10 Things College Students Can do to Fight for Justice Right Now
By Aishamanne Williams
Since George Floyd was brutally murdered by Minneapolis police two weeks ago, protests have been happening every day across the nation and internationally in what’s been called the biggest civil rights movement we’ve seen. As calls to defund (and abolish) the police become mainstream, it is clear that people are ready for real change and won’t stop protesting for it anytime soon.
Students have always been at the center of political movements. Student activism helped to shape the Black Lives Matter movement, and the same is true for the 1960s civil rights movement. Across the country, students are getting involved with political actions while dealing with financial troubles caused by the pandemic, uncertainty about whether they will be able to return to campus in the fall, and academic institutions that may or may not have handled the interruption of the academic year in a way that benefited students.
Much like the Red Summer of 1919, when race rebellions happened en masse following the Spanish flu in 1918 due to economic frustrations and racial tensions after World War I, this summer people will be grappling with the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on society, and a civil rights movement with newfound urgency. This year has been intense, and this summer is gearing up to be even more so. Here are 10 things college students can do to make the best of this summer and to get involved in our current political moment.
Dedicate Time to Political Education
Now more than ever, it is important to educate ourselves. Demands centered around defunding and abolishing the police/prisons, while far from new, have recently made their way into mainstream consciousness. It’s important to understand what these terms mean and what knowledge revolutionaries have to share.
Find reading lists online. People have created Google Drive folders filled with PDFs of hundreds of books on revolutions, Black feminism, leftist history, and more. Some of these readings can be intense, so find friends to read with you and help you understand the text. You can start a book club. The rapper Noname has a radical book club (you can find PDFs for all the books on her reading list here).
If reading isn’t inviting/accessible to you, there are other options like listening to audiobooks, watching documentaries, listening to speeches online, and more.
Keep Career Goals in Mind
In the midst of everything happening, it’s important to try not to neglect your career goals. Many companies are still hiring remote interns. Do some research on internships that you can do this summer. Reach out to people who you might want to do an apprenticeship for or whose work you may want to shadow. If a portfolio is part of your career, make a daily plan to create work for your portfolio from home if possible. Stay up to date on what’s happening in your desired field (and what the companies you might want to work for are saying/doing about the movement for black lives).
Start Making Income From Home
The coronavirus pandemic reminded us how fragile the economy can be. Many people lost their jobs, are still furloughed or had to take severe pay cuts. If you’re not currently employed, look into whether you qualify for unemployment/pandemic relief.
Also, consider ways you can start making income from home. If you’re a creative, maybe sell your products/services online. If there’s a business idea you’ve always wanted to try (that won’t cost too much to start), look into trying it. This is especially a good time for Black students to start businesses/providing services since people are interested in supporting Black businesses right now.
Digital Organizing: Be Active
The Internet is an amazing tool for political movements. Every day on social media people are sharing petitions to sign, organizations/people to donate to, important information and tips regarding protests that the news usually doesn’t share, and more. There are many ways to get involved online. Visit here and here for more information on how to take digital action.
Protests have accomplished so much thus far. Minneapolis announced efforts to disband their police department, Minneapolis public schools have ended their contract with police, the Mayor of Louisville (where Breonna Taylor was killed by police) suspended no-knock warrants and more. If you are able, going to protests can be an important and effective way to show solidarity and call for change. Find protests that you can attend in your city or get involved with organizers to help organize protests. You can also play many roles at a protest — in addition to going to hold up signs and make your voice heard, you can also provide snacks and water for people, go as a documentarian & take photos/videos, or be someone’s safety buddy.
Consider What Role You Play in the Movement
Protests aren’t the only aspect of social change. Frontline responders, caregivers, healers, storytellers, artists, scholars, and more all play crucial roles in revolution. Spend some time meditating on where you fit in. What contribution do you feel most called to make? How can you use your personality and skills to best be of service to this political movement? There should be no hierarchy in activism & organizing; every role is equally important. Find yours and take action steps toward fulfilling it to the best of your ability.
Unwind & Decompress
Times are intense. They have been for some months. It is imperative that you maintain your mental, physical and spiritual health. Every day, make time to engage in content (TV, movies, books, podcasts) that isn’t directly related to our current political moment. Prioritize your community: talk to and spend time with your friends & family. Make plans with them that bring you all together and help you to relax and unwind, like sleepovers or picnics. The times we are in now require you to be at your best self, so health and wellness come first.
Pay Attention to What Your College is Doing
Many universities, due to public demand, have started canceling their relationships with local police departments. See whether your school has done this and if not, consider organizing with fellow students to call for that to happen. Look into what statements your college has made about what’s happening. Are they making purely performative gestures? How are they committing to supporting Black students? With the support of other students, hold these institutions accountable for considering any role they may play in white supremacy or the oppression of Black lives and demand that they commit to doing better. Make sure your college isn’t just talking but doing.
Start a Creative Hobby
Now would be a great time to get into the arts if you aren’t already, or get into the habit of a creative hobby. Hobbies in general can be good for mental health right now. Have you always wanted to get into knitting, drawing, photography, filmmaking, zines, sculpting, journaling, poetry, or even something like baking? Now that it’s summer, it would be a good time to dive into those hobbies. It also helps because doing something artistic can be healing, which is much needed at this time. And whatever art you create becomes part of your personal archive and reflects the times we live in right now, which may be impactful for others if you share it online. Other hobbies can be healthy habits, like meditation, working out, yoga, biking, etc.
Get Involved with Peer Groups at School
Are there political, organizing, affinity, etc. groups at your university? How can you get involved with them if you aren’t already? Connect with these groups over the summer and see what they are planning both right now (protests, demonstrations, demands for your school, etc.) and for the coming academic year. Are there demands for changes in curriculum, new policies to support Black students and faculty, divesting from police departments, etc.? Look into what your peer groups are doing (or start one) and help develop specific goals and action plans for the academic year.
Above all, stay committed to learning, to action, to wellness, and to community.
Aishamanne is an aspiring writer, photographer, and filmmaker. She attends The New School where she is majoring in journalism and design with minors in film, production, and photography. She is the M4BL mass engagement summer intern.