It’s bound to be an unsettling, challenging, and confusing month. Are we ready?

Fogginess. Doom-scrolling. Distraction. Anxiety. Yes, to all of that? If you’re on the same road as I am, here’s a resource that might help. Based on the social change ecosystem map, I put together a reflection and action guide that’s tailored for the elections. You can find it here.

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The social change ecosystem map (October 2020)

The guide includes a seven-step process to identify our values, causes, roles, ecosystems, and sustainability plan. Here are some examples of how people and organizations are playing various roles during the month of November.

Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher (Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher, EdD) and Deepa Iyer

For both of us, 9/11 and its aftermath were transformative times, and catalyzed our work in documentation, research, teaching, and advocacy. As we mark the 19th anniversary of 9/11, we offer resources and tips for educators seeking to teach young people about how the world changed in the wake of this historical moment and how Muslim, South Asian, Arab, and Sikh communities have been affected by the post 9/11 era. …

by Deepa Iyer and Trish Tchume

In the summer of 2020, we (Trish Tchume and Deepa Iyer) developed What’s In Your Movement Pantry, a tool for people engaged in social change efforts. You can find the tool along with a worksheet to help you move through the shelves of your movement pantry over here. Below, you can read about how we came to the idea of a movement pantry as a metaphor for how we stock, share, and replenish practices, relationships, and frameworks to create systemic change and build power.

How did all this come about? Trish is a first generation Ghanaian-American social and racial justice facilitator, trainer and network weaver who has mainly focused on grassroots leadership development. Deepa is a first generation Indian-American lawyer, writer, and facilitator who works on policy change, rapid response, and cross-racial solidarity. Between us, we have over 25 years of collective experience participating in and supporting movements, community leaders, and networks. …

For South Asians committed to ending state violence against Black people, it has always been clear that our work goes further, that we must also work to undo anti-Blackness within our own communities. The hard conversations with our parents and our uncles and aunties about white supremacy, anti-Black racism, and solidarity are not usually easy or fruitful.

But there are moments of clarity and windows of possibility.

Many people have now heard the story of the Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, located just three doors down from the 3rd precinct which was burned down on May 28th in Minneapolis (read the NY Times story here). The restaurant owners are Bangladeshi immigrants and they turned the Gandhi Mahal into a staging area for medics and a resting place for protesters dealing with tear gas during the uprising. According to the New York Times: “As wounds were bandaged and hands were held in the front room, [Ruhel Islam] was in the kitchen, preparing daal, basmati rice and naan” for the protesters. Overnight, the fire from the 3rd precinct reached the Gandhi Mahal and it was severely damaged. Still, Mr. Islam said: “Let my building burn. …

When crises such as the pandemic or violence against Black people catalyze us into action, how do we make sense of our roles, purpose, and ecosystem?

Before You Read Further! Thank you for visiting! If you want to skip the intro below, you can find the ecosystem map, meanings of the roles, and a reflection guide all here ( Please be mindful of the attribution parameters, laid out in detail in the guide you’ll find at that link.

I am a rapid responder but over the past few weeks as the coronavirus pandemic has spread across the world, I have felt disoriented and lost. In the wake of 9/11, I built my rapid response muscle, and over the past twenty years, I’ve relied on it to spring into action and respond to crises by supporting community-centered campaigns, interventions, and mobilizations. But lately, I’ve been stuck in a fog, cycling through periods of motivation and stillness, outrage and exhaustion, determination and grief. Even though I’m connected to various networks, mentors, and organizations, I couldn’t figure out where I fit in, what my lane was, or how to begin. …

Hindutva nationalism, or Hindu nationalism, is a right-wing political ideology rooted in the beliefs of supremacy and superiority: “Hindus first” and “Hindus only.” It’s on the rise in India through discriminatory government policies and state-sanctioned violence targeting Muslims, Dalits, and religious minorities (read this and this). Its presence is also evident in the United States through academia, politics, and connections between the Trump and Modi Administrations (read this, this, this, this, this, and this).

Those of us who are Indian and/or Hindu in the United States cannot look away and ignore the impact of Hindutva nationalism in India and in the US. Below are solidarity steps for Indians and Hindus in the United States who want to resist Hindutva and support communities facing discrimination and violence. …

Movement leaders often wonder: “How can I keep doing this work that I love and believe in — at the pace I’m going?”

Over the past three years, I have participated in the Solidarity Summit, a space for movement leaders working on racial justice issues. We meet regularly to build relationships, sharpen our political analysis, and learn about each other’s communities. Not surprisingly, our conversations often come back around to a similar question: How can I keep doing this work at the pace I’m going?

Maintaining individual and organizational sustainability has become a critical question for people leading movements for justice and liberation. Now, there’s evidence that social change work takes a toll on our bodies, our mental health, and our work. The Human Rights Resilience Project reports that human rights advocates are increasingly experiencing burnout, illness, and anxiety as a result of various stressors including trauma exposure. The current political climate is only making things worse, exacerbating feelings of overwhelm and direct or vicarious trauma. In addition, high expectations about performance and productivity as well as call-out and cancel culture within our movements bring even more challenges. Now more than ever, organizations and funders must center individual and collective well-being — from access to mental health care to sabbaticals to trauma-informed workflows — as core sustainability strategies that are just as important (if not more) as programmatic outcomes. …

How often do you say, “I stand with …”, to show your support for communities and causes? We pledge to stand with people in Kashmir and New Zealand who are affected by human rights violations and hate violence. We pledge to support causes from Black Lives Matter to Abolish ICE to Repeal the Muslim Ban. Solidarity has become a buzz word to signal what our values are and how we plan to show up for people and causes.

How can solidarity be more than a word, a transaction, a state of mind? How can it be a practice that we engage in time and again, anchored by a values-based framework and political and historical analyses of oppression? …

The non-profit sector is my home. I remember walking into my first non-profit organization in 1998 and knowing instinctively that I belonged there. Non-profit culture is imbued with a sense of freedom and flexibility, with hope and possibility that we can create social change through our efforts. But, non-profit and movement spaces can also be extremely frustrating and challenging.

“Welcome to the non-profit industrial complex”: many people commonly use this phrase to critique the ways in which corporate practices have influenced movement spaces. Indeed, when I was an executive director of a small non-profit, I regrettably engaged in many of those practices — sometimes unknowingly, and sometimes with full awareness and agency. Aspects of white dominant culture that emphasize the transactional and the individual over the transformative and collective have permeated our non-profit and movement spaces to the point that staff turnover, burnout, and non-profit PTSD have become significant challenges that threaten the long-term sustainability of the sector and our movements as a whole. …

At the beginning of 2019, I shared a reflection about how to move off the seesaw of outrage and numbness that many of us find ourselves on these days. To my surprise, so many of you resonated with the image and guiding questions in that reflection, and used it in your own work and at your organizations. I’ve edited the image and guiding questions in light of conversations I have had and the helpful feedback I have received. I hope that this framework continues to be useful in your mid-year individual and organizational check-ins.

In our lives and as part of movements and organizations, many of us play different roles in pursuit of equity, liberation, inclusion, and justice. …


Deepa Iyer

Author of We Too Sing America; Host of Solidarity is This podcast; Senior Advisor at Building Movement Project; South Asian American activist/lawyer. @dviyer

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