In her prescient album A Seat at the Table, Solange sings, “Where do we go from here?” I asked myself that question as I sat in community with friends at Wellesley College and we watched our fellow alumna, Hillary Clinton, concede the U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump. The election result, following President Obama’s two terms, was a referendum on many things—blackness and the fear of it being one of them. As Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20 looms, what will it mean to be black in Trump’s America? The vitriol from Trump and his supporters have led to hundreds of reported hate crimes and incidents of harassment in the weeks since the election. Trump will undoubtedly pursue promised campaign policies—including repealing universal health care and increasing police presence—that will have a detrimental impact on black bodies. The way forward may seem overwhelming, but there are ways to make it through the next four years.
In times of uncertainty, finding community, in whatever form is best for you, is imperative. After Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in 2014, was not indicted, I gravitated toward Black Youth Project 100 because I wanted to be part of BYP 100’s organizing mission to build black futures. There are many other organizations under the umbrella of the Movement for Black Lives for young black people to join, including: local Black Lives Matter chapters, Dream Defenders, Million Hoodies, and more. If you are on a college campus, your institution’s black student union may serve as an organizing hub, or you can create that space officially or unofficially through your school’s respective channels. Many colleges have a process for new student organizations to be recognized as “official” before they can receive funds and space from the college. That information may come from your school’s bursar, student activities coordinator, student government, or a mix of all three. If you find yourself shut out of that process, organize anyway. Form an unofficial group and find allies on campus that will allow you to use their spaces, such as meeting rooms, basements, or cafés. If that doesn’t work, use your dorm room as a meeting area and fundraise on your own accord—with a bake sale, merchandise sale, or whatever side hustle you can come up with.
Outside of structured organizations, this is the time to strengthen your relationships. Having a community of friends that have a similar lived experience can provide much-needed stability as we face what appears to be an unstable political future. If you’re in a school or town where you’re in the minority, follow Tumblrs and Instagram accounts like the Art Hoe Collective. You are not alone, even if it seems that way right now.
Educate and enrich yourself.
Now is the time to delve into books, art, and music that can provide comfort and illustrate the way forward. Varied writings—such as novels by Octavia Butler, fiction and nonfiction by James Baldwin, or theory by Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and Patricia Hill Collins—provide incisive frameworks to address our current political reality.
Afrofuturism, the concept that black people will find liberation outside of Earth’s material confines, seems more relevant than ever. At a time when black death is on constant replay, afrofuturism provides a space to reinforce that black folks will be OK. Delve into the music and films of Sun Ra, or read Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Octavia’s Brood is a good introduction to Afrofuturist writing. Use this time to enrich yourself and imagine new possibilities for the world.
In addition to the aforementioned, look toward the history and experiences of black communities around the world. Being in tune with the experiences of the African diaspora is crucial. We are not in a vacuum, and neither is the oppression that black folks face. It is important to be in community with other members of the African diaspora to find common ground. Works by Frantz Fanon, Steve Biko, and the women and men of the Négritude movement provide important historical and critical frameworks that have influenced generations. You can look to South Africa’s current Fees Must Fall movement—heavily led by young black women—as a black movement outside the United States to draw inspiration from.
Contemporary thinkers writing important pieces on race, identity, and politics to read include Doreen St. Félix, Ezekiel Kweku, Morgan Parker, and Jenna Wortham. Fill your playlists with inspiring music from Noname, Jamila Woods, and Solange. It’s going to be a long four years—make it as enjoyable as possible.
Take care of yourself.
In her famed poem, “Won’t You Celebrate With Me,” Lucille Clifton wrote:
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
Her poem articulates the importance of celebrating one’s survival. Studies document that real trauma has been caused by this election season. There is only one you. Protect yourself and your well-being. If that means shutting off the television, or taking a social media break—do that. There is no harm in taking a step back to care for yourself.
Self-care looks different for each person. Maybe being in community with others works for you. Or you may prefer decompressing on your own, away from the crowd. Tune into yourself to find what works for you. If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, or worry that you may be displaying signs of mental illness, work with a medical professional who can help you. The stress and anxiety related to Trump’s administration may have real impacts on your well-being, and you deserve care.
Activist Assata Shakur encourages those working toward social justice to remember:
It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
Resistance comes in many forms. It can mean actively calling your elected representatives, or participating in protests. Maybe you and your classmates decide to organize a walk-out at school. Or maybe a faculty member will help you fundraise for the cause of your choice. There are endless ways to organize. Just find out what course of action is best for your specific situation.
Resistance can also simply be a refusal to acquiesce to power. In a supposedly “post-truth” world, speaking your own truth and refusing to accept the current norms are political acts. The next four years will be undoubtedly challenging. You are not alone in this. We are learning where to go from here together. ♦