don’t have a large audience to tell to donate? Even if it’s for a good cause, I don’t like begging people for money. There has to be some other way to make the world a better place.
My Fund for Choice
Well, after a while I did give in and create my own page with the Pittsburgh DSA’s fundraiser for the Western PA Fund for Choice, which raises money for the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center. If you’re interested, please donate or share!
According to the Guttmacher Institute, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, Pennsylvania will become the state with the nearest abortion clinic for many people in Ohio, West Virginia, and even Michigan. That’s why I’m so glad that the fund covers not only the abortion operation itself (up to the state’s limit of 23.6 weeks), but travel, lodging, childcare, and medical care as well. In the DSA meeting, one of the members who works at our local Planned Parenthood said that they have already been overwhelmed with patients coming from all over, even as far as Texas.
WHYY, a local PBS and NPR source, puts Guttmacher’s numbers into perspective:
. . . the number of people within driving distance of Pennsylvania who could seek abortions there will increase by more than 1,000% if Roe is overturned — from 170,000 annually now, to 2.1 million.
Ohio has passed a six-week ban on abortions that is not [in] effect now but is designed so that it would be once Roe is overturned. For 70% of women in Ohio, Pennsylvania would be the closest state with no ban.Nina Feldman, WHYY
These facts make me feel a great responsibility to do what I can with this small blog to help my local abortion providers. That’s why I started this fundraiser and I ask you to give if you’re able—any amount helps!
Even as I ask you to donate and share, I know that those are far from the only things we can do to make change. I wish I could donate to every cause that asks me to, but I know I can’t. And I can share things on social media all day, but I barely have any reach. Fortunately, there is a lot that we can do with what we have.
1. Educate yourself
Learning about important causes is the first step in advancing them. Sharing information that you haven’t researched on isn’t usually a very good idea and can even do more harm than good. I personally thinking reading books by experts is the best way to get your information, but there are many people that don’t have the time for reading that I do. Audiobooks, podcasts, videos, and articles can be just as good as books, but make sure you always check their sources!
I recommend starting with Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist.
2. Share information
Even if you don’t have a massive following, you can still share important information. That could mean sending an article to a friend or just keeping your loved ones informed on current events. I keep my Instagram private, and I removed all of my followers except for 80 friends, family members, and acquaintances. Even now, I still share things that I find important so that my friends can see it! (And if it’s good, then they’ll often share with their own followers.) Sharing to a small audience is better than not sharing at all.
(Also, don’t follow me on Instagram unless you know me personally. If you want to follow me, please only follow me on Twitter!)
3. Run for something
This one is for those who are really committed to a cause. Your local community is the best place to start your activism, and what better way than running for local office?
4. Go to school board meetings
Many adults with kids simply do not have the luxury of dropping everything and running for office. But you might have the opportunity to make change in a group you’re likely familiar with: your local school board. It’s a great idea to attend and speak up at school board meetings, and according to Parents.com, this is a form of activism!
At a time, when so much activism seems performative and often ends with a powerful statement on Instagram, attending school board meetings is an act of public service that gives you direct access to a governing body to impact meaningful change. Building a thriving community takes a village and attending school board meetings is [a] concrete form of activism to make sure you are an informed participant in that village.Terri Huggins Hart, Parents.com
Attending school board meetings is an invaluable way of advocating for children and the community as a whole.
5. Go to city council meetings
If the school board isn’t your thing, there is still so much you can do in your local community. When people say, “Make your voice heard!” we often mean exactly that. Have you ever considered going to your local city council meetings? They’re open to the public! And why wouldn’t they be? You are a part of the community that they exist to serve. Nowadays, they’re often livestreamed and thus very easy to attend.
Not all city council meetings have opportunities for citizens to speak, but some have public hearings or citizen participation. For example, Pittsburgh allows citizens to provide comments via email, but they won’t always be publicly read.
6. Use the skills you already have
We all have something we’re good at! What do you do for work? What do you do as a hobby? Everything from design expertise to data know-how, from bartending to customer service, is a skill that you can use to help a cause. You can build a website for an organization or make amazing coffee to serve at fundraising events. It doesn’t even have to take a lot of time.
A step beyond volunteering is using your skills in your job. A lot of social justice organizations are growing, and if you are looking a fulfilling career, I’m sure that this is a great way to find one. Of course, teachers, doctors, firefighters, and social workers are the everyday heroes we already know and love. But what if you were a social media manager or financial advisor for a group that combats global warming or that provides gender-affirming healthcare? Your options are endless.
7. Call your elected officials
Unfortunately, I know that many people might read that last section and think, “I literally have no useful skills.” I don’t believe you, but don’t worry, there is still so much you can do!
Do you have a phone? Can you speak? Then you can do this one! It only takes a minute, and it is one of the best ways to be heard.
8. Go to marches, protests, and rallies
Especially if you have a knack for poster-making, attending local or even national marches or rallies is a huge way to be involved in the movements that matter to you. Of course, you don’t have to bring a sign or spend any money to do it. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not there just to have fun, but it’s a great way to involve your friends in your activism! The more people show up to march, the harder you will be for policymakers to ignore.
9. Call out your friends and family
What if your friends don’t believe in social justice causes? Well, call them on it! Getting a single person to reconsider the harm they cause will add up if we all do it diligently. Being a good person can cost us friends if they really are unwilling to change. At the end of the day, collective welfare might cost some of us our individual comfort, but it is well worth it.
10. Speak up whenever you see someone cause harm
If you see a family member or coworker make a sexist, racist, or otherwise harmful comment, congratulations! You’ve just been given the perfect opportunity to stand up against racism or sexism. If these microaggressions take the form of an “innocent” joke, tell the person you don’t get it and ask them to explain it.
Especially if you’re white, or a man, or both, this is a great way to put your privilege to work. (Privilege is not inherently bad, but it is useful.) If someone’s behavior harms someone with a marginalized identity that you don’t share, put yourself in between them and the perpetrator—without speaking for or over anyone, of course.
11. Vote in every election you possibly can
Voting is another thing that is of utmost importance and doesn’t take that much time! So many people come out in droves to vote in presidential elections, but how do you think that presidential candidates end up there? Local elections can—and will—determine who we will see on bigger ballots. We just have to participate.
12. Try text banking
Have you voted, but you want to motivate more people to do it as well? Text banking (like phone banking, but with texting) is one of the easiest ways to inform people about important things, especially in election seasons.
I text banked before the 2020 election, and it was so incredibly easy. There was a pre-written template as well as pre-written responses. Most people just respond by asking to be removed from the mailing list, but there was a handful of people whom I was able to direct to their polling place or help find transportation to get there. And the best part was I did it through a third-party texting website, so no one had my contact information and I didn’t receive any spam!
13. Vote with your dollar
This one is huge—and you’re already doing it! If you can afford to spend a little more on products, I can almost guarantee you that there are better places to buy products than multi-billion dollar corporations. If you can buy books at a local bookstore rather than Amazon, please do it! If your only local bookstore is Barnes and Noble, then hey, at least that’s still better than Amazon.
Other than simply not supporting Amazon, also keep an eye on the ethics of the places you shop. I know, “There is no ethical consumption under capitalism,” but there can be an attempt at it. Is there a local or at least unionized coffee shop near you that you can support other than union-busting Starbucks? Do you have any way of buying household goods that are ethically and sustainably made? It’s not always possible, but even buying a few things this way is better than nothing!
Donating to causes and people in need is likely the biggest way we can make an impact. When you live in a capitalist society, that really means that money can do anything. You can donate to abortion funds, to humanitarian aid funds, or to the campaign of someone running for office who you think can make a positive change.
This list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to challenging oppressive systems. With our different talents and environments, we all have unique intersecting ways of making our world more just. What will you do?