by Eileen Hogan Heineman, Director of Racial Justice Programs
Posted February 17, 2017
Take a moment to look around this crowded room and breathe in how good it is to be with people who share our beliefs, our fears, our hopes. Be strengthened by that as you ask yourself, what will I do now?
For those who are feeling overwhelmed and/or sad, you’re in good company.
For those who are eager to be given something tangible to do, to feel like you can make a difference, you’ve got lots of allies in this room as well.
For those whose lives are already too busy, look around again, and take another breath. You are NOT alone…there are many of us to do this work, so no one of us has to do it all, nor do it every day, nor ever do it alone. I believe we can count on each other to step up when we need to step back, because we are all here for the long haul. Am I right??
Every single one of us has a role to play in addressing the growing inequities. At an MLK Day Celebration, Evanston Alderwoman Dolores Holmes said, “We each need to determine what is our part, and then do our part with great heart.” And that is what we are about right now. We each have a part to play, whether this is the first time we’ve become active or have protested for years.
At the end of our YWCA Racial Justice workshops, I ask participants: “Given what you’ve learned and felt here, what do you now feel compelled to do?” Today, I encourage you to think about the things you’ve said you believe in and the things you will resist, and I ask, what do you feel compelled to do? And, of course, I have some suggestions to get you started:
- Is there something you need to learn? Is there someone with whom you need to share real information you have learned? Here are some resources to get you started.
- Do you need to dedicate a day to go to Springfield with others to speak with legislators about bills they should support?
- Do you need to invite your neighbors in for coffee and conversation, asking what, together, you will do to support those in your neighborhood who are living in fear?
- Are you compelled to work with others to make sure your community adopts the Welcoming Community Principles, and creates an ordinance or statute that clearly states that position?
- Are you willing to support local families, struggling to stay together in this country?
- Can you show up when your presence, your body, is needed, outside the offices of ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or other agencies, and demand truth from those who are detaining immigrants who pose no threat to our community? Or at your City Council or Village Board meeting to ask about the racial disparity in police stops or how money is allocated for library materials that represent ALL races, cultures, and gender identities? Or at your School Board to find out if the textbooks selected are telling the FULL history of America? Or what is being done differently so as to address issues of equity impacting achievement? Can you simply SHOW UP, and stand next to the vulnerable members of your community, of our society?
- Will you decide to use your social media platforms to share TRUTH?
- Will your action be to raise the REAL questions when those in power or with the loudest voices are imposing their will on the rest of thus, particularly those whose voices are not usually heard? Questions such as:
- ‘What fear is driving the decision that has been made or the position you are taking?’ That means asking the parents of New Trier who oppose their school’s seminar day on Racial Justice: What do you fear will happen if your child participates in this day? Asking the faith leader who resists making a public statement in support of being a welcoming congregation: What do you fear will happen to our congregation if we welcome the stranger, if we include a worship song from another tradition, if we change a practice? Asking ourselves: What fear keeps me from speaking up to the friend or family member with whom I disagree?
- ‘Who is being impacted by this Executive Order, and why does our government feel the need to limit their access to citizenship, or housing, or voting?’
What do you need to do, so that when you finish your day, you can say, “Today, I did not stay silent. Today, I did not accept cruelty. I did not accept abuse of power. I did not pretend that lies were truth. Today, I stood with the marginalized.”?
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