In these heart-wrenching times, many folks are asking, “How can I help?” or “How can my family be part of the solution?” As a Black Woman, and Person of Color (POC) who loves people and loves to talk, I want to share my thoughts. As a self-proclaimed “Purveyor of Possibility”, first know that I believe it’s time that we all can listen, learn and move positively forward.
My grandchildren have friends who also say they want to help. This is quite encouraging, but many still post on social media and say nothing about the state of our world or Black America. Silence at this stage of the game is jarring. I am not stunned and I know this is not out of the norm for folks to not know, nor understand the plight of Black folks, but for many, including young adults, this feels insensitive and alarming.
I found myself crying the other day when my granddaughter was struggling to explain her feelings to her friends who are white. She was having a disagreement with girls she considers her friends because they couldn’t just listen and validate her pain. We can respect differences of opinions, but not when you want to question what it means to be Black, biracial multi-racial, however you identify, but clearly of the African diaspora. Racism and injustice have been a pandemic for Black folk for centuries! Our Life experiences are NOT up for debate!
I’ve noticed that many white folks think that admitting they have privilege is saying they are racist. These things are not one and the same. Whether you have one friend of color, have dated a Person of Color, or even have children of color, you are not absolved of racism or implicit bias. Wake up, people. Acknowledging and accepting that we experience this world differently is not a crime. Not saying or doing something about it, continuing to dismiss us, not acknowledging the obvious inequalities IS being complicit with systemic racism and oppression.
Being willing to listen, learn and have the conversation is the first step in the right direction. Hearing from Black voices directly is the best way to bridge the divide and have the conversation. No one is expecting perfection or for white folks to suddenly be experts on Black culture, but rather be willing to listen, learn, share and vow to work in unison for systemic change, leading by example. Black folks are loving, prideful, yet deeply hurt, and looking for equality, genuine concern and equal opportunity. We don’t need your pity.
Here are a few suggestions of ways you can use your voice to be part of the solution and support meaningful change from wherever you are.
Have a conversation with someone who doesn’t look like you. When you host events or playdates, consciously make an effort to have a diverse circle of faces in the room, do this for yourself and to lead by example for your kids.
Gather with folks who share different ideas and have sensitive conversations about systemic racism and be open to listening, even if it’s uncomfortable.
Educate yourself, your family and friends with books like White Fragility, Waking Up White, and The New Jim Crow.
Demand an appropriately diverse curriculum in all schools. Seek out expertise in the Black community for appropriate suggestions.
When you hear someone make inappropriate and or racist comments, speak up. Don’t ignore distasteful comments about any race or person.
Visit and become a member of The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. This museum is so amazing and helps everyone conceptualize in a more vivid and timeless manner, though it can take multiple visits to truly digest the atrocities of over 400 years of history and trauma.
Vote on all levels and voice your support for ground-sweeping legislation that is clear on educational equality, prison and law enforcement reform, addressing health and racial disparities, economic and digital divide parity, and housing equality. This is all part of leveling the playing field and repairing our divided country.
Money is a color that everyone understands, but not all have equitable access. In understanding American and world history, we know that capitalism was built on the backs of kidnapped African slaves, made to labor for free for centuries. This has left Black folks collectively totally unable to ever catch up to white folks who built their empires, businesses and family wealth and legacy on the back of our ancestors.
Level the playing field for Black folks to share in economic wealth and parity, which in turn helps to slowly diminish other societal social ills, like access to quality healthcare, housing, education, legal representation, technology and banking. Support black and brown business owners. Utilize minority suppliers or insist, with proof, that your suppliers subcontract with minority businesses across the board. Refer friends and family to shop and patronize small minority-owned businesses.
Hire Black People as employees, consultants and experts for your business. Think about mentoring small minority businesses and sharing experts and resources for their businesses. Create a fund collectively with your family and friends to make donations that support small minority-owned businesses through grants and or accessible loans.
Hire or help underwrite Black People to be speakers at your place of business or school. Do this year round, not just during Black History Month. Nominate Black People for corporate board of director positions and to serve in other leadership and decision-making positions.
Donate to organizations that provide direct services in underserved communities. Sponsor kids from underserved communities to attend extracurricular activities, summer camp, sleep away camp or sponsor tuition at a private school. Sponsor a family of color in need and support them consistently, emotionally and financially, within reason. The ongoing interaction will help both families in spoken and unspoken ways.
Support Black programming, multimedia, books, television shows, music, movies, and webinars. Support or underwrite creative projects, scripts, art, theatre, and other entertainment endeavors that authentically tell Black stories. Norman Lear took the lead fifty years ago, but more needs to be done.
Share these ideas with your family and friends and talk about ways you can take action.
Thank you for listening and deciding to positively use your voice today.
About Lisa Nkonoki
Lisa Nkonoki is a mother, grandmother, wife, media thought leader, entertainment and marketing professional, as well as a Life Coach and Family Advocate who helps folks privately and collectively from Living Your Dreams to getting through challenging times, be it finding your passion, divorce, death, transitions, teens, diversity, career change, fatherhood, multiracial families and beyond. Learn more at LisaNkonoki.com.