More

4 things you should do when you're told 'Black Lives Matter'

How to be a better ally in four easy steps.

This past weekend, America saw some good examples of what NOT to say in response to "Black Lives Matter."

During the annual progressive conference Netroots Nation, a group of #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName activists stormed the stage during a morning presidential town hall. The activists used the event to ask candidates Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders about their stance on how to fight racism in the United States.


Activist Tia Oso of the Black Immigration Network takes the Netroots Nation stage. Photo by Charlie Leight/Getty Images.

When O'Malley and Sanders responded to the activists about their stance on the mission of the Black Lives Matter movement, many people were disappointed.

O'Malley ended his answer with "Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter," which got him boos from the crowd. (He later apologized.) Sanders took a different approach: He didn't answer the protester's questions, but spoke about income inequality instead.

In response, some attendees walked out of the event, and many have even gone as far to say that O'Malley and Sanders "failed" in their responses to the activists' cries.

If what they said was wrong, what might you have said instead?

If you're deeply, intimately connected to the Black Lives Matter movement in some way, the answers to those questions may seem super obvious to you, no matter your race or identity. But what if you're not? What if you support the efforts of people who are making their voices heard and taking a stand against racism, but aren't sure how to respond thoughtfully as an ally and general Good Person?

Well, I'm a member of the Black Lives Matter movement, and while I've seen plenty of long articles and speeches and really deep analysis about how to be an ally, I gotta say from all of my time tweeting and talking about it, the basics of how to respond well are actually pretty simple. So I've narrowed them down to a super short, handy dandy list.


Here are four simple things to do when someone says "Black Lives Matter."

1. Listen.

Actually pause and take a moment to really, deeply hear what they have to say. This step means you don't have to respond reflexively, awkwardly, immediately, or even at all. Your first responsibility is to actively listen. (And yes, active listening is a real skill. This article on Forbes provides a great introduction to it.)

Why listen? Because when you actually listen, you'll hear that the phrase isn't a personal attack or an accusation of being racist.

People who are working in the BLM movement (myself included) are making a statement about the value and worth of black people in the face of countless acts of racism. So just listen. This step is probably the hardest — but most important — one.

2. Don't say "All Lives Matter" or "[Insert Other Race] Lives Matter."

Now that you've listened, it's response time. And trust me, "All Lives Matter" or "[Another Race] Matters" is not the way to go. And here's why: Those responses miss the actual point (see #1) and derail the conversation.

It's also just kind of ... silly. Don't believe me? Check out this spot-on comparison from actor Matt McGorry of "Orange Is the New Black" (but pardon his French):



MoveOn.org Civic Action's Executive Director Anna Galland digs a bit deeper in the organization's official response to this weekend's action:

“Saying that 'all lives matter' or 'white lives matter' immediately after saying 'Black lives matter' minimizes and draws attention away from the specific, distinct ways in which Black lives have been devalued by our society and in which Black people have been subject to state and other violence."

There's a reason why the creators of the movement made this movement: They felt they had to. All lives matter (duh), yet thanks to institutionalized racism, the U.S. has yet to catch up on showing that. On the Black Lives Matter website, there are many statistics cited to show why there needs to be a movement focusing explicitly on justice for black people.

BLM calls for us to look specifically at how various injustices like poverty, violence, police brutality, and poor-quality education actually affect black lives. You wouldn't want to take attention away from that, would you?

3. Agree that black lives do matter.

Now for the positive part. Responding thoughtfully isn't just about what not to say. It's also about not being afraid to actually agree! Because this:

There isn't a limited amount of dignity and respect in the world.

By affirming that black people deserve these things too, you are not devaluing the lives of people of other races.

As The New Republic Senior Editor Jamil Smith tweeted in response to Saturday's action:


It really is that simple. And that's why people of all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities have joined the movement as active participants. If you take a close look, you'll see that the Black Lives Matter movement is actually really diverse. Because you don't have to be black to want to support the idea of justice and equality for people who are still regularly having to fight for it.

4. Don't stop there. Take the time to learn more about the movement.

Phew! You made it this far. You listened, didn't derail the conversation, and you affirmed that you know that black people matter, too.

But the work isn't over.

You might have a lot of questions. And yes, you can always find someone to answer them. But even better is taking the time to do a little digging first. Peruse the Black Lives Matter website for better understanding about the movement. Read the numerous interviews that the Black Lives Matter co-creators have done.

Taking the time to research before asking questions is a great way to show that you care and want to help.

It can be scary to talk about such a sensitive topic if it isn't your personal #1 issue. But the way you talk about it is the only way that people will know your true intentions and your solidarity with the people who are on the front lines trying to make the country better and more just. So follow these four steps and go forth!

To learn more about demands, events, and past work, visit the official #BlackLivesMatter website.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

More

The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

People have WILDLY different opinions on "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein.

I was excited to read "The Giving Tree" to my children when they were little. I'd read the Shel Silverstein classic so many times as a kid and remembered loving it. In my memory, it was a poetic story of a tree that gave selflessly, never expecting anything in return, and of the undying love she had for a little boy who eventually turned into an old man.

"And the tree was happy." It was sweet, I thought.

Then I read the book again as an adult and noticed some things I hadn't as a child. While I had focused on the generosity of the tree as a child, this time the boy-who-becomes-a-man stood out. Wow, what a selfish jerk he was. And the tree, while admirably willing to give selflessly, seemed a little too giving. Martyrdom for an important cause is one thing; sacrificing everything you are for a guy who uses you over and over and takes without any thought to your needs or well-being is entirely another.

Keep Reading Show less

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

Keep Reading Show less