YA Reading and Activism

Given the terrifying speed at which things have been moving in the political realm these days, it’s hard not to feel helpless and hopeless. As my sister pointed out to me right after the November election, things have always been bad (see: unclean water in Flint, wars abroad and police brutality at home – the list goes on), and now things are just… worse, in a way that affects everyone and certain groups of people in particular.

I love YA and reading, and I will fight anyone who dismisses it as shallow nonsense. Stories have power. At the same time, it’s frustrating to watch people (myself included!) be all talk and no action. To be clear, any action that you can contribute, however small, to making things less awful is always valuable.

In that vein, here’s a list of YA fiction starring people most vulnerable right now – immigrants, religious and racial minorities, and LGBTQIA people – and organizations that are doing good work and could use your volunteer hours, money, or signal boosting:

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell – March tells the story of John Lewis’s work at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Given the racial inequality and current attack on voting rights happening today, his comic book series is a necessary primer on American history.

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth – Music, cross-cultural friendship, and life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in the 1970s — you’ll want to read this.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz – Rare is the book that features gay and PoC characters, but that’s what this is. Dante and Aristotle’s love story is just the sweetest, and I’ve been love with this book since day one.

Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung – This is an Australian YA book that I honestly wish was way more popular in America. It tells the story of Lucy, a girl from a working class immigrant family, who ends up navigating the treacherous waters of an all-girls private school.

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed – I’ll let the book blurb do the talking: “Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?” As a Muslim Pakistani-American girl, Naila comes face to face with love and her cultural heritage.

Organizations that could use your money or time: 
Southern Poverty Law Center
International Refugee Assistance Project
#NoDAPL Standing Rock
Trans Lifeline
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Road to 2018: The book community in politics

What are you doing and reading these days? How do you stay informed without getting overwhelmed? How is your bookshelf meeting your activism?

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After the Election: How to Help

With the election over, there’s a lot to be done. First and foremost, be sure to take care of yourself and give yourself time to recover. Beyond that, there are plenty of organizations on the local and national level that can use your time and/or money.

We at Rich in Color have put together a list of organizations which will be crucial to protecting vulnerable people in the next four years.

NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS:
Civil rights:
Lambda Legal
American Civil Liberties Union
Southern Poverty Law Center
Anti-Defamation League

Racial justice:
NAACP
Campaign Zero
Black Lives Matter
Showing Up for Racial Justice
Hispanic Federation
National Council of La Raza
Central American Resource Center
Muslims for Progressive Values
Council on American-Islamic Relations
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

LGBTQIA, anti-violence, and reproductive justice:
Trans Lifeline
Planned Parenthood
Anti-Violence Programs
RAINN: Anti sexual assault
SAGE: Advocacy for LGBTQ older adults

Disability advocacy
Disability Visibility Project
National Council on Independent Living
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Environmental Justice
Sierra Club
EarthJustice: Environmental Law

More national organizations can be found here.

LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS
Local organizations do a lot of good work in the community. Ask at your local library or community center, or search online to find out what organizations are doing in your area.
#NoDAPL
Sacred Stone Camp
Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund

St. Louis:
Hands Up United
Organization for Black Struggle
Places for People: Mental health services
St. Patrick Center: Housing and employment
ArchCity Defenders: Civil rights and legal access

Los Angeles/Southern California
Border Angels: Immigration advocacy
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
Equality California
Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project
Los Angeles LGBT Center

YOUTH PROGRAMS
As shown through students walking out of classes to protest, marginalized youth will need support as well. Here are some organizations where you can donate and/or volunteer:
The Dream.Us
Boys & Girls Club of America
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
Running Start: Bringing young girls and women into politics

OTHER WAYS TO HELP
-Get politically involved. Know your city leaders and school board members. Volunteer with the political party you support. Contact your representatives (see: the most effective methods). Turn out for local elections and the big ones. 2018 will be here sooner than you think.
Stay informed and subscribe to a local or national newspaper that you trust. Good journalism and investigative reporting will be crucial in the coming years.
-Volunteer with local schools, GED programs, English language programs, and immigration resources.
-Speak up when you encounter bigotry or prejudice! This may seem like a small thing, but it never hurts to start with the people around you.

Have any other suggestions? What are the organizations in your community that you plan on supporting? Let us know!

Edited to add further suggestions (thank you!):
Color of Change: online organization mobilizing racial justice
For supporting freedom of expression:
PEN
Amnesty International
National Coalition Against Censorship

Further edited to add more sections to the national organization list. Thank you for the suggestions!

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