Earlier this month, Kimberly Mark outlined proactive steps where we can “live justly” within our communities–whether workplaces, churches, or society.

This piece takes a deeper dive into how we can engage in justice work through community involvement at all scales. Often, community work may seem daunting because it requires volunteer training/intake, X hours of commitment, distance/access, and other barriers. However, organizing in 2020 has expanded the opportunities we can participate in collective community care, from leveraging digital spaces to do national and transnational work, to the hyper-localized informal networks that have sprung up to support everything from COVID-19 relief work, protest jail support, intergenerational care, and more.

Mutual Aid

Most recently, there has been a multitude of mutual aid groups that have sprung up across the US in the wake of both COVID-19 and the protest movements. These types of grassroot groups are particularly important right now because they can directly respond to very immediate physical needs, while building local community networks that can be leveraged for other justice work in the long-term.

The following are some practical questions / next steps that you can take to get involved in a mutual aid group.

  • First, you need to find who they are! Find your local mutual aid group by looking up “[your town/city/region] + Mutual Aid” in a web search, and there is usually a hyperlocal neighborhood-level group already formed and mobilizing your neighbors!
  • Follow them on social media. Many of these groups use Facebook / Twitter / Instagram as their main communication platforms to disseminate information quickly.
  • Find out if they have an internal Facebook group / Slack channel / Signal group that you can join to engage in the practical volunteer opportunities and actions.
  • Are you able to contribute financially? If you are able, set up a regular financial contribution to their Venmo / Paypal / donation platform.

Digital Organizing

Not all community organizing work has to occur in-person. Here is a short-list of ways you can engage virtually:

  • Text-Banking: You can mobilize on a number of different text-banking campaigns, whether it’s around a specific issue, bill, or getting the vote out. Here are a few text-banking organizations: MoveOn.org, Open Progress, Resistance Labs, NextGen America, and RealJustice.
  • Phone-Banking: Support your local, state, and federal candidates by volunteering to phone bank with their campaign. This can be a one-off slot (they usually have shifts), or recurring volunteer opportunity.
  • Connecting with Seniors: Physical distancing and shelter-in-place cause seniors to face health risks beyond physical health as they are more likely to be socially isolated. Look up a pen pal program to write letters to older adults through national organizations, local nursing homes or senior assisted facilities, or connect with community centers that engage with older adults to see what programs they have to support those who may not have loved ones to check in on them.

Forming a Collective Care Circle

Activist burnout is a real thing. Outward facing justice work cannot be sustainable without a space to process, learn, and engage with others who can care, encourage, challenge, and remind you to rest often!

I would argue that a collective care circle goes beyond friendship. Collective care requires a commitment (doesn’t have to be super formal) to one another, regular check-ins, and a simple recognition that you are growing together in this work.

Finally I leave you with words from a Black trans non-binary writer, Estelle Ellison,

Being involved in the work of transformation locally is ultimately what extends the work outwards.”

  • Symphony (she/her) manages communications and PR for a nonprofit at the intersection of public health, urban planning, and the built environment. She lives in Brooklyn, NY but her heart is really for Manhattan’s Chinatown. Her current side projects are cheers to the mess and the Thin Heart Brigade (coming soon!). She is a plant mom and has recently picked up Chinese calligraphy.