Black Lives Matter, founded in 2013, is a global movement organized in response to police violence and anti-black racism. In the past four years, the grassroots organization has brought millions around the world together to campaign for justice. Black Lives Matter also works to create vibrant, inclusive, and united black communities and to educate allies. They hope to raise awareness of and eradicate racism as well as bring about concrete legislative reforms.
How can you support the Black Lives Matter movement? Read on for four ways to stand in solidarity with the black community in NYC.
1. Educate yourself and speak up about criminal justice reform
The racial inequalities that pervade American society are underscored by the injustices of our policing and prison systems. In 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total correctional population, although they are only 12-13% of the American population.
- African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites.
- When it comes to the direct effect of race on sentencing at the state level, 43.2% indicated harsher sentences for blacks.
- Black communities are often overpoliced for minor offenses and underpoliced for larger public safety issues.
- Racial profiling alienates communities from local law enforcement and encourages a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement.
For far too long, these conditions have been allowed to perpetuate out of a lack of concern and inattention from both those in power and the public. Fight back against apathy by learning and sharing more about racial inequality in the prison system.
The Correctional Association of New York shares stories and facts about the correctional system in New York and works to enact sweeping changes to combat injustices. The Innocence Project, another local, New York non-profit, seeks to free the wrongfully incarcerated. They also provide resources about how to talk to others about innocence issues and criminal justice reform.
Watch below: Innocence Project - "Life After Exoneration"
Related blog: 5 Criminal Justice Volunteer Opportunities in Manhattan
2. Support the black community through mentorship
In addition to actions that address police violence and racial injustice, Black Lives Matter has also been a springboard movement for community building and empowering young black voices. Mentoring can provide learning opportunities within communities that may not have access to the privileged educational resources available to historically white neighborhoods. Programs like The Lower Eastside Girls’ Club offers free classes in everything from STEM to entrepreneurship, while Girls Write Now specifically works to help young people find confidence in their voice and personal narrative. Mentoring can also be as simple and powerful as being an engaged and caring role model. Join A Call to Men or Big Brothers Big Sisters in modeling respect, engagement, and empathy through one-on-one mentoring.
If you are a white person volunteering in the black community, remember to step back and use mentorship and community engagement as an opportunity to educate yourself. Build relationships with your black neighbors, patronize their businesses, recognize your own privilege, and above all: listen.
Watch below: Big Brothers Big Sisters - "Tyrese and Lanae"
Related blog: What are the Benefits of Being a Mentor?
3. Celebrate and support black artists
Bias, racism, and educational inequality have all contributed to the historical exclusion of black artists from mainstream museum collections and art venues. Step away from Museum Mile and seek out opportunities to attend and support the work of black artists. The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater shines a spotlight on African American culture and modern dance on stage here in their home city of Manhattan, while the Harlem Arts Festival, held every year in June, has showcased over 200 artists since it was founded in 2010. Harlem One Stop is a fantastic online venue to find events featuring black voices as well as museums, civic and cultural groups, and arts organizations within New York’s African American community.
Watch below: Harlem Arts Festival - "Eric Lockley"
4. Seek out and amplify black voices
Just as many venues and institutions have failed to include or actively excluded African Americans, the media has often elided black voices from our coverage of arts and culture. Go beyond the bestseller list and read books by black authors; Pick up a title by a local writer featured by the independent bookstore and New York institution Strand Books downtown. Hire a black artist or designer through the directories of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Check out programming by Futuro Media Group, like the podcast In the Thick and PBS’s Humanizing America that feature the voices of people of color.
As an ally, remember not just to be a passive consumer of black culture; share the names of artists, authors, and creators on social media and with the other people in your life to increase awareness of their achievements.
Watch below: Strand Books - "Darryl Pinckney and Cornel West"
New York City is a beautifully diverse and multiracial city. Stand with and celebrate your black community members and the Black Lives Matter movement by educating yourself about racism and inequality, speaking up on behalf of victims of racial injustice, and celebrating and crediting black creatives and creators.
Related blog: Harlem and the Civil Rights Movement
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