By Jen Pool
Today, February 20th, is an international day set to recognize the need to promote social justice, including efforts to combat poverty, inequality, and human rights. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution in 2007 to observe today as the World Day of Social Justice.
Social Justice is defined so differently, and has been used so often in social media, that it may seem like a buzzword, when in fact it can be found as far back as being included in “The Federalist Papers.” Once largely pertaining to economic impact, social justice has expanded to cover concerns over race, sexuality, gender, and more. At Grit+Gumption, our Founder looks at it simply as:
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly.
What is G+G doing talking about social justice? IPV, DV, and HT are complex issues, and social justice issues such as racism, gender, and economic inequality, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and lack of access to services all impact the lives of those we aim to serve and those we have a heart for, which is why we’re choosing to recognize this day and also give you, our reader, some ideas on how you can promote social justice in your life.
Last month I wrote about how to get involved with your anti-trafficking journey by starting simple, supporting local and small organizations, and observing and examining your own biases and impact. With a topic as broad as social justice, avoiding overwhelm by the enormity of options and injustices in the world is key, as is understanding your own availability to invest in involvement. Perhaps you’re a stay-at-home mom with little ones at home, so getting out or spending more than 1-2 hours a week isn’t possible in this moment of life for you, or maybe you’re a busy Executive who wants to make an impact but are unsure of how to implement them within your organization or personal life. It’s easy to put a red X on your hand to try to show solidarity with anti-trafficking, a black box profile picture that you support Black Lives, or use hashtags to make a point online – it gets more complicated when you dive more deeply and personally into issues, so that’s where I’m going to suggest you start:
What makes you feel energized? Passionately angry? Motivated for change? Dig deeper into that and search around for ways you can get involved that fit into your schedule. Don’t just stop at understanding what fits into your schedule, but also be honest with yourself about how much emotional energy you have available to take something new on. Volunteers are beloved by small organizations, but it’s heartbreaking when we get ghosted because someone committed to something with us, realized they couldn’t do it, and then felt too embarrassed to let us know. Knowing what you want to do, but also knowing your limitations, is how to set yourself up for success.
Knowing yourself also includes knowing your values. What core values are you steadfast in? What are you looking for in an organization? Sure, you might want to volunteer with your local anti-trafficking organization, but if LGBTQ+ issues are important to you, where does that organization stand when it comes to that?
It can be a struggle when you’re still motivated and starry-eyed when you first start getting involved with social justice issues only to find out there aren’t volunteer positions available, or that don’t fit into your schedule. Instead of quitting, or in conjunction with reaching out to organizations, learn! From your library to TikTok information is at your fingertips. Start understanding the issue beyond your passion for it, listen to survivors and experts, and challenge yourself to continue to understand, and work on, the biases you may have. No matter how long you’ve worked in any area, continue to learn and listen, and be a perpetual student.
Serve without “Saving.”
Very few people need to be “saved” from trafficking, domestic violence, and other social issues. In fact, you might find seasoned veterans from this work cringe when they hear the word. What victims and survivors need most is to be served and supported, and to have a revolutionized system in place that allows them to be able to leave one life for another without all the hurdles and roadblocks that exist right now.
Take a good hard look at your core values and what you’ve started learning and ask yourself: If you never got thanked for the work you’re doing (or want to do) to change the world, would you still do it? Let’s change the world together, but let’s do it without centering ourselves as a savior.
If you had asked me 15 years ago what social justice was to me, it would have been a radically different answer than what it is today, and I’m grateful for the scrapes and bruises I’ve gained along the way that’s molded me into a wiser and better advocate than I was in my 20’s. Today, social justice means doing what’s right even when no one is watching, and planting seeds for trees I’ll never get to sit under the shade for. It’s the flicker of hope and the quiet determination that even in the unseen, the ripples of change are happening and taking place. It’s showing up, doing the work, and not needing recognition for it.
Jen Pool is a Board Member for Grit Plus Gumption Farmstead. She also works as the Director for Equitable Opportunities for another 501(c)(3) outside of Washington D.C. and is a certified Life Design Coach and ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Trainer.
If you’d like to know more about getting involved with Grit+Gumption and the work that we do, please email us at: email@example.com, and connect with us on Socials!