“I can’t breathe.”
George Floyd’s last words echoed around the world as police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nine minutes.
At that moment, something seemed to break — a man immortalized with three words that are now chanted in the streets of every major city in America. However, Floyd wasn’t the first to say those words. Manuel Ellis, whose death from oxygen deprivation in police custody in March has recently been ruled a homicide.
“I can’t breathe.”
These words and Chauvin’s violent act of police brutality incited protests across all 50 states and 18 countries, making Black Lives Matter one of the most impactful social movements of the twenty-first century. Peaceful protests demand justice for the alleged murders of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and others at the hands of hate crimes.
Protestors have already achieved some of their goals. Chauvin and three other officers are being charged for Floyd’s murder, and the investigation of Breonna Taylor’s death, when she was shot eight times by police officers while sleeping in her own home, has recently been reopened by the FBI.
Many may be wondering what they can do to help — protesting isn’t the only option. It may be overwhelming in the beginning, but there are a number of simple steps one can take to act on their passion, anger and desire for change. Here are some ways people can support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Donate to black-led organizations
When looking for places to donate, it’s important to read the organization’s mission statement and learn about the cause one’s donating to. Organizations advocate in a variety of different ways. Educating the public, lobbying for social and systemic reform and providing resources for specific communities are examples of common missions that organizations set out to achieve.
Black Lives Matter, founded in 2013, is a global organization that advocates for equality and fights against white supremacy. It sponsors inclusive programs that work to provide education on black history and spread awareness about racial issues.
For those particularly moved by Floyd’s death and who desire change in Minneapolis, Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block are two organizations that lobby for equality in the Twin Cities area and are currently working to reallocate funds from the Minneapolis Police Department to social programs that they believe will better serve the community.
Thousands of protestors have been arrested. People who want to help the protestors directly can look into this comprehensive list of bail funds where they can donate to help protestors make bail, either nationwide or in the city of their choosing.
Sign petitions for change
One of the easiest, fastest ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement is to sign petitions, many of which demand justice for the alleged murders of black people by the police or call on government officials to make systemic changes.
There are many options for petitioners. Several petitions call for justice for the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor, some of the most recent high-profile cases of racial injustice. Bleu magazine and AdHoc have also listed dozens of other petitions that take seconds to complete.
Contact government officials
In the U.S., citizens can contact government officials and state representatives to share their questions and concerns. Many people have emailed and called their representatives to demand justice for George Floyd’s and others’ alleged murders, calling for social reform.
The government’s website provides links to contact the president, senators and representatives, organized by state and county. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also published tips to effectively contact government officials.
Take time to get educated
One of the most important actions one can take is to educate themselves and those around them. Systemic change occurs when people work together to achieve a common goal. It may be intimidating to begin researching a vast topic such as racism, but educating oneself can be a large part of creating change.
The African American Intellectual Historical Society (AAIHD) provides a comprehensive list of articles, websites and other resources about black history. There are also several documentaries on the subject, many of which are available on Netflix.
There’s more to educate oneself on than black history — many people may be enraged by police brutality, systemic racism and the societal institutions that reinforce those problems. The ACLU has published a manual that educates readers on racial issues and ways to take action in one’s community.
The Black Lives Matter organization has also published a one-page guide to actionable steps that anyone can take. The website is a vast resource with easy-to-understand information about systemic racism, white privilege and how to be an ally to the black community.
It’s important to remember that change is gradual. The injustices in the U.S. that many are just beginning to comprehend won’t be reversed overnight. Learning how to be an ally may take time and can be difficult, and each person’s contributions are no small feat.
No one — regardless of race, wealth or knowledge — is incapable of taking these simple steps and creating change. Every petition signed, dollar donated and action taken are meaningful efforts that can help advance the Black Lives Matter movement and construct a kinder and more just world.
Contact Charlotte Matherly at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Culture.