You may know that every year I fundraise for Back on My Feet. Each year it takes a little motivation to set up the fundracer page, email, and post and post and post, asking, begging for donations to this organization that has come to be so special to me. This year, I have an extra slowness, an extra resistance or discomfort in making this ask of you all. At the risk of losing your donation, I am writing a long and a little complicated request for donation. I hope you’ll take the time to read, but most of all, I hope this year you are raising your racial consciousness and sharing your resources with projects and organizations working for racial justice.
So this year is different.
Most things this year are different, so let me be specific.
This year many of us are engaging in deep self reflection to discover the ways in which we uphold racist systems or structures. As Layla Saad puts it in her book, Me and White Supremacy, white people have an opportunity to identify their “unique, personal brand of white supremacy.”
And the truth is I do have my own personal brand of white supremacy that I subscribe to and perform. And now that I know that, it is my job to interrogate when and how I engage in it. I do this by examining how I enact:
white exceptionalism / white saviorism
My hope is to live my life differently and discover how to do better, be an ally, be anti-racist. I know I’ll make mistakes.
In the past I would write to you with stories of BoMF bringing community and resources to people experiencing homelessness. I believe there is more to consider when supporting a cause. We must ask ourselves, how are we also unlearning and undoing racism? How are we centering lives that for centuries have been violently oppressed. How am I willing to lose privilege? Are the places I am putting my resources in line with my values?
So this year, a year when I have been consciously giving to Black-led organizations that are explicitly organizing for racial justice, I feel more responsibility when going to my network, a network largely built through white privilege, and ask for money. I feel the responsibility to contemplate and share what about BoMF is or is not worth financially supporting in this time of racial reckoning. I cannot fully answer this question, so as always, the choice to donate is up to you.
In many ways, Back on My Feet is fertile ground for racial justice. In a racially diverse running group, we (BoMF white volunteers) can experience the kind of racial discomfort that helps us learn about our anti-Blackness, we can build greater awareness of white privilege, discover the pride or curiosity in our identities, and importantly, connect and be in community with people of diverse racial backgrounds. I have rallied and marched with fellow BoMF members and volunteers. I have researched and discussed the difference between sheltered and unsheltered homelessness in the city of Atlanta with fellow BoMF members and volunteers and created resources for awareness campaigns. Through and in these relationships I am able to do the shameful and brave work of identifying my own anti-Blackness and the anti-Blackness alive in our city. And it is in these relationships that I am also able to say with great authenticity that Black lives matter to me.
But also. We (BoMF White volunteers) are susceptible to white exceptionalism, white saviorism, and even believing we are color blind. Myself and my fellow White BoMF volunteers may come to believe we are not racist because they run with Black people experiencing homelessness. We may believe that we are color blind because we see each other not as Black or White, but as teammates. These beliefs that our involvement in BoMF may perpetuate are all basic, foundational building blocks of white supremacy.
At the end of this contemplation, I do believe in BoMF as a space where we can build a community of diverse identities and build racial consciousness. My hope is that as we run together we not only become faster, run farther, maintain sobriety, love each other, but we also begin to explore why the majority of our members living in homeless facilities are Black. What are other organizations or coalitions we can join that not only support individuals experiencing homelessness, but advocate for housing justice and economic justice for Black people. Because charity and running aren’t enough. I am grateful that my friend Eli, who I've met through BoMF is exceptional about doing just this - being BoMF alumni volunteer and being a fierce advocate for housing and racial justice.
If you’ve made it to the end of this, please, do donate to Back on My Feet’s Atlanta chapter. Donate because you want to help individuals find their way out of homelessness through job training, job placement, help being housed, or through running community. Or donate because you believe in creating racially diverse communities. Or donate because you believe in both. OR if now you’re wanting to donate to support local instances of racial justice organizing go donate to the Metro Atlanta Mutual Aid Fund, Atlanta Solidarity Fund, Housing Justice League, or Southerners On New Ground.
Concepts I’ve learned about and wrote about here are from Me and White Supremacy and The Racial Healing Handbook. I highly recommend both.
To give you an idea of the impact your donation could have:
$5 can purchase a public transportation card to ensure safe and reliable transportation to and from work.
$10: Can provide a member's first technical shirt to prepare them for running and starting their journey to independence.
$25 can provide new running shoes for members
$50 can provide new winter gear for members
$100 can provide job skills training programs to assist members in finding employment
$250 can provide a bed (or other furnishings) in a new home, offering rest after a long day’s work.
$500 can provide enrollment fees, materials, tools and books to go back to school to learn a trade or begin a professional career.
$1000 provides a security deposit and first month’s rent to help a member secure a home.
$2500 covers the cost of 25 members to go through our computer literacy or financial literacy program to ensure success after employment.