#StayingWoke IRL

When contemplating what I was going to write, I stumbled onto this article. In short form it’s about how we can carefully craft our live-changing political online identities, but IRL we are more likely than not to walk away from uncomfortable situations of oppression, sexism, racism, or other inequities with the simple statement of “it’s not my business.”

I had to first call myself out for this. Since Ferguson, I have been blowing up the FB feed like “#blm” and “don’t stay quiet.” But the talking has got me so tired. On a side note, part of my inactivity was because I was pregnant, traveling, moving, having a baby and partially because I didn’t know where to start in my new home. But now I am settled, and ready to work.

I have slowed down my posting on FB (though a lot of that has just transferred to posting on Twitter) and decided to work on real life action. The first step, which was reinforced by a podcast I was listening to today (The Ferguson Response Network), was to take an internal inventory of my behavior, actions, and inactions. Am I perpetuating or ignoring racism or other injustices in my daily life? Beyond that, am I working towards helping humanity in any way.

I have, here in Maine, begun a little bit of work. I have begun to reach out. I have begun to put my money where my internet mouth is. I have lucked into an amazing new job — I am currently the Program Manager at the Portland Farmers’ Market — which entails working on our Low Income Access Program. This program allows SNAP (also know as Food Stamps) purchases at the Market by use of a token program, and through a grant from the USDA (obtained with help from Wholesome Wave) we are able to double all SNAP purchases. So, basically, if you want to spend $20 from your SNAP card, we take $20 off your card but then hand you $40 worth of tokens. It’s amazing. Within this job, I have grown the Outreach portion. I have taken it on to myself to connect not with individual recipients of SNAP, but with programs that touch many of these recipients. Whether is the WIC office or a free legal service or a community clinic, these places are able to pass along the important information to clients at a much faster rate than I would have been able to.

In this work, I have been able to begin to understand where the need lies in Portland, Maine. And once you begin to understand this and see the real people involved, how could you stay inactive? I am currently, actively figuring out where I could lend a hand. The racism in Maine is far different from the racism of Missouri — and doing that work looks different here, but the stakes are just as high and the work is just as important.

In summary, it’s good to say stuff on the internet — but also critical to make those statements real.

For further inspiration, I suggest you listen to this episode of Criminal.

I look forward to reporting again on this ongoing journey.


robert cohen

photo by Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post Dispatch


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