Contending with the Overwhlem

Ever since the election, when I talk to my friends, neighbors, colleagues, brother, mother, strangers, etc etc etc, I get such a severe sense of overwhelm. This is something I feel, too. There are too many vulnerable people and communities. Our grief is so heavy. Our shock reverberates again and again {though for some of us this is less about shock and more about the utter disappointment of yet again having to face what we’ve known forever about this country and its whiteness and its masculinity and its desperation to defend those at all costs}.

When I came back to LA from the desert last weekend for a quick check in with my 826la and university students, I was met by my neighbor who walked our apartment complex like someone who had just seen a ghost. We yelled with each other about the horrifying state of affairs in the country, the dumpster fire we stay living in, and how the ground has been pulled out from under us. And then she asked me what to do.

If there’s one thing I am grateful for in all of this, it is seeing folks new to social justice work asking their friends and the internet how they can help. But then the overwhelm begins again. What cause to fight for. Who to defend. We can’t each of us individually possibly help every single person and community threatened by a Trump presidency. So I asked her to think about what she cares about most. Because I truly believe people are better activists when they’ve already got a passion for the work that will be required of them. She answered, equal access to education. So we started there. And researched organizations in LA that work on that.

There are so many ways to approach the issues we’re facing. We can make phone calls to our representatives and to those in power who can sway the violent and dangerous actions and rhetoric we’re seeing every day. We can donate money to causes. We can volunteer our time. We can, as artists, make art in service of social justice. Thinking about doing all these things at once is maybe too much to handle. So break it down. Play toward your skills.

  • Here‘s a great comic about how to make important phone calls to the government if you have social anxiety, thanks to Cordelia McGee-Tubb.
  • Here are the numbers to call once you’ve quelled that anxiety to voice your opposition to the appointment of racist, misogynist, anti-semitic, homophobic people to White House positions.
  • And here are the numbers to call to advocate for the water protectors at Standing Rock who faced extremely violent responses from the police Sunday evening in North Dakota. {Because not all injustice in this country is election related. I mean, it is, everything is everything, but not everything is directly related to the election of DT as president.}
  • Here‘s an important way to think about our art practice in the face of injustice from The Dark Noise Collective.
  • 826 is a great organization that has chapters in seven American cities and that helps provide tutoring, reading, and writing assistance, inspiration, and support to underserved communities. Or do some research to see how you can assist underserved communities in the places you live.
  • Here are some fliers about undocumented immigrant rights that you can disseminate in your community if you, like me, live somewhere with a large immigrant population.

I’m giving these suggestions because these are the things that I know, but I will gladly help you research other options if none of the above calls to you or fits your abilities.

I bet you’re also seeing a lot of places asking for money. Most of the people I know, myself included, are artists and educators and we can barely pay our own rent as it is, let alone donate to anything or anyone else. But here is where I will remind you of something scholar Liz Losh asked a group of us in Canada this summer: what can you do do help people who are in a more precarious position than you?  Because there is always someone more vulnerable, more marginalized, who needs resources even more than you do.

Even if it’s just $20 to help Oliver Bendorf fund a creativity workshop for marginalized artists.

Or maybe when you’re buying Thanksgiving food this year, you can send an extra $20 to the folks at Standing Rock, and reflect on what it truly means for European-descendant Americans and Indigenous Americans to come together at this time.

Or donate to Planned Parenthood to support reproductive rights and help women continue to have safe access to the health care we need.

If you are involved with any universities or work places that haven’t already taken a stand, maybe draft a letter like this one from my university calling for USC to become a sanctuary. Or this one from my English department reiterating our commitments to social justice for everyone:



I know this post probably won’t reach a huge audience, but that’s not the point. The point is to respond to a lot of my friends at once who have asked Now What every day since November 8th. I am always here. I will help you take action in whatever way you find most possible for you given your financial and time constraints. I hope you are all taking care of yourselves so that you have the strength for what comes next.




P.S. Here are the books I will read again and again that also speak to so much of what we’re going through now:

I always said if there were four books I could buy for everyone in the US, they’d be these:

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