Living in the city of brotherly love, it is important to stay connected to the people, here’s a guide on how to get involved in your local community activism
PHILADELPHIA— For some of us Philly natives, it’s easy to find community–in such a small city everybody knows everybody, after all, we come from the same jawn. But for those who weren’t born here, or are just struggling to find the right community organizations to volunteer or partner with, this step-by-step guide will help you, so that you can help others.
Step 1 Social Media
This first step sounds silly but it’s essential! A lot of Philly’s grassroots organizations are very active on Instagram. First try searching through hashtags such as #GrassrootsPhilly, or #PhillyGrassroots, and then keep going from there. Continue to search for things you’d want to be a part of. (Also turn on your location while looking to find some near you). Hashtags are nowhere near played out, and it’s how a lot of underfunded and not-so-recognized organizations gain social traction.
Another good outlet is to get involved with your local rec/community center. Oftentimes organizers will establish a rapport with their local rec leaders and block captains. And get to know the folks in your areas because there’s always going to be something going on.
Google can also be a useful resource, but because of Google’s search engine, the most popular organizations will likely show. Therefore, finding organizations that prioritize people over profit, will often coincide with less popularity and funding. So keep searching, in an era where knowledge is quite literally at the fingertips of humanity, it’s easier than you might think to get involved, it just takes dedication and intention.
Step 2 Show Up AND Support
After locating the org that caters to one’s interest most, show up! Sign up for their newsletter if they have a website, follow their other social media accounts, and turn on post notifications.
“Grassroots work is usually short-staffed, so when people take their time to organize an event that benefits the people–we gotta have that support,” said Khaleef The Reparations, founder of nonprofit Millennial Juneteenth.
Support can manifest in a variety of ways, sometimes concerning reposts and retweets, other times donations. Indulge in what you can, but understand that consistency is what creates impact. Don’t fall into the trap of only going to one event and thinking you’ve done enough, grassroots work is continuous. Keep showing up, and make time for the important things. Keep volunteering, spreading awareness, and helping where you can.
Step 3 Talk to people
As stated earlier, Philly is a small town, so almost everybody knows each other. Therefore simply showing up at the events isn’t enough in a practical sense. Instead, show up and engage, connection creates change.
Whatever the event may be, building interpersonal connections is a fundamental part of establishing community. Whether it be a food drive, book bag drive, protest, or an interest meeting, connecting with people through conversations is one of the most powerful pillars of activism and community outreach.
Within conversations, the possibilities are endless, one could inspire another or get to know the depth of an individual and their specific struggles; share a common experience, or even express a different one.
Though being in these underground social spaces, it is imperative that it comes with respect. This one is for the newcomers and old heads too, try your best to always read the room.
Understand that sometimes listening can be more powerful than speaking, especially when advocating for a cause regarding issues that don’t directly impact you regardless of your good intentions. In the end, get to know some people and stay in touch; exchange contacts and be ready to answer a call to action when the phone rings.
Step 4 Repeat
This step seems pretty self-explanatory, but keep on keepin’ on. Every effort made matters. Stay connected and stay engaged. You don’t have to be the fiercest social justice warrior known to humankind, nor do you need to immediately know the answers or correct language for intellectual conversation. Real Philly grassroots don’t shut their doors, what matters most to them is community, and unity within our city.
Volunteering, donating, and reposting infographics matter, but keep it going and keep showing up. Then find a new org and do the same. Community work shouldn’t be reserved for MLK Day of Service; servitude is a way of life—and it is a very fulfilling life to live.
Honorable Mentions to support: