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… a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.

James Baldwin

Solidarity with Charlottesville

We, at MAG, stand in solidarity with the resisters and activists who fought against the neo-Nazis and white nationalists in Charlottesville, VA. This moment is a reminder that all nonprofits – including MAG – can more fully wield our power to dismantle white supremacy.

Our organization focuses on healing and resilience with an eye towards the long arc of love, dignity, and justice. One step towards healing and resiliency is acknowledging the truth of this present moment.

The run up to and election of Donald Trump both revealed and emboldened an alliance of people interested in white supremacy, oppression, crony capitalism, and the removal of a social safety net.  The steady drumbeat of deportations, police shootings of black and brown people, anti-Muslim hate crimes, anti-Semitism, discrimination against trans, gender-queer, and non-binary people, budget cuts for people with disabilities, attacks on the Affordable Care Act, dismantling of administrative regulations, loosening of environmental protections, selection of judges against reproductive self-determination, obstruction of voting rights, use of technology for election fraud, and the call to arms are real.

The white supremacists who killed and hurt anti-racist resisters in Charlottesville were a visible manifestation of a system-wide effort to roll back time. Students were surrounded, heckled and beaten. White Supremacists beat Deandre Harris, murdered Heather Heyer, and injured many others who were run down.

Our communities, constituencies, organizations, partners, and we are reeling. How do we find the energy, faith, and hope to get up and do our day-to-day work; engage (or estrange) our family and friends who support this administration; and connect the historic and present-day dots across the system?

Strength Together

We don’t have all of the answers, but we do know that we shall overcome together, like the faith leaders who formed a human chain with their bodies in Charlottesville. We all play important roles in a broad justice ecosystem that spans multiple sectors (i.e., business, government, and nonprofit), strategies (e.g., organizing, service delivery, policy advocacy, media-making, etc.), and sizes (from the smallest volunteer group to the largest nonprofit). This includes people who have been dismantling white supremacy for generations to those who are at the beginning of their racial equity journey and trying to figure out what to do next.

Nonprofits Wielding More Power

As nonprofit leaders ourselves, we also believe that nonprofits have a particular responsibility to leverage our power to press for change right now. At MAG, we are truth telling, community building, stepping up to address this injustice through lobbying, amplifying our voice as an ally, and aligning values and practice intentionally. Here are some of the things we are doing to build critical mass, relationship, and readiness:

Creating space for staff and board to feel and reflect together. 

The white supremacist violence in Charlottesville and the threat of nuclear war over the last week are triggers on top of long-term stress. People have many emotional reactions such as anger, fear, vulnerability, numbness, and depression. And they may express these emotions and be affected by these emotions in very different ways. Many of us have created space–after the election, after police shootings, or other traumatic events–to process our feelings together.  It is time to do this again: giving people the space to share their unique experience of this moment and needs for how they want to be supported.

Lobbying and advocating as a nonprofit.  

All nonprofits can advocate.  We filed our 501(h) election with the IRS. This election allows small nonprofits to expend a significant portion of their budget on lobbying. So far, we’ve started following the National Council of Nonprofits and our clients so we can start signing onto advocacy efforts. We plan to do more in the future. And we’ve worked with other nonprofits that are developing 501(c)4s or learning how to speak out in their communities. It is critical for all nonprofits to take the time to advocate for our visions.

Centering equity.  

At MAG, we are more explicitly talking about racism, how to dismantle white supremacy, and how those we work with can build their knowledge and skill to advance equity. We are living into liberation and taking what steps we can to ensure that the people closest to us are able to realize their full potential (as they define it). We are rethinking our strategy and how it supports transformation of the system for those who are most marginalized. We are also educating our funders and developing programs that explore alternative systems that embody love, dignity and justice for all. Organizations and networks can take concrete steps like these to name racism and other forms of oppression and advance equity internally and externally.

Lifting up and creating glimmers of possibility.

Through our movement building work with partners and clients we are stepping into movement moments and co-creating the future right now. In June of this year, MAG brought together 90 people working in various ways to bring about love, dignity and justice to build critical relationship and deepen our collective practice by lifting up multiple movement successes and learning into our challenges together. Many spoke of this gathering as an experience of being in a “liberated zone”–a glimmer of the world we in the social justice sector hope to create. We are not the only ones doing this and it is imperative that we all work towards our vision in ways that reflect our shared vision of love, dignity and justice.

Speaking up and out.

One of our MAG supporters frequently speaks of his family as the final frontier for his justice work. It can be hardest place for many people and one where he knows he must act and does. If nothing else, we must talk with our kids, our nieces and nephews. We (and especially white people) must talk with our friends, our parents, our partners and grandparents, aunts and uncles about this. Silence is not an option. Here are some resources to support your brave conversations.

Yes, we can do less harm, support each other’s healing and resiliency, and wield our power for change. What are you doing that others could join you in?

Banner photo credit: Steve Snodgrass | CC BY 2.0

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