Over the course of a week, we observed several instances of deadly violence in spaces that were supposed to be safe. Two African Americans were murdered in a Kentucky grocery store after the assailant attempted to enter a local African American church but could not get inside. The Pittsburgh community and the Jewish community grieve following the horror that unfolded at The Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday. Then on Monday, a high school in Matthews, North Carolina tragically reminded us that life-and-death conflicts are now a common occurrence in our children’s lives.
What we are observing is heartbreaking and sickening, and those of us working with and in civil society will undoubtedly look for opportunities to support our communities through our sincere condolences, our work, and our individual actions. Blogger Vu Le says it is important to take time out to ensure our own staff and constituents have the opportunity to process and grieve. He then encourages us to channel our fear, anxiety, and sadness into action.
There are four ways the sector, as organizations and individual citizens, can leverage our desire to help in ways that drive systemic change:
- Educate: Leading up to midterm elections, your organization can continue to take positions on public policy issues that impact your mission or community.
- Mobilize: Your organization is best positioned to encourage others to vote and help them find their polling place – beginning with your staff. Increasing voter participation ensures policymakers listen to the fears and concerns of all their constituents, not just a portion.
- Give: Financially support, through grantmaking or donations, organizations working on issues like community violence and intolerance.
- Join: We know that social change takes years, not weeks. A long-term action in response to the sadness and fear we feel is to support organizations working on these issues beyond individual donations. Volunteer with these organizations. Join their coalitions. Sign up for their action alerts. Stay informed about their work and look for future opportunities to use time, professional expertise, and your voice to educate decision-makers to turn the tide.
I understand we all need to come together to grieve, make meaning of these violent acts, and support one another, but we must not stop there. Our vision of vibrant communities working together to improve lives is possible only in spaces free from fear, violence, and hatred. We must leverage our collective voices, resources, and the trust instilled in us by our communities to create the conditions for our organizations to advance the common good. It begins by taking meaningful action, today.