Shrinking budgets have made coalition building (or co-sponsorships) even more important than ever before. Multicultural student groups tend to be among the most underfunded. Financial concerns are among the most logical reasons for building coalitions (or allies) across, in this case, racial identities. Coalition building provides opportunities to present examples of unity and celebrate intersectionality.
Intersectionality, or the understanding of how multiple forms of oppression interlock, suggests exciting opportunities for building coalitions (or bonds) between student groups that seek to empower underrepresented populations, for instance, between queer- and racially-identified groups. A coalition can be a long or short term alliance and I challenge all of us to actively seek opportunities for coalition building across unexplored and sometimes risky territory.
6 Things to Remember when Building Coalitions with Communities of Color
- Don’t be afraid of the fear. Fear is a normal reaction to the unknown, seeking new coalition opportunities is no different. We can challenge ourselves to reach higher ground. And remember, if you are not a little afraid than you’re most likely not pushing yourself.
- Think outside the box, then think outside that box. Coalition building is, at its core, a way to form bonds to increase influence. Often common ground appears in the most unlikely places. Actively seek to form coalitions; the potential far outweighs the risks.
- Check your biases. Many queer folk have been hurt by our places of worship and have scars from these encounters, so we may sometimes hold negative assumptions about communities of color and of faith. But we may be surprised when we present opportunities for coalition building. We can craft opportunities to challenge long-held (but unsupported by research) perceptions about homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in communities of color.
Do your research. Many offices and student groups have a website, USE IT! Doing your research will help to establish the relationship and discover common ground and establish common goals.
- Don’t lose sight of yourself or your mission. Coalition building should benefit all parties of the coalition. Before committing to a partnership(s) make sure all parties know and fully understand the end goal of the partnership(s).
- Small things matter. Coalition building takes time, commitment, and imagination. Small gestures have gotten me a lot more than grand statements; co-sponsoring a smaller event can pay off in unexpected ways. Never underestimate the power of a handwritten thank you note; the few minutes it takes to write one can transform a relationship.
Though coalition building is hard and often thankless work, the potential rewards are worth it, especially when we consider actively building these coalitions at the intersections of queerness and communities of color. I leave you not with my words, but the words of Audre Lorde, who explains, “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
Romeo Jackson is currently a junior studying Intersectionality and Social Justice at Northern Illinois University. Romeo also serves on the Campus Pride Advisory Board, and has been a former Summer Fellow for Campus Pride. Follow him on twitter: @romeojackson22