I’ve been sitting in stunned silence listening to the news over the past few days. To be completely honest, I don’t know what to say.
Except for no. No, I’m not going to stand by and let hate win.
“Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public and — worse — the victims. Community members must take action; if we don’t, hate persists.” — Southern Poverty Law Center
In case you feel the same but don’t quite know what to do, besides hitting the streets in protest and solidarity (a good option), I put together a few ideas for passion projects to combat hate.
What’s a passion project? It’s a personal project that excites you and fills you with purpose and satisfaction. Often it’s something you work on outside of your day job. However, I believe it’s possible to incorporate a passion project into your job.
- Do a research project
Are hate groups targeting groups of people you don’t know much about? Or, do you want to know more about why people commit hate crimes or bias incidents (do you know the difference)?
Pretend you are back in school and design your own research project. Make a list of documentaries to watch, books to read and websites to visit. Reach out to people who have knowledge and information that will help you learn. Write, draw, paint, sing, speak about what you learn. Invite your friends and family over and share your findings. Host a Meetup. Give a talk at your house of worship, community center or book club. (Tip: create a timeline to motivate you to finish and share your project.)
2. Host a series of issue dinners
This idea is based on the concept of a Jeffersonian Dinner. You invite 4–12 people for an evening (/morning/afternoon) of conversation around a specific issue. How about a conversation about white privilege or gender fluidity? Try opening your circle to people you wouldn’t normally have over for dinner.
Here are some tips for your dinner:
- Your guests should have a common interest in your topic but don’t have to be on the same side of the issue.
- You must have a single conversation. One person talks to the whole table and the whole table listens. The whole time.
- Come with a list of 3 or 5 questions you might pose to deepen the conversation as it progresses.
- As the host, insure that all participants feel welcome and have a chance to talk.
- Make a note of any questions or viewpoints that come up during your conversation that you want to explore in more detail later.
3. Create a benefit concert
Check out my story of how Lauren Rowland started a series of benefit concerts to support the LGBT community in the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
Music isn’t your thing? How about a speaker series or a poetry night?
Consider scheduling your event at the same time as a hate group rally or event. Counteract hate with acceptance and diversity.
4. Do a community Shark Tank for grassroots programs that promote tolerance, learning and acceptance
If you’re not familiar with Shark Tank, it’s a TV show where budding entrepreneurs pitch their products or services and try to get investors to buy into their company.
Why not borrow this idea and host a competition for people who have ideas for projects or organizations that work in your community to promote tolerance, learning and acceptance? Give seed grants to the “winners”. (Tip: reach out to local businesses and foundations for seed money. Also, try setting up a Go Fund Me campaign to raise the seed money). Invite a diverse group of community leaders to be judges/investors.
5. America’s Got Talent!
Ok, admittedly, this one is a leap. But, for all of you talented folks, why not design an act that incorporates your talent and spreads a message of acceptance? Think about it. AGT has 12 million viewers. Even if you don’t make it past the live auditions, you would be reaching a whole lot of people. And what if you did advance?
6. The Diversity Olympics
Sports promote a common language (even if that language is arguing over penalties). If you live in a community where you see a lot of people that look like you on the soccer field, why not host a day long sporting event where you invite people from outside your circle? Invite coaches and clubs from communities different from yours to help you design the event. Make it a rule that in addition to community teams playing each other, each participant has to learn to play a sport they know little about. I picture volleyball players learning to play cricket, hockey players learning to play roller derby.