• Recognize and learn from the legacy of community resilience and justice that the indigenous people of your region have practiced for centuries, before the era of colonization, and are still practicing in our time. Tune into local events and organizations that support native people’s causes and, in the process, develop respectful relationships with native people of this area.  Find ways to include their voices in developing a positive, inclusive vision for sustaining the communities of our region.
  • Commit to breaking out of the box of cultural segregation that is the norm in most of our country and in your area. Learn about the widely varied cultures in your area through reading, viewing videos, and participating in cultural events and activities. Show interest in the cultures and history of individuals you already know or are getting to know by asking thoughtful, meaningful questions and listening carefully to their replies.
  • Volunteer in multicultural organizations that serve the under-served and that seek to end inequality and bias in our community. Connect and support them by serving food at special events, tutoring in community centers, supporting their causes, or lending your time and talent by serving on their Boards. Consider Tompkins County organizations such as the Village at Ithaca, Multicultural Resource Center, Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Southside Community Center, Dorothy Cotton Institute, Tompkins County Worker Center, Cayuga SHARE Farm, ACTION, the Ithaca City Board of Education, TC Action, etc.
  • Develop trusting relationships – humbly, patiently and persistently – with people from different class, race and ethnic backgrounds. Don’t expect it to be a quick or easy thing to do and resist trying to ‘fix’ them. Do expect to become a more passionate and compassionate person in the process.
  • If you are white, learn about white privilege, and once you get over the unsettling emotions that emerge, learn how to use your privilege to support people who experience marginalization and bias on a daily basis. As you develop trusting relationships, learn how to become an advocate & accomplice who can see this community and place through the eyes of marginalized people, and who can effectively advocate for their concerns.
  • If you are white, seek out cultural events, recreational experiences, or community meetings where you are in a small minority. Even though it’s not the same as being as being a consistently disadvantaged minority, try to learn from these occasions how differently the world can be experienced outside of the dominant cultural mindset you usually take for granted.
  • Recognize that advocacy for workers rights, immigrants rights, disability rights, living wage as minimum wage, stopping mass incarceration, reducing in and out-of-school suspensions, and eliminating other forms of economic injustice and institutional racism, are essential foundations for creating resilient communities, which must be built on economic justice and mutual trust. Just as there can be no peace without justice, there can be no sustainability without equity.  
  • See sustainability not just as a green program, but also as a living systems model of community, founded on interdependence, cooperation, and deep democracy, i.e., full participation and opportunity for all.  Find ways to advocate for renewable energy, local food, affordable green housing, great mass transit systems, and zero waste systems FOR ALL, that specifically strengthen inclusive and participatory habits and structures.
  • Practice inclusive thinking and action: Are the initiatives you support and events you attend, racially and economically inclusive? Ask: “Who’s here and who’s not?, ” “Why?” and “What can I/we do to change the pattern?” Investigate what would make those situations more inviting and of direct value to people from a wider range of cultures – and follow up. Work to ensure that solutions to the issues you feel passionate about engage and serve ALL parts of our community.
  • Consider: “Our liberation is bound up with the liberation of every other being on the planet”. Look fearlessly at how power and wealth is currently distributed and work, as you can, to build an economy that works for everyone.
  • If you affiliate with sustainability or environmentally oriented initiatives, study how the issue it’s addressing impacts marginalized communities and individuals in their actual lived world. Put yourself in their place to the degree possible. Notice how conventional industrial processes not only waste energy and materials but also trash people and communities. See the ways in which your work is the work of justice – between species, between humans and their home places, between generations, and between communities, races, classes, and cultures.
  • Cultivate your love of justice and of inclusive community, side by side with your love of place and of the earth. If you are more environmentally focused, watch videos and read writings of great justice advocates, and find local justice advocates to learn from and support, in order to build up your justice mindset, identity and habits.
  • If you are more justicefocused, watch videos and read writings by inspiring environmental and sustainability leaders, and find local sustainability advocates to learn from and support. Active love of justice and love of place are profound capacities we all share that deserve more support than we currently give them. 
  • If you affiliate with a sustainability-oriented initiative concerned about “diversity”, before you focus on  how to get people of color to come your events or join your Board of Directors, get to know people where they are, on their terms, and in support of their concerns. When you do ask people to join your board or come to your events, do so with a wholehearted, proactive effort that engages many people in culturally appropriate ways and that builds on genuine relationships and commitments, not as a last-minute afterthought.

                                         Eldred Harris & Elan Shapiro   updated 1-30-21