Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY. Cleveland, OH. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. These cities and the deaths of these African American males – men and boys – are in the headlines. So are people’s responses. These incidents are a catalyst for social change on many levels. Changes in policing, the use of the grand jury system, the role of the prosecutor. Changes in how we view and value the lives and bodies of black men and boys. Right now people can’t get past the double standards, and across the country – in ways big and small – people are demanding change.
There is a role for everyone to play, especially grassroots organizations. Regardless of your size you can make a difference. You are a catalyst whether reaching one person, 100 people or 1,000 people at a time. Change comes in many ways. It comes in the way you treat young people in afterschool programs, how you coach your basketball team, the explicit messages you send about the value of Black lives, and the way you resolve conflicts and de-escalate arguments.
During times of local or national protest you can demonstrate with others. You can also work behind the scenes, bringing water and serving meals to peaceful protestors. You can provide training, counsel, or transportation, create signs, collect money for legal fees, recruit volunteers. You can identify areas in local law and policy that need to be changed and advocate. You can be part of pushing a larger agenda.
Social change requires participation by all, same as it did in the past. It’s about churches, sororities and fraternities, civic and professional organizations. It’s about people of all faiths, colors and backgrounds. Now is the time to come together and be part of something larger whether formally or informally. This is not a time for “us vs. them” In the words of the president of the United States, “It’s about closing the gap between our professed ideals and how they are applied in day-to-day situations.”
At the same time, don’t get too caught up in the moment and emotions. Social change takes time. Are you committed to the work of changing policies and attitudes when the cameras are gone? This is the true test of the value of a nonprofit.
Finally, you don’t have to be big to make an impact. The civil rights movement was a consortium of grass roots organizations some of which later evolved into larger organizations. Fifty years later the situation is the same: you can make a difference.
You have a right to participate. As the old sayings go, “the crying baby gets the milk” and “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Be focused and committed to make sure you are heard. Grassroots organizations: America needs you!
Copyright 2014 – Mel and Pearl Shaw
Mel and Pearl Shaw position nonprofits, colleges and universities for fundraising success. For help with your fundraising visit www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.