I call this giving back because, well, I am sure I will always work hard to earn money. But I know by now a lot about how the privileges I’ve grown up with, and the PhD I am getting, will give me access to money that is more than I could earn fairly, compared to the work others do. I’ve worked to think less about white guilt and more about strategic use of privilege and power, and giving up what I can and am willing to. This isn’t everything below, but if you are reading and have capital to redistribute, perhaps they could consider my reasoning here.
I want to keep track of grassroots organizations that center community members’ well-being and build their politics from there, that I donate to now and hope to in the future. Right now I can’t financially add more, but I hope that will change by the end of the year. I don’t think it makes sense to trade regular donations (that provide security) for new ones.
Places I donate now
The first, and one that has a huge potential if it had a bit mroe funding, is the TGI Justice Project, which centers the needs of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated trans people. This mostly means trans women, mostly of color. It is based in San Francisco and primarily focuses on California especially in supporting those who get out, but also sends resources to prisoners across the country.
I highly recommend this entire lecture by Angela Davis in 2013, but in particular she really puts a great lens on why TGIJP is crucial for anyone looking at the violence of prisons, to support and pay attention to.
Second, the Audre Lorde Project, which centers queer people of color and is based in New York. It is an impressive project, partly in that it has been around for decades. They do a ton of things, educational workshops including mobilizing protests, but prioritize the needs and skills of their members, and have a handful of staff who focus on different such needs and training different skills.
The Queer Detainee Empowerment Project is a younger project that I know about through a friend whose accountable work I trust. It centers people who are undocumented, detained or just out of detention, who are also gender and sexual minorities, naming several cultural labels on its website (so it uses “queer” as an optional umbrella term).
The same friend now recommends Mariposas Sin Fronteras, based in Tucson, Arizona, which is mostly led by LGBTQ immigrants. While QDEP may still be doing productive work, and I don’t know the details, I gather its leadership has failed to live up to the ideals described above, both by not working to put immigrants and detainees in the positions of most responsibility, and by not working well with others. Another friend who lives in Arizona and works to support immigrants to the area, also testifies that Mariposas is a wonderful organization that has the backs of LGBTQ individuals including trans women. And they’ve organized a QTPOC festival in October (2015)!
Black Girl Dangerous is a website entirely by and for queer people of color, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, USA, but has worked to reach out from there. They also run writing workshops and recently started a summer program. As a white queer would-be-ally, I donate and read, but respect the fact that only QPoC are invited to the table for discussions; if fellow non-QPoC are too uncomfortable with that, they should not engage rather than try to tear down a desperately needed project.
Miss Major is not an organization, but she is a wonderful person, a force of nature and anyone who is queer and alive today in the USA has a lot to thank her for. I support her community retirement fund (it looks like it’s exceeded its goal, but that’s because not everyone does monthly donations).
I forgot to say, art! I think of this differently, but not enough people seem to realize how much they value artists’ work. So, the fact that I find it important to pay for art when I can, and also to back projects on Indiegogo and artists and writers on Patreon, is probably different enough to list.
Places I want to donate to
Community fundraisers, in general. Whether that’s more art or more helping people get by because the government is failing at its job.
One organization connected to the others above, but which I have not yet prioritized, is the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and I am still learning about them. But really they say it so well themselves: “…SRLP is a collective organization founded on the understanding that gender self-determination is inextricably intertwined with racial, social and economic justice. Therefore, we seek to increase the political voice and visibility of low-income people and people of color who are transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming. SRLP works to improve access to respectful and affirming social, health, and legal services for our communities. We believe that in order to create meaningful political participation and leadership, we must have access to basic means of survival and safety from violence.”
Also, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. It is worth noting that one well-connected activist has been tearing them down due to claims of plagiarism, and this is the best source I know to address that.
When it comes to giving wealth “back”, it is unacceptable not to consider indigenous Americans, or Native Americans, or American Indians, or the specific tribes whose lands I have lived on, eaten food from, and so on. It is their land, together with slave labor, that made the USA wealthy. I have barely started to learn what I need to know in order to seek out accountability, or even how to support work that can challenge the ongoing white supremacy here and get power back in the hands of Native communities, work that does not flatten the people doing it for the sake of politics. I also want to find groups that I can convince some well-off members of my family to donate to on or around Thanksgiving every year.
I do sometimes donate outside of the USA, but don’t focus on doing so. I do for things important to close friends or close political allies. That is because my political understanding is important to me and stretched thin as it is, so in the goal of donating to movements elsewhere I will likely rely on others’ guidance. But I do know that the violence done within the US is connected to that done by the US producing so many horrifying conditions elsewhere. I don’t know what is actually best for me to focus on, and I’m no millionaire.
Hopefully this list will grow.