Helping Ferguson

twitteractivistgood(And seriously, she is doing amazing work out there.)

Ok, so let’s get this out of the way quickly: I’m really beginning to hate the term “slacktivism”. There’s a good way to use social media for social causes, and there’s a bad way. Duh. Dismissively lumping all of it together under one label is… well, it’s the kind of thinking that helped let the events of the past week happen altogether.

Anyway, if it wasn’t for twitter (and my shitty sleeping habits), I really wouldn’t know what was happening in Ferguson right now. And if I didn’t know what were happening, about a dozen or so of my friends wouldn’t know either. Twitter is helping to get messages out that have no other way of getting out. Which is sad, obviously, but still… fuck yeah twitter. And it’s not just the ever-vague “raising awareness”, either. It’s also spreading useful, helpful, valuable information. Numbers to call if you’re unlawfully arrested, advice on how to deal with tear gas, getting resources to where they need to be… good job twitter. You’ve earned the right to ignore the cynics on this one.

So, rather than just continuing to (or attemping to) spam facebook with facts the media aren’t (currently capable of) reporting, here’s some information that you can take and do something helpful and useful with. If you’re feeling helpless and want to switch from consumer to contributor, here’s some ways of helping. It doesn’t matter that these are not cure-all solutions. They can help. That’s the important thing.

  • If you feel like you want to donate some money to help out, but don’t know how to go about that, then #OperationHelpOrHush has quite a few different options. There’s a memorial fund, a college fund for Michael Brown’s siblings, a bail fund for people who are being unlawfully arrested, food donation options, a general fund for food and supplies for protesters… actually, there’s about a dozen or so different kinds of things you can do to help, click the link, see if any of those work for you.
  • More specifically, and more immediately, there’s an Amazon wishlist set up for school supplies for the children of Ferguson, who I think were/are supposed to go back to school this/next week. And I’m sure that colouring pens and crayons and art supplies etc would be a welcome distraction for them right now.
  • For the protesters, there’s also an Amazon wishlist with food and other useful items. Yesterday there were also masks & goggles (for tear-gas) on that list, but it seems (I hope) that they met their quota and have enough now.

Two other things that would help, though not immediately:

  • A petition advocating some reasonable policy changes that would aim to curb police brutality and abuse of authority, and would be a step in the right direction in removing systemic institutionalized racism from law enforcement. (It would definitely result in less police brutality and almost certainly result in a decrease in profiling. I’m sure you can work out the cause-and-effect benefits of that in the long run). Now, I know that the petition, if it even gets enough signatures, would most likely be ignored the first time, but if that happens, we just start another and get more signatures.  And again and again, as many times as it takes. There is no good reason for police to not record, or be held accountable for their interactions with citizens in public.
  • It’s very important to encourage people to seek out alternative sources of information because so far, the mainstream media is not covering it properly. That is not their fault, as the police have gotten very good at perfecting their media-blackout protocol, and are very good at only releasing the information that benefits them. At the very least, people should know there is much, much more going on than the mainstream media is (currently capable of) presenting.

To help you have a clearer idea of what is happening on the ground, free of censorship or selective filtering, here are some people you may want to follow on twitter and elsewhere where available:

  • Tim Pool (@Timcast) from Vice, who has been live-streaming every single night, providing accurate commentary, and talking to the protesters and police (when police are feeling cooperative). He’s really doing an excellent job out there.
  • Also, Nathan Grant (@NathanBGrant) who is Tim’s Associate Producer and Live Engineer, also providing updates.
  • Vice News also have a separate live-stream, which you can find on youtube.
  • Greg Thomas (@minossec) who is the guy whose interview I was all excited about a few nights back. Check out the interview with him and you’ll probably follow him too.
  • @SheSeauxSaditty and @Awkward_Duck both have a very strong presence out there with the protesters, working hard to organize people, help people who’ve been hurt, and are a big part of #OperationHelpOrHush. They are both excellent people.

And remember, when in doubt, don’t rely on any one source for news. Using #Ferguson (and #OperationHelpOrHush), compare what live news is telling you, to the independent and corroborating reports of people out there on the street. It’s difficult at first (oh, and horrible. you’ll see racists and apologists on #Ferguson), but you’ll very quickly be able to work out what’s what. Truth is a river, and it only flows in one direction. So don’t waste your time swimming against the current.

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