Practicing Radical Community Care
Posted by Makenna L
November 22, 2023
Unless you have been living under a rock or are completely divorced from the Internet, you have heard about the horrendous crimes against humanity committed in Gaza, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Tigray, and beyond over the past month. The Free Palestine movement in particular is more visible than ever as people across the world call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. More than 300,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, November 5 in support of Palestine. To put that number in perspective, that is at least 100,000 more individuals than there were at Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.
Palestinian news and media sites such as Eye on Palestine and the Palestinian Youth Movement have posted daily updates on the realities in Gaza: the lack of clean water, shelter, and food available to Palestinians, the frequent bombings carried out by the Israeli military, and the growing amount of casualties as a result of Israel’s occupation of the Gaza strip. Palestinians and their families have asked that folks with Internet access share and amplify their experiences in Gaza as they fight every day to survive. They ask that we bear witness to the destruction the United States is funding with our tax dollars─they ask that we do not turn a blind eye to their suffering.
While it is important to keep sharing and posting about what is happening in Palestine and other countries that are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, it can be unsettling and even triggering to watch videos of people carrying their dead loved ones covered in rubble and blood. It makes sense that someone would want to turn off their phone or take a “social media break” to prioritize their mental health…but only to a certain extent. At a time when Western media outlets are deliberately covering up the atrocities occurring on the other side of the world, it is the responsibility of those of us with a platform─no matter how small─to speak out against genocide. The question becomes how do we take of ourselves and well-being while simultaneously fulfilling our duty to share the stories of those fighting for their freedom?
The answer is radical community care. Radical self-care, an equally important practice, is defined by activist Angela Davis as the ability “to bring our entire selves into the movement. It means that we incorporate into our work as activists ways of acknowledging and hopefully also moving beyond trauma. It means a holistic approach [to care].” Radical community care involves the same principles but asks that we expand them on a community level. Well and Good defines community care as “the foundation of togetherness; by cultivating it, we are better able to support our well-being and that of our loved ones.”
Radical community care invites us to consider how caring for ourselves and one another on an individual level can strengthen our collective. It is different from self care in that the ultimate goal is to think about how our actions extend beyond ourselves and can have a positive ripple effect for everyone.
It’s understandable that one might become overwhelmed with graphic content and daily updates on crises that seem out of our control, but it’s critical to not let feelings of helplessness turn into complacency. Oppressive actors want us to be scared. They want us to be too overwhelmed to take action. They want us to feel like we have no power.
That said, in moments of crisis it is of the utmost importance that we work together. Resistance to injustice is not something that should be done alone. It is much more effective and sustainable to resist together.
With respect to the current movements, here are five ways to consider practicing radical community care:
- Listen to communities outside of your own. When you come across a text post or video of someone describing their experience, make sure you’re listening to them. It’s not easy for anyone to talk about their trauma, so it’s important to hold space for their pain by listening.
- When you learn something new, especially if you find it disturbing, triggering, or discouraging, talk about it with someone you trust. Many people cope with emotional turmoil by shutting down and self-isolating. Instead, sharing with another person can help mitigate feelings of helplessness, strengthen a relationship, and engage in productive conversation.
- Attend a protest with others. It can be scary to go to a protest by yourself, especially if you haven’t been to one or it is a particularly large gathering. Protesting together is not only safer, but it is also a great way to bond with others over social justice issues.
- Share resources and educational materials. “But what does posting do?” When posting anything online, the algorithm is changed. Regardless of how many times your post is engaged with, the mere fact that you’ve shared it signals to the social media platform that the content is being seen. Even if just one person reads your post, that is one more person who has access to the movement.
- Rest, but never retreat. Doom scrolling is exhausting and can have a negative impact on our mental health. It’s okay to take some time away from absorbing media, but it’s not okay to prioritize your needs over others. Don’t turn your back on those living in distress because you’re uncomfortable. Take space, but remember the goal. Always return back to the cause.
Dr. Rocio Rosales Meza took to Twitter November 5 with a powerful message that is circulating socials: “YES, of course your mental health and wellness matters. AND ALSO, YOU ARE ONLY AS WELL AND AS HEALTHY AS OUR COLLECTIVE. To fragment yourself is COLONIAL.” This is an especially relevant message right now. What is happening in Gaza, Congo, Sudan, and Tigray is not something that we can or should process individually─these were not situations that were created individually. When we feel defeated, we shouldn’t turn away from our feelings but should turn towards others, be them across the world or in our immediate communities. Collective resistance is entirely more impactful than individuality.
When feeling weak or depleted, talk to someone. Let your feelings of disgust and sadness and pain and rage ignite something in you that can be shared. When we take care of our collective, anything, including decolonization, is absolutely possible.