Community is the foundation of any movement and building within your communities of parents, children and elders to break White silence is a role white people should be taking on. You should be finding ways to break the silence and plant seeds of conversation in your everyday life and the spaces where you circulate. Keep in mind that every community looks different, functions different, communicates different and moves into action differently, so the reality is that no two SURJ Families spaces will look the same, especially when it comes to how you move within your communities towards action. Some communities will move into conversations of change and progress easily, finding ways to name their privilege and work towards change in a multigenerational way while other groups will have trouble naming their privilege and the conversation may take time to move into progressive discussions of change. This is ok! Both spaces, and everything in between, are needed to dismantle white supremacy. There is room and purpose for these spaces just remember it will take some time, patience and willingness to work through the mistakes is all. With the support of your local SURJ Chapter or affiliate group you can begin to test the waters of what is going to work for your community to engage white families in working for racial justice. With that in mind, here are some loose suggestions that can be adapted to many different community spaces you can begin to incorporate into your SURJ work.
Gatherings you can host at home or in a community space:
It can be scary to open our homes and our courage to hosting revolutionary spaces in multi-generational ways, but it can also be a very powerful way of engaging those in our lives who are waiting to be called into this work. Families, caregivers and elders come to the table with plenty of other daily baggage, so try and keep these gatherings flexible and light in atmosphere. It is important to move into this type of action but also important to create a tangible way for people to engage where they are in life and not feel so much pressure to act that it becomes overwhelming. Check out our SURJ Families guide for creating multi-generational spaces before you meet.
- Host a living room conversation that is a multi-generationally inclusive space with a specific topic of discussion. Check out the Rural Organizing Project's guide to Living Room Conversations.
- Host a Raising Race Conscious Children webinar in your home or community as a simple first step to calling families into conversations about race. SURJ set up a toolkit for you to make it easy.
- Start a book or film club that focuses on reading or viewing a diverse selection of racial justice oriented works. Make it multi-generational or create a youth portion that meets at the same time and touches on the same topic as the adults in an age appropriate way. Include the youth in selecting books and films and topics to engage them in the process. This is a great way to “reach” family and friends that live far away!
- Is there a local children's store, library, community center, faith based space or any other community based space you might find yourself in where you could host a public story time, play group, music class, film viewing or art class that has a racial justice theme or action component? Look for ways to bring action to spaces that you already move in as parents, caregivers and elders. Use these spaces as a chance to cultivate discussion around the particular issue you are focusing on in age appropriate ways for children, youth and adults/elders.
- Host teach-ins or workshops around local and national issues of police brutality, white privilege, naming race with children, dismantling white supremacist systems and other topics where you find your group has a mutual interest. There should always be programming for children and youth that has the same topic as the adults presented in an age appropriate way. Don't be afraid to have a multigenerational organizing space, engaging youth as an equal voice.
Organize actions that are inclusive to children, youth, parents, caregivers and elders:
Moving our already existing action spaces into multi-generationally inclusive spaces is important to engaging these groups into the already flowing movement and should be a priority over family-specific action. But organizing in a multigenerational space with the mindset of holding family-specific actions should be part of your work as well. This allows for voices that are not present in a traditional organizing space to be heard and can empower that parent, caregiver, youth, child or elder to move further into action. It can also help to strengthen leaders who may eventually move into those traditional organizing spaces and broaden what your SURJ spaces as a whole look like. If you are able to begin to organize looking through a multigenerational inclusive lens, you will be able to create safe and welcoming spaces for a larger scope of people to show up for racial justice and engage with your SURJ chapter or affiliate group. Here are a few examples of family specific actions you can take. Get creative, though! Find the strengths of those in your group to help bring art, education, community and fun into these actions:
- Hold a “guerilla storytime” where families gather to read books out loud and do activities in a public space such as a library or park that connects with Black Lives Matter or SURJ work.
- Youth-led actions of any form. Sometimes this can be a vigil, a rally, a community conversation, a panel or any other way the young organizers choose to express themselves in action. As parents, caregivers and elders we play a role of support in youth-led action. You help create the physical space for them to lead, you can advocate for them when they need and you can help offer food and supplies to move their plans into action.
- Art in activism installations or organize as a component to a larger rally/March. You could also ask your local library, cultural center, faith community, or school to host an installation.
- Family and elder-led marches or rallies
We want to hear about your actions you are taking in your communities! Please join our Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) Families Facebook group to seek out advice and share any multi-generational actions you organized or participated in. Or e-mail us your stories and pictures at SURJFamilies@gmail.com