In the midst of the pandemic, a groundswell of solidarity has emerged around the world in response to racial injustice and systemic violence. The murder of George Floyd has sparked outrage in cities the world over, laying bare the urgent need for a widespread commitment to anti-racism at every level. The demonstrations taking place right now––as well as the many conversations unfolding in online spaces, particularly on social media–– are bringing much needed renewed attention to calls for the safety, wellbeing, and dignity of Black communities everywhere.
As Canada grapples with its own legacy of racism and violence, we at TechSoup Canada have been reflecting on the role that the nonprofit sector can and must play in fostering inclusion, equity, and dialogue. We know that many of our nonprofit peers work closely with marginalized and oppressed populations, and as a sector we have first-hand knowledge of the responsibilities that come with engaging in social change work.
At TechSoup Canada, we are firmly committed to fighting racial injustice, and we stand in solidarity with Black communities in Canada and in the world at this pivotal time. We are determined to continue to harness our resources and our community in service of education, empowerment, and inclusion and we resolve to keep learning and growing so we may be strong allies always.
In today’s post, we offer a preliminary round-up of resources and reflections to help all of us in the nonprofit sector think about how we can use our position to uphold the values of anti-racism, as well as how we can leverage technology as a tool for connection, learning, and responsible action.
Ways to Use Technology To Fight Racism
By now, you are most likely familiar with Blackout Tuesday and may have heard of its problematic approach to using social media to express solidarity with Black Lives Matter. If you would like to use your social media platform to express your support at this time, Amplify Melanated Voices is a 7-day challenge initiated by Alishia McCullough and Jessica Wilson to elevate the voices of BIPOC folks doing social justice work on social media. The premise of the challenge is simple: (temporarily) muting white folks doing similar work on platforms like Instagram; following BIPOC accounts speaking directly from lived experience; and taking a break from posting one’s regular content to use one’s platform for promoting content (properly tagged, of course!) created by BIPOC content creators. The aim of this challenge is to disrupt the bias inherent in platform algorithms and help BIPOC accounts reach and maintain a broader audience. (These questions by Brenda Barros Rivera are a great way to make sure that participation in the challenge is done in a power-sharing way.)
Image credit: Brenda Barros Rivera
The Amplify Melanated Voices challenge is a timely and powerful reminder that the technology we rely on for education, communication and connection is not necessarily neutral. As this Vox article explains, algorithms can be racist and sexist and the impacts of such biases extend from search engine results to healthcare decisions. Being cognizant of these flaws is the first step in demanding change and accountability from technology companies. The next is ensuring that the use we make of technology as a sector contributes to promoting diversity and inclusion online.
Lack of diversity in tech and digital spaces is a problem that goes beyond the architecture of algorithms––it affects everything from who has access to technology, who is represented online, and more. If you’ve ever used stock photos or design templates for your communications materials, consider using Black Illustrations’ beautifully designed digital images for your next project. They offer a suite of downloadable files that can be used on websites and apps to correct the underrepresentation of Black people online.
Frontline communities using digital tools to organize, document, and voice their experience are at greater risk of being targeted for their work. Organizations like TechActivist offer training in digital security tools, digital media and web development to build capacity and amplify the work of grassroots groups. As they write, “the people most impacted by social ills are on the losing side of the digital, educational and economic divide.” In Canada, Black Boys Code is “inspiring a generation of young Black men to take control of their future and become tomorrow’s digital creators and technological innovators.”
For those showing their support by joining demonstrations or engaging in citizen journalism right now, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind to make sure that what is shared on social media remains ethical, responsible and does not endanger the safety of others. Witness is a nonprofit organization that trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights. As they write, “we’re all used to filming on our phones for fun, but filming for evidence and advocacy requires a little practice”. For this reason, they have compiled a helpful tip sheet for activists, journalists and citizens who are filming and conducting interviews during demonstrations––including a tutorial on how to apply the ‘do no harm’ principle by using YouTube’s face blurring tool online.
Steps to Becoming a Better Ally
The nonprofit sector has a long tradition of encouraging empathy and action through awareness-raising, creative storytelling and education. As we are witnessing all around us, technology is playing a powerful role right now in assisting with the dissemination of educational resources and in promoting conversations about how to show up for Black communities in effective and respectful ways. If you and/or your organization are wondering how to get started deepening your understanding of white supremacy, Black history, responsible allyship and more, we offer the following resources as a modest starting point:
Countless educational round-ups are springing up all over the web. Here we highlight a a number of opportunities for hands-on learning and training that are either free or accessibly priced:
- Breaking Rank: Refusing White Supremacy is an online training that explores white supremacy, white fragility and white solidarity.
- Divesting from White Supremacy: Unraveling to Rebuild explores community accountability practices and models for organizing, as well as ways of knowing and being from the BIPOC margins.
- Yale University offers an open course on African American History: From Emancipation to the Present that includes the study of thought leaders such as Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X. In Canada, York University’s Black Canadian Studies Certificate “introduces the study of Black Canada through four specific humanities and fine arts approaches: cultural studies, history, literature, and music”.
- For classroom and workplace resources, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation has produced a short antiracism video about the history of racism in Canada.
- The Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion has a number of toolkits and online trainings available, including their See Different resources on power, privilege and allyship for students, and a certificate in leadership and inclusion in the workplace.
Image Credit: Jane Mount.
Books are another powerful avenue for growth and self-reflection. In the words of Ibran X. Kendi, “we need to read books that are difficult or unorthodox, that don’t go down easily. Books that force us to confront our self-serving beliefs and make us aware that ‘I’m not racist’ is a slogan of denial”. In addition to his anti-racist reading list published in the New York Times, there are several books specific to the Canadian context that provide important testimony and thought leadership at this time. For those interested in a “much needed examination of the insidious and destructive nature of race science”, this week the book Superior is being distributed for free in digital format by its publisher.
SIT IN THE DISCOMFORT
On social media, countless educators and organizers are creating resources to help mainstream audiences lean into anti-racist action and reflection. The daily discomfort practice offers important prompts for participating in an exploration of white privilege and white fragility. This privilege checklist is also a great tool for taking stock of the ways privilege shows up in daily life. This article by Rachel Elizabeth Cargle unpacks why we must stop invoking the slogan ‘All Lives Matter’, while this post by Milly Gomez explains the problematic nature of statements like “I don’t see colour”. Trauma-informed accounts offer valuable guidance on how to engage with BIPOC content on social media, for example, in the form of a code of conduct when visiting a Black person’s page, recognizing implicit anti-Black bias, and how to recognize racial gaslighting, among others. Lastly, The Conscious Kid rounds-up research outlining reasons why it is crucial to talk to children about race from an early age.
Image Credit: Courtney Ahn Design
There are lots of steps we can take as individuals and organizations. Information abounds online on where to donate goods and money, which petitions to sign, how to call elected representatives and where to march in solidarity with Black communities. We all have different roles to play and different skills to contribute in times of crisis, and they’re all valid. Recognizing that many people will be primarily engaging with digital platforms and social media, we invite you to learn the difference between performance activism and non-optical allyship. For those who want to be an ally but don’t know where to start, Giselle Buchanan has put together a visual guide to assist white people on their allyship journey. If you are looking for more guidance on actions to take in support of racial justice both online and offline, check out the articles 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice and Leveraging White Privilege for Racial Justice.
Image credit: Mireille Charper
These are times of unprecedented crisis on many fronts: from rapid climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic repercussions, to racial violence and injustice. This means that cultivating space for rest and healing is just as important as staying engaged and taking action. This is a big topic so, as everything in this article, the following are offered as a non-exhaustive starting point:
- This visual series offers support for non-Black people who want to offer support to grieving Black communities.
- This article on decolonizing mental health unpacks the importance of an anti-oppression-focused mental health system.
- Check-ins for Connection & Care is an open-source collaborative list of questions and prompts to hold space during the pandemic (and these difficult times in general).
- Irresistible is building a community of practice in collective healing and social change. They recently compiled a list of Healing Resources for BIPOC Organizers & Allies Taking Action for Black Lives.
- For more on social healing, check out On Being’s excellent collection of in-depth interviews, as well as the Sunstorm podcast, co-hosted by Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza and Ai-Jen Poo of the Domestic Workers Alliance.
- To learn more on how to rebuild the post-coronavirus economy in a racially just and inclusive way, check out Stir to Action’s webinar series on the Black Economy and worker co-op development in immigrant communities.
Actions Items for the Canadian Context
In Canada, in addition to the now-viral (and closed) fund for Black-led Mental Health Supports, donations can be directed to the COVID-19 Black Emergency Support Fund, the Black Health Alliance, and Women’s Health in Women’s Hands. To support food security and justice in Canada, you can direct your donations to the AfriCan FoodBasket. Not Another Black Life and FoodShare have partnered to provide a large food box for Black and Indigenous families who are self-isolating after the Justice for Regis march in Toronto and are accepting donations as well. The Justice for Regis fund is collecting donations to assist the family of Regis Korchinski-Paquet with legal fees and funeral costs.
Supporting the Black community also means investing in Black-owned businesses and initiatives––especially during the pandemic. The Afrobiz database organizes information according to city and business category, while the Black in Canada platform highlights Black excellence across diverse sectors and issues. The Black Foodie site has several articles showcasing Black-owned restaurants in Canada––and an online search for your city will likely lead to many of the round-ups circulating on social media (here’s a cheat sheet: Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Niagara, Guelph, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax). You can also support independently owned bookstores like A Different Booklist in Toronto and Knowledge Bookstore in Brampton that celebrate Afrocentric culture.
There are several ways Canadian nonprofits and Foundations can support Black-led organizations and initiatives. They could explore the appointment of a Chief Equity Officer within senior-level management to “focus exclusively on ways to help share power and promote diversity and inclusion”. They could also commit to exploring their local and national ecosystem to forge partnerships, promote resource-sharing, and provide culturally-sensitive programming in collaboration with Black-led nonprofits and grassroots groups. Examples of such organizations include the Black Legal Action Center, the Black Youth Helpline, the Association of Black Social Workers, Black Women in Motion, the Canadian Anti-Racism Network, and the Canadian Council for Race Relations. Organizations whose purpose is to educate about or to promote racial equality in Canada can also apply to register for charitable status with the Government of Canada.
Image Credit: Jess Bird.
In this moment of personal and collective reckoning with the enduring legacy of racism, we must also remember to celebrate the vibrancy, creativity, and joy of Black communities everywhere. As this article by Black Youth Project so eloquently puts it, “black joy is resistance”:
Black joy is not about dismissing or creating an “alternative” Black narrative that ignores the realities of our collective pain; rather, it is about holding the pain and injustice we experience as Black folks around the world in tension with the joy we experience in the pain’s midst. Black joy is healing, resistance and regeneration. The two, joy and pain, are not mutually exclusive, and often we need the latter to get through the former.
Here are some ways to celebrate Black resilience, creativity, joy and healing in Canada and beyond:
- Supporting Black artist coalitions and events such as Toronto’s Black Film Festival and the Nia Center for the Arts.
- Envisioning Black futures––read the book Black Imagination: Black Voices on Black Futures, check out Canada’s Hart House series on Black Futures, and read the insights shared by five leading Black Canadians as part of 2019’s Black Futures Month.
- Celebrate Black children–because, after all, children are the future.
This post is centered on the experiences of Black communities in light of the unprecedented mobilizing that has emerged during the past several weeks. We recognize that Indigenous communities and people of colour share many of the same struggles, and we acknowledge that June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada. Anti-racism is life-long work and we resolve to continue learning and doing our part in ensuring that we are elevating the voices and work of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities–– especially when it comes to the intersection of technology and nonprofits. Stay tuned for future posts from us and, in the meantime, get in touch! How is a commitment to anti-racism shaping your current work as a nonprofit? What are some of the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ projects that you follow? What are you reflecting on, reading, and doing at this time? Leave us a note in the comments below to share with the TechSoup Canada community–we'd love to hear from you!
Header image credit: Courtney Ahn