Online activism is a hot mess to me these days, and I've largely lost interest in 99% of the activities that I was once interested in. This is just a reality of increasing responsibilities and a shifting of my energy to activities I believe serve me better.
If it isn’t local feminist groups sharing videos suggesting that “I am Chris Brown” is a “movement” for black men to join, it’s homophobia, classism, or something else. Frankly, it’s exhausting and I no longer have the energy or proclivity to have “discussions” with people who are unwilling to educate themselves on the basics before assuming they’re correct.
There are a number of contemporary resources for educating yourself about feminism in the Caribbean, my blog included, and of course, scores of books, many of which I’ve already listed previously on my blog, or I’ve linked throughout my previous posts.
(Quick aside: When it comes to reading and educating myself about history, my most recent read has been “An Indigenous People’s History of the United States” by Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz. This is a great read if you’re interested in learning more about the real history of the United States from the perspective of those who are indigenous to the country. I made it a point in the past to learn about the land I was occupying during university when I took a class called “Native People’s of Northern New England”. I learned about the different Algonquian ethnic groups, specifically the Abenaki, whose land we occupied up in cold Vermont.)
Still, in 2018, I don’t think it’s unfair to give this blog the ax. I toyed with the idea, but I think there’s still room for the occasional reflection on West Indian Critic. If you want to see more of me online, there are plenty of other places to do so which will have little explicit to do with politics.
If you too are seeing disillusionment with social media activism and you’re curious about what you can fill your time with, let me suggest offline community building, which has been my current focus.
For me, this means dedicating time to my immediate and extended family, dedicating time to the land via National Trust membership, and more. Here are 3 of the ways I’ve redirected my focus in ways that directly impact poor black women in Saint Lucia:
1. Attending National Trust Meetings, paying dues & educating friends/family about the trust’s activities
This is as straightforward as it sounds. I’ve paid my dues to the Trust and I spend time on many of their sites, most popular for me are Pigeon Island, the women’s battery in Vigie, as well as Sandy Beach. In a country where the media is constantly battling against the welfare of our citizens, you will find politicians spreading negative propaganda about the National Trust.
It helps when trusted members of the community cut through the noise and explain the truth in a clear manner. To cut through political propaganda, you have to make the person listening feel heard. This is difficult and to do this I practice a method called Non-Violent Communication, created by psychologist Marshall Rosenburg.
During this method of discussion you can empathize effectively and it is both harder to dismiss others than to be dismissed. Offline, it can be easier to explain what you mean and to reach a respectful understanding of the truth. The National Trust’s protection of natural sites around Saint Lucia and their interest in the people of Saint Lucia make them a wonderful group to stand behind and support. Their goals and views are consistent, if not amongst individual members, at least among the organization.
They do good work for the larger community and are active in protecting the land which is a cause I 100% support.
2. Shopping from the Castries Market
The majority of the vendors are poor black women who rely on agriculture to make a living. Many women I shop from have explicitly told me that without the French Caribbean tourists who come through the market, they wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.
I care about who I am enriching and I prefer to make a big impact in one person’s life than to be complicit in someone’s excessive accumulation of wealth. This doesn't mean I no longer shop at the grocery store or that I judge people who do, but I am making the conscious choice here about who I support.
I also believe that having a personal connection to my food has enabled me to appreciate it more, to eat healthier without buying into “diet culture” or even more consumerism.
Additionally, I have transitioned to partial-veganism and shopping at the Castries market makes this more sustainable as there is a wider variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from as well as other specialty ingredients I love like homegrown coffee, extra virgin coconut oil, and locally produced honey.
3. Building positive online spaces with better boundaries
I am focusing on spaces that are focused more on positivity than anything else. While there can be positive communities of activists, I have not found this to be true online for me. People might be nice enough to each other, but it’s telling that overall the tone of many groups of people is largely negative. There is a lot of competition, distrust, excessive disagreement and too much focus on garnering an audience. I find a lot of it performative and narcissistic, which may have been appealing when I was a bit younger, but it's not interesting to me now.
I believe I myself have fallen into this trap online, of focusing on all the wrong ideas, and it’s no longer serving me. At all. It took me a long time to realize that, but I need to be working towards something positive and to have a positive mindset towards my community.
Let’s not act as well like multiple people who seek social media popularity for social issues have quite narcissistic reasons for doing so. I don’t enjoy the uncertainty in who I'm approaching or talking to. There are a few specific incidents that have led to this that I don't want to discuss but let's just say that most are not out there walking the walk.
If spaces are built in such a way that they attract more positive discussions, I think that is psychologically better for me as a black woman in the long run.
Despite some negativity I get on my YouTube channel, which doesn’t bother me much, it’s a largely positive space where I enjoy sharing bits and pieces of my life in Saint Lucia and highlighting the realities of living here… whether you like what I have to say or not. I find Instagram to be the best platform I use outside of my regular job, so I’m really working on building that online community.
I love visual platforms and while I struggle with imposter syndrome sometimes, I largely enjoy using them. Maybe that shift has to do with writing becoming my full-time job. Regardless of the reasons, I welcome the shift.
Here are 37 other community building ideas to inspire you to take action:
- Consider a small monthly donation to someone in your family who lives in poverty (obviously this assumes you have money to spare)
- Enjoy a yoga/meditation/prayer practice that nourishes you spiritually
- Mentor someone in your community
- Teach someone in your community to swim (this assumes that you can swim and have the skills to teach someone to swim. Don’t drown your neighbor.)
- Learn CPR/First Aid
- Pay for a child’s meals/schoolbooks in your community
- Work with your friends to meet savings goals together. If they’re trusted friends, consider sous sous to save money.
- Work on something cultural: mas camp, putting on one of Derek Walcott’s plays, creating a YouTube channel of local herbal remedies, creating a blog documenting your family’s oral history, sew national dress, make farine etc.
- Encourage your friends to get their annual STD blood tests (and get yours too…)
- Educate older relatives about homophobia, sexism, transphobia and ableism in a respectful manner if the situation presents itself
- Support your favorite online creator on Patreon
- Listen to someone whose opinions you disagree with and try to find some common ground (***USE WITH CAUTION. Don’t go arguing with people who will just get you vex. Pick people you can have civil discussions with. Be the civil one in the discussion.)
- Share your favorite “social justice” book with someone
- Share your favorite underrepresented rapper/singer without guilt-tripping people into listening to them. Write a passionate reason why we should get into their music rather than "you don't like her because of [x identity]". (NOTE: Yes, a lot of people are prejudiced but I'm aiming here to promote reaching out to people who WON'T be attracted to negativity.)
- Look into organizing a community dinner/soup kitchen for the homeless with your church. (Or on your own.)
- If you’re in a Christian community, have discussions with people who espouse oppressive beliefs in the name of the church. Research ways you can use scripture to back up why empathy is more important than dogma.
- Research the beliefs/traditions of an underrepresented religious minority in your area. Educating yourself about someone different can do a world of difference for your ability to empathize.
- Consider starting a community garden in your area. If this isn’t feasible, consider starting an herbal garden or an “urban garden” for yourself.
- Educate someone younger than you about our island/environment and why nature is so important. (Don’t make this a boring or scary lecture.)
- Ask your vegan friends for good recipes. Even if you aren’t vegan, it’s kind to take an interest in other people’s interests. You may learn something too.
- Buy something from a local farmer or artisan. Even better, buy something for your mom from a local artisan.
- Learn how to make something cultural: farine, coconut oil, cassava, Jamaican patties, oxtail, pemi, tamarind balls
- Work on your mental health/sleep hygiene. You are an important part of the community. Take care of your mind and your body. Make sure you’re resting. If you can’t afford to do anything else, at least you should rest.
- Learn Creole. If you know Creole, speak it or teach someone younger than you who wants to learn.
- Go visit your grandmother or a lonely elderly person in the community. Ask about their lives and see if there’s something you can help them out with. At least bring them a “raise” if nothing else.
- Attend a national trust meeting or an analogous meeting in your area. If you can’t do that? Go for a hike. Can’t do that? A walk. Can’t do that? See if your local national trust (or any environmental org) needs help with managing their social media. Offer a couple hours a week if possible.
- Donate food/clothes/toys to someone in need.
- Donate to someones “gofundme” who needs help with medical expenses.
- Offer explicit support to someone you know who is going through a difficult time. Let them know that they can rely on you. That being said, if you are in need of support, ask someone trusted for a little extra support.
- Learn about “non violent communication” and “positive discipline” so we can be kinder to the children in our community
- Learn about your island/country’s history. Share what you’ve learned in a neutral way with the people around you. Allow them to draw their own conclusions.
- Support a local artist (emotionally). Let them know how meaningful their work is to you and/or how much you respect them. This can be casually. Or by carrier pigeon. The choice is yours.
- Know someone in government? Pen a letter/email to them about an issue where they have the power to make a change. This works best if there’s a personal connection and the letter is respectful and informative rather than pushy.
- Stop using plastic bags at the grocery store — try reusable bags. This isn't going to save the entire planet, but on an island, less plastic usage has a big impact on our surrounding oceans. (Look into the Castries Harbor if you think individuals can't make an impact here...)
- Visit the beach. Better yet make it a BBQ and invite people.
- Relax. Seriously, take a break. Delete all your social media if you have to. It’s okay not to be hooked to your phone’s buzz all day long. (I say this as someone who works online. I’m a responsible entrepreneur, what can I say.)
- Do you have a special skill? See if you can arrange to teach a free class on your skill once a week. Yes, this includes artists, coders, cooks, seamstresses.
I hope some of these ideas inspired you to get out into your community today and make a difference. Of course, feel free to tweet about it too, or connect with friends online over what you’re doing out there to make a difference.
See ya on February 28th. COMMENT your own community building ideas down below and check me out on social media once you’re done reading this post.