This post isn’t angry. It isn’t poetic.


This post is meant to motivate – or at least begin the process of motivation because grief, though necessary, isn’t productive if you never move beyond it. My rage-less sadness that emerged in the face of the Zimmerman verdict does nothing to make circumstances better for anyone.

At the rally last weekend my friend, with ties to Seattle and NYC, was distracted by the absence of any plan or strategy beyond the march. She shared examples from other marches she’s participated in over the years and the information that was shared at rallies to make sure action happened after them. That included possible legislation, volunteer opportunities, and places to donate money.

I looked for the equivalent list in the wake of last weekend’s sadness and found education pieces to read, petitions to sign, and little else. This is my list…limited to what i know and can think of. Please add to it and help make our grief and rage actionable.

1.      Laws: Florida is not alone, more than 30 states have some variation of Stand Your Ground laws. Getting rid of Stand Your Ground laws is imperative to make sure de-escalation of situations is the standard.

But don’t just sign a petition; write and call your representatives (state and federal) and let them know you disapprove and want change. You can find your elected officials’ contact information here. Marching brings some attention but politicians know that if you care enough to call and write you care enough to vote – and you are watching them.

2.      Change attitudes: this is not a request for black and brown folks to go out and attempt to ingratiate themselves to people who fear them, rather an invitation for the people who fear them (and those that know and love- or tolerate- those that fear them) to educate. Begin exploration of the idea of privilege and how to be a helpful ally.

3.      Donate time and money to local organizations: Strengthening our collective communities requires investment of money and time. Travyon wasn’t doing anything wrong when he was murdered. Even so, making sure youth programs are abundant and adequately funded is beneficial to all communities.

In Oakland:

a.       Youth Radio provides space for young people to share their voices and allows space to begin to dismantle some of the more destructive tropes of identity.

b.      Youth ALIVE! trains youth to be leaders and educators on violence, provides intensive case management for young people who have been violently injured, and provide services for the families of homicide victims.

c.       East Bay Asian Youth Center recently launched an expanded “Boys to Men of Color” mentorship program and works in schools and the community.

d.      SEM Link provides resources to enhance science, technology, engineering, and math skills in K-12 students.

e.       Oakland Unified School District educates Oakland.

f.       These are by no stretch all of the local organizations in Oakland, and if you live elsewhere I assure you there are a number of programs and schools that could use your time and money…donate both generously.

4.      Understand trauma and its impact: This is a bit abstract but work with me. Everyone experiences trauma in life, and in recent years researchers have begun to explore how trauma (especially early trauma) impacts health. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study began to chart these health impacts.

Sometimes trauma leads to depression or full-blown or partial symptoms of PTSD. Symptoms (including hyperarousal, re-experiencing, and numbing) can be misinterpreted by healthcare providers, police, family members, and other, and can make victims vulnerable to future trauma because of their behavior or how that behavior is perceived.  If someone seems paranoid or stoic…if someone is easy to anger or high (self-medicating)…you cannot assume you know why that person is behaving that way.

Boys and men of color are as susceptible to trauma as anyone. The 10 question ACE questionnaire  is not exhaustive and does not include a number of adverse experiences including various “isms” (racism, sexism, homophobia“ism”). It also neglects to include things like community violence, death, or the criminalization of the black/brown body-rendering some of their trauma unidentified/unacknowledged. Add to this that boys and men of color may exhibit trauma symptoms that are often seen as character flaws rather than symptoms when wrapped in brown skin and testosterone.

What is to be done then?

You can offer Trauma Informed Care as a general practice- for everyone. “Trauma Informed Care recognizes that many different forces impart certain things on patients, causing them to be interpreted as ‘bad’ or ‘sick,’ but what patients really need is our recognition that they are ‘hurt’ and need to be healed.” This speaks specifically to a hospital setting but can be applied in other situations. Think of it as empathy/sympathy without knowledge or proof of harm done. Think of it as an opportunity to give the benefit of the doubt. Think of it as a way to deescalate most situations and see the humanity of another person.

None of these are magic bullets; they will neither undo the death of Trayvon Martin (and the countless others before and after him) or the Zimmerman verdict – but they offer a place to begin. Marching we do for ourselves – shared grief and anger; change we create for the future – what could be made real.

Disclaimer: I have ties and/or relationships to some of the programs listed.



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