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  • Katherine Valenzuela Parsons

Dear Equity Team

Updated: May 24

“Dear Buy Nothing Project Equity Team,


As a local admin of my group in Minneapolis, MN and as a white person I am wondering what I can do through my local Buy Nothing Project Facebook group to support our local community. As you know it has been a very rough year for our city and I am uncertain what would be an appropriate action to take without breaking rules in the group. Is there anything that you think I could do to show support for the Black community and activists as well?”


Hello Local Admin in Minneapolis, MN,


Thank you for reaching out and asking these questions. I think that there are many things anyone in your group could do to show support for the Black community in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and now the conviction of Derek Chauvin.


You could post in your group and make sure that as a local admin you let your community know you believe that Black Lives Matter and if there is anything that Black people in your group need to please feel free to ask without judgment. Then act on what they say. We have also provided the Buy Nothing Project Community Agreements as a tool for local admins and members to use to hold each other accountable in transformative ways.


Other Buy Nothing groups around the country have offered gifts to Black folks even while nothing in particular of this magnitude is happening in their town. They include:


  • The gift of time to pick up and drop off gifts as this task can be dangerous. Approaching someone's doorstep that they don't know or having to pick up gifts in the evening while it's dark can be potentially life threatening.


  • A gift of service to repair things on vehicles that could get them pulled over. If you are a mechanic or just very handy and you know how to change a tail light it could be a priceless gift.


  • A gift of a home-cooked meal so that a Black single mama gets a night off and can hopefully feel supported by her community.


For activists:


Consider making a post and checking in with your activist community and asking what they need. Do they need:


Bottled water

Medical supplies including masks, sunscreen, safety goggles

Snacks

Rides to and/or from certain locations of protests

Bicycles

Etc.


Furthermore there is something that continually gets under my skin when local admins ask me a question like "Is XYZ okay during a time of great difficulty in our community or is it against the rules?" You are not the first by far and will not be the last.


And this isn't to degrade anyone who asks the question because I understand that we all value our gift economies and we make sure our communities are doing the best we can to uphold the mission.


But I want to remind everyone that you are the local admin in your Buy Nothing Project Facebook group. No one else runs your group or takes responsibility for what happens in your group. It is your decision if you would like to bend or break any rule in any situation. Your group members will respond as they see fit and if it's too far out of the perimeters of the group it may not go very well but why would anyone care about showing basic humanity for your community? Maybe they don't understand or need to be in your group. In many cases I find that the community appreciates the flexibility.


Some background on my own experience as a local admin: I was a local admin in Charlottesville, Virginia during the years of 2015 to 2018. As you can imagine the community experienced very tumultuous times. A Buy Nothing member went missing at the end of 2017 and flyers of a Missing Person were shared in our groups. People were asking if anyone had seen her. We all know that in a situation such as a lost pet, this wouldn't have been allowed but we're talking about a human being so I don't give a crap how many rules it broke - I allowed it.


Later that summer our community was rocked by what Charlottesville locals know as the "Summer of Hate" between May and August of 2017 when white supremacists repeatedly invaded the city. I saw posts go up several times in various groups letting people know when to avoid certain parks when Proud Boys rallies popped up. There were also members who were posting in groups saying things like "I just want to check in on our community and ask if anyone needs anything and see if you are okay" and sometimes a conversation ensued that other local admins might have felt was inappropriate for a Buy Nothing group. Again I don't care how many rules it breaks. Local admins in the area all allowed it.


The Buy Nothing Project groups were started to build community and develop a sense of resiliency without relying on government or consumer resources. We know that person-to-person relief exists in Buy Nothing groups when we talk about natural disasters or house fires. So how are these situations any different?


Human-made disasters through the violence of white supremacy should not be seen as something our groups cannot help with. If our goal is to build community I see it as a responsibility for white local admins and members to take it upon themselves to find out what their community needs. Do whatever it takes to support and protect your community. Don't ask the Buy Nothing Project questions - just do. Listen to Black folks in your community and follow their leadership.


Consider what it might look like to use your local Buy Nothing group to build equity in your community for Black and other people of color. How can you draw or redraw your group boundaries to break the historic red lines that are still causing segregation in your community? What gifts of service can you brainstorm with your local members to provide? Tutoring services, child care, financial literacy etc. The possibilities are endless. In many situations just the presence of a white person can make the difference for a person of color. When purchasing a new car or touring real estate, for example, Black people experience a magnitude of racism that white people will never be subjected to.


Furthermore take it upon yourself to make sure you are an informed and educated community member. Read books like "So you want to talk about race?" By Ijeoma Oluo and then give the book to another white member in your group. We can all be doing more to build the equitable communities that we wish to live in. There are no quick fixes but everyone can do something small which can add up to huge impacts collectively.


Signed,


Katherine Valenzuela Parsons

A Lead Admin of the Buy Nothing Project Equity Team



Follow on Katherine on Instagram @katdopval

Cover Photo by munshots on Unsplash

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