As we celebrate Black History Month this February at ioby, we want to celebrate the fact that Black History is a living history. It’s something to look back on to learn from and take pride in, but it’s also something that lives today—something to build on and to grow. Something that’s happening right now! Our neighbors are showing us the way to do that.
This year, we want to lift up the incredible work that neighbors are doing to honor Black history, celebrate Black culture and Black people, and fight back against anti-black racism. We’ve highlighted a few projects that are working to strengthen bonds in their neighborhoods and that are moving us all toward a more just world. Many of them are still crowdfunding, too! If you’re feeling inspired, we’ve also pulled together a few of our best tips for starting your own project that fights for racial justice.
1. Unshakeable Motherhood, currently raising $3,129
“All you have to do is Google ‘Black maternal health,’ and you’ll see that a lot of Black women are dying in childbirth,” Syreeta Gordon says. “It’s a big problem, and it’s an important public health problem.” With Unshakeable Motherhood, Syreeta wants to tackle disproportionate health outcomes for Black mothers by cultivating a space where moms can be comforted, supported, and encouraged during their pregnancies. In addition to fostering a strong community of diverse women who can rely on one another, Syreeta wants to provide training for moms and moms-to-be. Her first campaign with us raised $1,493 to fund two scholarships for aspiring doula’s, and to host an Unshakeable Motherhood event, and her current project plans to fund a retreat of seminars, mini-classes, and other educational opportunities for expecting mothers.
2. Great Lakes African American Writers Conference & Youth Poetry Slam, currently raising $10,345
Being a writer is tough. But books are a critical way culture, and young reading minds, are shaped. The Great Lakes African American Writers Conference & Youth Poetry Slam wants to make it a little easier for Black writers to practice their craft by offering an opportunity to learn skills from industry professionals, and network with other writers in the region. It’s free to attend, and after a successful conference in 2018 and 2019, they’re back to crowdfund for their 2020 conference—this time featuring a Youth Poetry Slam!
3. Cle 4 Me Tours, currently raising $13,734
We admire Shana, the leader behind Cle 4 Me Tours, for many reasons—including her passion for sharing her city of Cleveland with tourists and locals alike. She started her collaborative blog, Black Girl in the CLE, in part because she knows that the presence of Black Clevelanders matters. “As Cleveland grows, new entertainment districts and events are coming and the only way to ensure that we weren’t closed out or overlooked was to make sure that we showed up,” she says. Now, CLE 4 Me Tours is crowdfunding to offer engaging tours that honor and celebrate the Black experience in Cleveland.
There are so many other examples of neighbors fighting for racial justice and honoring Black history, but we wanted to turn to you and ask—what great idea to do you have? Here are three things you can do to help develop and organize your own project for Black History Month (or any other month!).
1. Do your homework.
In order to serve your community, you should know your community. Leah Lewis, the Leader of X’s and O’s of Race/ism and the Great Lakes African American Writers Conference, advises neighborhood leaders to do as much research as possible. This research can include reading books or articles in addition to talking with stakeholders. Lewis also recommends going deeper than just engaging in casual conversation and “forging relationships that can be beneficial to the cause, but also personally.”
2. Know what you don’t know.
Once you’ve done your homework and laid the groundwork for your project, take a pause to remember that you don’t—and can’t!—know everything. That’s ok! “Be able to acknowledge that when you’re in your group and you’re facilitating or you’re working with people–you’re gonna have to look some things up. You’re gonna have to learn as you go sometimes,” says Kaela Geschke, who led A Bridge that Bridges in Cleveland with her friend Gwen Garth. “You also have to not be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know everything, let’s learn this together.’ You have to stay humble,” Gwen says. At ioby, we know there’s power in harnessing community input as you work towards getting good done in your neighborhood. The more help you seek and the more voices you listen to, the better your chances of designing a project that truly meets the needs of your community.
3. Don’t Go it Alone.
Remember the old saying, “There’s strength in numbers”? Indigo Bishop, ioby’s former Cleveland Action Strategist (we miss you Indigo!), agrees. “There are likely many, many hundreds of people who are invested in the same thing that you are. It’s a matter of finding them and finding out where they get together,” she says. Find out where these people meet, whether it be “officially” (such as homeowners’ association meetings) or “unofficially” (such as when picking up the kids from school), and join in the conversation. A wider network is a richer network, and teaming up with others can help you access more resources than you might be able to on your own.
Inspired by these neighbor leaders and want to know more? We want to help! Share your idea with us, and we’ll help you craft a plan to crowdfund the money you need to bring your great art education idea to life. If you’re looking for even more advice and tips from neighbors who have been in your shoes before, download our free racial justice toolkit.