How to Get Involved with Your Local Government and Create Lasting Change
As protests against the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, and countless others at the hands of injustice and police officers continue to unfold across the country, the need for change is on full display—but the fight for reform and racial equality is far from over. Demanding justice for these deaths and creating actionable change for a better future starts at a local level. Here, political leaders and activists share some of the best ways to get involved in your community's government to push the movement forward, now and always.
Get in touch with your local government officials.
Long-term change may not happen overnight, but it is the duty of public officials in your community to advocate for the differences you want to see. "From the mayor of our city to the legislative body, every elected official is a public servant who took an oath to act in the best interest of those they now represent. We need public feedback on the ideas and policies that will impact our quality of life," Farah Louis, a council member of District 45 in Brooklyn, New York, and co-chair of the New York City Council Women's Caucus, says. "An effective government requires its stakeholders—the people—to voice their concerns and let your elected representatives know the positive changes that would benefit our local and global community." You can start sharing your concerns by attending public forums and reaching out to your local officials by phone, email, or even social media.
If you aren't sure who to contact, try researching the elected officials in your area. Equity advocate and activist Janaye Ingram says search engines like Common Cause and Ballotpedia can help you find your representatives at every level of government. From this point on, you can connect with them to go over the changes you seek locally and elsewhere. "Even if you don't get a meeting with the representative, work with the person or people who are most responsive and willing to set up time," Ingram shares. "For example, if you can't get time with your mayor, try to work with your council representative. By writing to your member, you can also have documentation of the issues you want to address, and you are likely to get a response."
Vote in every single election.
Casting your ballot for an official who can push your agenda forward is crucial. "We live in a democratic society that is rooted in civic engagement. Every election is an opportunity to cast your vote for the change that you want to see—including fair representation and allocation of resources," Louis says. "[It] is our civic duty and responsibility to create a better tomorrow for our families, particularly our children. Regardless of one's age, we need to start or join community conversations with our elected officials to ensure that we have a seat at the table, our voices are heard, and needs are met." Looking for voting resources? Louis recommends websites like Vote.nyc that serve as a one-stop-shop to learn about voter registration, candidates, absentee ballots, election dates, and more in the New York City area. Other sites, including When We All Vote, Vote.org, TurboVote, and My Vote Ballotpedia, help people nationwide find similar information, Ingram notes.
While the issues facing Black and marginalized communities have persisted for generations, Ingram shares that voting for local representatives will make a big difference in the long run—as these officials pass the laws and regulations that impact police reform and criminal justice, housing, education, and the environment. "With this heightened attention to these issues, people should understand the connection to voting and the importance of civic participation in the process of righting the wrongs that exist," Ingram adds. "There is a saying, 'All politics is local.' For this upcoming election, people should remember that it's not just important to vote for the president, but it's just as essential to vote for the people in your city or town and state who will make decisions that impact your day-to-day life."
Support local organizations that are already doing the work.
In addition to supporting and donating to national organizations like the Black Lives Matter Global Network, Color Of Change, National Action Network, NAACP, and the NAACP LDF, Ingram suggests getting on the ground with BIPOC-led groups in your vicinity, too. "There are many local and grassroots-led organizations in cities and towns across the country," Ingram shares. "These organizations are often smaller and in need of resources, but are often the first line of defense for people within their community."
"There are several organizations such as the Brooklyn Movement Center, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), and Until Freedom whose advocacy work has been instrumental in amplifying Black voices and empowering our community by advancing racial equality," Louis adds, noting that until reform happens the fight for true equality will continue. "We persist because we cannot rest until #BLACKLIVESMATTER today and every day—without question," she says. Research additional organizations like Brighter Days for Justice, Audre Lorde Project, Black Organizing For Leadership and Dignity (BOLD), Incite!: Women of Color Against Violence, Let Us Breathe Fund, Emergency Fund for Black Lives, and more to support the movements happening close to your home—and make a difference right now and for the future.