By Nina Campli, Assistant Student Life and Arts Editor
In the wake of all the political upheaval and the ever decreasing rights of minorities, many students may be wondering what they can do to help in the fight against oppression. A new organization, The Freedom School Initiative, hopes to help students answer this very question. Created by Associate Professor of Sociology Kesha Moore, The Freedom School Initiative is designed to help people to be active political citizens, and of course, vote. All of their events are set up with the goal of presenting community action tools to those who wish to be a better ally to those who are struggling for some of their rights.
The idea for freedom schools stemmed from the Freedom Summer of 1964 when thousands of college students traveled to the American South to help with voter registration and leadership development. Moore said, “The Freedom School was around educating people for democracy, educating people to be able to create justice and see themselves as leaders and to understand their history and value networking to do education in a way that wasn’t being done in public schools or anywhere else.”
The organization hopes to hold an event monthly, starting with the one this past Tuesday September 19 about the Safety Pin Box. The Safety Pin Box was created by Leslie Mac and Marissa Jenae Johnson. The box is set up like Birchbox, Loot Crate, and Ipsy except instead of receiving snacks or make-up your subscription provides non-black allies with monthly information and tools on how to be an effective ally to people in the black community. The idea for it stemmed from the safety pin symbol that started to appear after the 2016 election. The idea was that anyone who wore a safety pin was an ally, a safe space for those who needed it. All the proceeds from the boxes go to black women organizers. The women can sign up on Safety Pin Box site to receive the money. Thus far Safety Pin Box has 1,500 subscribers and has given $130,000 to black femme freedom fighters. Currently, they are sending money to Hurricane Harvey victims.
During Tuesday’s event Leslie Mac and Paige Ingram, who are members of the Safety Pin Box team, talked with Drew students, faculty and members of the Madison community about how to be an effective ally. One of the biggest points that the women stressed was that everyone can be an ally, it is just a matter of learning how. It is the art of, as Moore puts it, “stand[ing] with them, not for them.” Mac asserted during the talk, “You don’t need to be a professional activist to be active.”
The women discussed the do’s and don’ts of being a good ally, especially that being a good ally required training. Although times of crisis, like the events in Charlottesville, are when most look to make their allyship active, this is something that requires time and intention. Wanting to act after a crisis is like making a New Year’s Resolution, without following through it’s nothing but air. Ultimately, people are often shocked after events like Charlottesville happen, but the work of being an ally is what you do with that shock. On this topic Ingram questioned, “When you stop being shocked can you start to be proactive? ”Essentially, being a good ally means being able to act, rather than just react.
As an ally, it is important that you are educated and trained because some people believe they are an ally, but their actions or words come off as offensive to the group they are trying to help. If you want to learn a more about Safety Pin Box or subscribe to it, go to safetypinbox.com. If you’re looking to be a better ally, keep an eye out for the next Freedom School Initiative Event.