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A guide to positive action for a non-trash 2017

Get mobilised, read radical, look after yourself and the causes you believe in for the next 365 days

In the privileged confines of the UK, it’s sometimes hard to feel as though you are ever doing enough to help the people around you. The internet is a spiral of retweets and meaningless likes which take up too much time; your daily commute is so draining that you have no energy to volunteer after work and even though you’re angry about government benefit sanctions and although you’ve gone to see I, Daniel Blake, dragging yourself out of bed to go to a march on parliament on the weekend is unfeasible. 

But in the New Year you can be whole new YOU. Someone who remembers that the sharing of information is always important, especially if it enacts real change; as proved by the recent success of the Dakota access pipeline protests and Black Lives Matter – both of whom have had a positive impact on marginalised communities. Someone that starts petitions, challenges the media status quo and turns away from fake news. Someone who manages to volunteer, if not once a week, but maybe once a month. So as part of your New Year's resolutions this year, why not put positive action on your list? Here are some of the things you could be doing.

DON’T FORGET THE REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS WHO AREN’T ALWAYS VISIBLE IN THE MEDIA

At the moment, Aleppo is all over our screens. Beyond Syrians (who you can support by donating to charities like Medicin Sans Frontieres and The Karam Foundation), there are many other people fleeing conflict and poverty, including significant numbers of black people who don’t always receive the same level of sympathy or compassion. Amnesty International is offering a free, three-week online course called “Human Rights: The Rights of Refugees”, which helps to contextualise displacement, and closer to home, Movement for Justice (MFJ) are organising inside and outside of the detention centres, resisting raids, stopping deportations and defending international students. “In MFJ we are optimistic that the majority of people in the UK do not want to live in a society riven and divided with racism and anti-immigrant bigotry,” says MFJ spokesperson Karen Doyle.

GET ‘WOKE’ ABOUT NEW ISSUES

At the moment I’m trying to learn more about transphobia, alongside other intersectional issues that don’t affect me personally. I’ve learnt, for instance, that transphobic hate crime reports in the UK rose from 215 in 2011, to 582 in 2015. While it’s important that I, as a black-mixed woman, can raise my voice and shout about things like misogynoir, the dual binds of racism and sexism that can sometimes make my life difficult, listening to voices of trans activists like Munroe Bergdorf and Charlie Craggs, who you should all follow on social media, and reading articles by people like Paris Lees, is definitely worthwhile.

CONSUME MEDIA THAT EXPOSES YOU TO DIFFERENT VOICES

More than ever, the right-wing press – think the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Express, Breitbart and their ilk – need to be challenged. When we have Simon Jenkins, former editor of the Times and the Evening Standard, commentating in the Guardian on the perceived demonisation of the “pale male and stale”, and later saying that he knows what “it must have been like to be a black person 20 or 30 years ago”, we know that something is wrong. As well as reporting these papers to IPSO when they cross the line (as they so often do with their insensitively handled racial rhetoric), look out for new, diverse media sources. Check publications like gal-dem, British Values, and even Teen Vogue. “At a time when right-wing politics is becoming normalised and even encouraged by mainstream media publications I think the magazines which centre the voices of people of colour and minority groups who are often ignored and belittled, and cover topics that don’t just speak to white, male, hetrosexual audiences are timely,” says Amit Singh, co-founder of the magazine Consented, whose first print issue on mental health launches in January – spurred on by their successful event series: Mental Health Matters.

MOVE AWAY FROM MARKETPLACE FEMINISM

The 2016 Femicide Census, released earlier this month, found that 936 women were killed by men in England and Wales because of their gender. A new Barbie movie featuring Amy Schumer is great (if we ignore her “blind spot” on race), but plenty of the brands out there who have started staking claims on feminism (think Dove, who have made a point of highlighting unrealistic beauty standards for women but who also sell skin-lightening products), are largely complicit in the subjugation of women worldwide. We have a lot to do. Following and joining groups like Sisters Uncut and the Women’s Equality Party are first steps you can take in initiating change. Branded, celebrity feminism definitely has its place, but those of us here on the ground also need to keep shouting about the fact, that for instance, there are women in the United Kingdom who still don’t have access to free, safe abortions.

DON’T BECOME COMPLACENT IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY

Humans, especially those of us who are young, have a great ability to adapt to shit situations. In the past year alone we’ve seen the abolishment of student grants, the likely closure of diversity charity Creative Access after the government slashed their funds, and, of course, a Brexit we didn’t vote for and the election of Donald Trump. Helena Horton, a journalist at The Telegraph, decided not to take all of the bad news sitting down. “I decided to found UK Friends of Planned Parenthood because one evening I was feeling really depressed about how women in America were getting IUDs and other long-term forms of contraception because Trump won and they didn't know if they'd be able to get birth control after he became President and performed his promised assault on reproductive rights,” she says. “Because Trump has promised to defund Planned Parenthood, I decided to raise a few grand for them.” Both Women on Web, which supports women in countries where access to safe abortion is restricted, and the Abortion Support Network, who help women from Ireland and Northern Ireland travel to England to access abortions (and who are currently fundraising to be able to support more women), are doing amazing work closer to home. Fundraising, creating petitions and spreading the word about causes you care about is both gratifying and useful – we can't forget just how dangerous and scary politics can become without people on the right side of history.

REMEMBER YOU CAN HAVE FUN IN SAFE SPACES (AND IN UNEXPECTED WAYS)

There are now so many nights popping up that give space to people who have historically struggled to find it. “The gay clubbing scene was just way too white and male orientated and the music reflected the main clientele,” says Amran Ab, the founder of Magic Clit, a lesbian night held at the Bussey Building in Peckham, London. “Even if black female artists were plastered all over flyers, you'd rarely hear bashment, rap, hip hop or afrobeats. I just wanted a night where you could meet women and listen to some good music. I think it's important to have spaces that can contribute to community building and friendship. In 2017 we’ll have more fun line-ups, more collabs with BBZ and more mixes being put out.” In the past year I’ve also managed to do the tiniest bit of volunteering at Foodcycle, a charity that cooks meals from surplus food for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation, which I would highly recommend over a night out any day. Spending time cooking, eating, serving and hanging out with the volunteers and customers is pretty sick.

BUT ALSO REMEMBER THAT IT’S OKAY TO STAY IN AND DO SOME NON-BULLSHIT SELF-CARE SOMETIMES

Burn-out is real and stress is bad for the soul. Self-care has become a buzzword in the past year, but the principles it’s based on are sound. Allow yourself time away from the internet, away from the constant consumption of information and the conflicts around it. You don’t have to challenge every racist, sexist or bigot. Save your energy for the people who deserve it.