Supporting community in times like these

We usually finish out the week with a blog post from Mandy with her roundup of articles, talks, and conference announcements. Sadly, her mom passed away last Friday; she’ll be back here next week. So instead, I’m going to share a few thoughts of my own.

On Tuesday I attended the first Tech Solidarity meeting in Portland, organized by Maciej (Pinboard) along with Heather Gold. I’ve been to several solidarity meetings with different groups since the election in November. Most of them involve people whose safety and health is at risk under the changes we are already seeing during the new administration’s first week in office. This is a little different — the assumption is that people in tech are looking for collective action to help others, i.e. to prevent the collection of data that would allow Muslims to be deported.

Since quitting my last programming job to start The Recompiler, I’ve spent more and more time working across two worlds, each with their own assumptions about what’s normal and how things work. In tech, there’s money and resources and privilege, and the best of us try to extend what we have to help others. In community media, there’s so much resilience and creativity. The best of us listen to people with different experiences and needs, and use our spaces to boost each other up. It felt a little like the Tech Solidarity meetings are trying to bring those things together.

Alas, engineers will engineer. We spent a lot of time talking about how to make Uber/Lyft/taxis work better for victim advocates when the original request was entirely about funding that transportation. At the same time, people did step up to offer the needed money. Some folks in that room have annual incomes that match the budget of a small nonprofit. Making a donation is the least we can do, right?

Tech workers have so much more power than they realize. It’s taken the onslaught of fascism for most people to start to think about that — and what a horrific week we’ve had. Are you comfortable with what’s going on? I’m not. The meeting reminded me that we’re all at different points in understanding what’s happening and learning to take action. One attendee suggested that if you’ve never picketed or gone to a protest, you may find it can be surprisingly liberating to stand out on a street corner with a sign. So yes, go protest. Many of us were at the Women’s March on Saturday — it’s a starting point.

Just as important, start talking to your coworkers and working through your own thoughts on these things: What resources do you have to share? What do you need? Where can you take a stand to support people who are even more vulnerable right now, starting with your neighbors and teammates? What’s business as usual for you? What’s not? Where can you find stability and support, and where do you need to build it?

When the big structures fail us, we depend even more on our community and interpersonal relationships. Our employers may decide profits are more important than human rights, and not everyone will have the freedom to walk out. Our federal government may kill essential healthcare and deport people (possibly you, your family, your coworkers), and right now we don’t know if calling our senators will really be enough to stop it. The thing we can do, always and no matter what else happens, is look out for each other and do the best we can to help.

If you’ve read this far, I have a favor to ask. Recompiler Media is decidedly on the NGO end of that income scale I mentioned above, and one of the most powerful things you can do for us right now is to offer financial support. People remember big organizations like the ACLU or Planned Parenthood when they see these crises happening. Smaller local groups don’t get the same level of attention.

If you have $10 you can spend right now, I ask you to

  • Send $5 to the memorial fund to support Mandy’s family, because our personal communities are so important (and Mandy is awesome!)
  • Pledge $1 an episode for The Recompiler Podcast so we can keep discussing technology, security, and fast-moving changes in our world
  • Pledge $1 a month to the general Recompiler fund to help us continue publishing
  • Send $2 to a local media organization that shares under-represented voices. In Portland I recommend Street Roots (“for those who cannot afford free speech”) and KBOO. In your area there might be a similar paper or radio station, but maybe it’s a local blogger or podcast. Or give to Unicorn Riot, who cover protests around the country, and share news footage on issues that rarely make CNN.
  • Send $1 to a local group that is likely terrified about this week’s executive orders. Try an immigration law center, a queer or trans resource center, a women’s health program, or a group that works with victims of sexual assault.

If you feel a little silly only sending $1 — this is just a place to start!

The last thing I’ll ask is completely free. Go talk to someone you care about and ask them how they’re doing this week. Find out if there’s anything that they need. Maybe you can do something about it together.