*The Allyship Workshop Series was created in house at Stand Up Speak Up by a small team of writers and researchers with the consultation of several sensitivity readers. We present this information as an invitation to learn along with us and do not claim to be experts on the topic of allyship and advocacy. If you have any questions or concerns about anything you see in this workshop, please let us know. We hope this workshop will evolve as we continue to listen and become better allies.*
What It Means to Be an Ally
In a 2016 tweet, Kayla Reed, co-founder and executive director of Action St. Louis (a grassroots racial justice organization that seeks to build political power for Black communities in the St. Louis, Missouri, region of the United States), laid out what it means to be an effective ally:
A- always center the impacted— Kayla Reed (@iKaylaReed) June 13, 2016
L- listen & learn from those who live in the oppression
L- leverage your privilege
Y-yield the floor
Before we can use our own voice to speak out against injustice, we must centre those most impacted. We must listen and learn to make sure that we understand an issue from all sides before we speak. In many circumstances, we are called to use our position to allow members of marginalized communities to step forward and speak for themselves instead of us speaking for them.
The Guide to Allyship, an open source guide curated and created by Amélie Lamont, expands on this further:
To be an ally is to...
- Take on the struggle as your own.
- Stand up, even when you feel scared.
- Amplify voices of the oppressed before your own.
- Transfer the benefits of your privilege to those who lack it.
- Acknowledge that even though you feel pain, the conversation is not about you.
- Be willing to own your mistakes and de-center yourself.
- Understand that your education is up to you and no one else.
The following sections of these allyship modules will take you through exercises, videos, articles, and additional resources, to not only understand more of the fundamentals of being an effective ally for marginalized communities, but also how allyship can improve your own life and the lives of those around you.
Our first video comes from writer, actress and video blogger Franchesca Ramsey, who was a writer on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore on Comedy Central and is currently the host of the MTV web series Impact (formally Decoded). In 2014, she created a video outlining some simple tips for being an ally.
To recap, Franchesca’s tips are:
- Understand Your Privilege
- Listen and Do Your Homework
- Speak Up, Not Over
- Make Your Mistakes! Apologize When You Do
- Ally Is a Verb
For the complete list of resources offered by Ramsey (including updated options for out-of-date selections), refer to our Resources section at the end of this workshop.
As you can see, the definition of Ally changes a little for everyone and your own definition might change over time. Right now, what does being an ally mean for you? Take a minute and write down your own list. Try to think about actionable things that allies do and what drives them, rather than vague descriptions. How are you already demonstrating allyship in your everyday life?
In the next section, we will talk about something that should be on everyone’s list of responsibilities as an ally: Effective Listening.