There are many reasons why you may not be able to physically join a protest during a pandemic. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to speak out. If you aren’t able to leave your house but want to get involved, there are many ways to do so.
“Let’s be real here — whether or not you can join in on the ground, there’s always a place for you,” says Devren Washington, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Philadelphia. “The people that are protesting are able-bodied people, and their actions are meant to activate everyone who’s not there to do something.”
Across the country, protestors are marching against police brutality after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officers, and the fight extends much further, too. This is a fight against a long history of systemic oppression and racism, one you can join no matter where you are.
We turned to activists from local groups protesting right now, including Black Lives Matter Philadelphia, Reclaim Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Bail Fund, and Philly for REAL Justice, for ways to take action.
“Call or email your elected officials, that’s No. 1,” says Washington. “The impact that’s seen on the street is designed to convert attention to elected officials, who you can contact directly.”
To help city residents, media hub Philly We Rise has compiled a list of email addresses for Philadelphia’s mayor, the managing director, council members, and their legislative staff, along with information about issues for which many activists are fighting.
One of those issues: the Defund the Police campaign, top of many activists’ minds. Its focus: Mayor Jim Kenney’s recent coronavirus-era budget proposal that cuts back on initiatives focused on youth violence prevention, workforce development, and arts and culture, while increasing the budget for the police department by $14 million more than was initially proposed. It also lays off hundreds of workers who run programs at recreation centers and libraries.
“It’s No. 1 on my list,” says Kelly Morton, lead organizer at Reclaim Philadelphia. Morton says that when the police have more money, but the public defense system is underfunded, “it creates this obvious system of imbalance in power.”
Activists urge you to voice your opinion by contacting both the mayor, who proposes the budget, and City Council, who vote to approve it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org by June 8 to contact City Council before their public budget hearing. Your email will become part of the permanent record of the Council’s hearing and will be made available to all Council members.
With the pandemic limiting our ability to see others, social media has a huge impact on the political discourse right now, says Washington.
“It’s one of your biggest tools in making sure you’re sharing and having those tough conversations with the people in your community about what’s really happening,” he says. “Social media humanizes what you see on the news, and when you engage on social media, you’re able to move people. Even if it’s just one or two people — that’s powerful.”
While social media is a great way to spread information, it’s a landmine of misinformation, too. Be mindful of what you’re ingesting, and try to follow more than those who solely back up your existing beliefs. When traversed cautiously, platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook can serve as robust educational resources, and a great way to speak out.
“Follow black-led organizations and hear what they’re saying right now,” says Morton. “Listen first, and then take that action step.”
If you’re not sure the best way to approach social media or worried about saying the wrong thing, consider reaching out to one of the organizations you admire, says Morton. Reclaim Philadelphia invites you to message them through Instagram or Facebook for advice on how to thoughtfully show solidarity.
Many organizations have been working for years in the fight for racial justice. Show your support by contributing to their efforts.
“When you donate to a small grassroots organization that’s doing work to change the system, you’re taking action to change something larger,” says Morton. “Racism is never one person, or one cop, or one judge. It’s the systems that are built from the beginning to keep black people from having power.”
Black Lives Matter, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Black and Brown Workers Cooperative, Antiracist Research and Policy Center, Reclaim the Block, and Philadelphia Bail Fund are just a few organizations that activists involved in the current protests recommend. Philadelphia Bail Fund, where you can donate money to post bail for people who can’t afford it, has put together its own list of suggestions on Twitter (@PhillyBailFund.).
Do your research and find local groups whose mandate matters to you.
As Nelson Mandela puts it, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." And as director of Philadelphia Bail Fund, Malik Neal emphasizes there’s no better time to start learning than now.
“In a way, the past couple of weeks has been an education for the broader public about the real plight of what it means to be black in America,” says Neal. “Black people have been talking about this for a long time, but I think this moment can serve as an opportunity for everyone to learn about the larger injustices of our system so that we can push our leaders to make changes.”
For many, the pandemic has brought extra time at home. Activists encourage you to use it to educate yourself, whether it’s through books or reading up on organizations in your own community fighting for change.
Consider buying those books from black-owned bookstores. Fishtown’s Harriett’s Bookshop, which specializes in books by black and women authors, posted a list of reading recommendations to Instagram (@harrietts_bookshop). Titles include So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. For other suggestions, check out TIME’s list of recommendations from black booksellers and publishers.
Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of 100 black-led organizations, recommends making a sign or banner to display in your yard or window. It’s one of several low-risk ways you can stand in solidarity during the pandemic. (Others include making noise from your window to let people know Black Lives Matter, like many in Philly are doing as protestors march by.)
On their website, you can find lots of resources if you want to make signs or flyers, including tips on how to make a larger scale banner.
If you aren’t prepared to DIY it, Northern Liberties printing company M3 Printing is giving away a limited run of free Black Lives Matter posters. Order online at m3printing.com/store/product-view.html/112-Free-Posters for store pickup.
But remember, signs mean little if you don’t stand behind their words.