Seven tips for attending your first Black Lives Matter protest

There are countless methods to show your support and solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement. If you are looking to participate in your first protest, here are seven tips from an Asian American ally participating in the Black Lives Matter protests around Los Angeles.

Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, there are countless methods to show your support and solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement. However, if you are able, legal and peaceful protesting has not only been a wonderful way to show up for your brothers and sisters, but it’s also been very effective in enacting change. 

If you are looking to participate in a protest, here are some tips as an Asian American ally participating in the Black Lives Matter protests around Los Angeles.

Disclaimer: While Cold Tea Collective supports peaceful and legal protesting, please only do so at your own discretion and acceptance of risks that may come with.

1. Go Prepared

Before you even step foot outside, prepare accordingly. Wear a mask, gloves, and comfortable clothing and shoes. Bring cash, hand sanitizer, identification, a protest sign, and a powerbank for your phone.  

It is important to do some research before attending a protest, and there are valuable resources available for what to do in the possibility you are approached by police, detained and arrested, or tear-gassed. Know your rights, and understand the risks that come with attending a protest. 

If you are undocumented, I strongly advise against attending. 

Photo Credit: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Instagram

2. Keep in the loop

Social media is a vital tool for protests. All protests I have attended have been peaceful and non-violent, but social media platforms like Twitter can help keep you informed with live updates, and prepare you for what you may encounter.

You can also check Instagram or Twitter for stores near the protest that may be aiding protests by supplying food, water, break areas, and open bathrooms. In the protests I have attended, I have also found amazing samaritans who come prepared to offer supplies and sustenance to protestors. Know before you go!

3. Know this is a movement, not a moment

In one week, I went to four protests and donated as much as I could. However, I found myself restless and unsettled at home, and angry whenever I went online. It is important to remind yourself that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Remember to energize and take the necessary days off to focus on your mental health, as well as on educating yourself.

Photo Credit: Natriya Chunapongse

4. Stay safe, stay together

There is safety in numbers. Go with an ally, have an emergency contact, and stick together. 

In case you do not have a group, Twitter is a great platform to connect with mutual friends that are attending or meeting up. You can also try searching the location tags of the protest to see who may be going.

5. Be loud, but not aggressive

Know what we’re here for. We are here to protest the police brutality and the systemic oppression that Black people face every single day. At my first Black Lives Matter protest, I whispered at first but quickly got louder, echoing my frustration from reading more names in headlines and seeing videos of “caught’ injustice. 

When I chanted “Say her name: Breonna Taylor” at the top of my lungs, tears flowing into my mask, it felt like a huge weight was being lifted from my shoulders as I channeled my bottled-up emotions into the chants. Understand that it’s okay to be emotional during these protests. As an Asian American, I’m so used to keeping my voice low, being quiet, and never yelling about anything especially in a public setting. However, I pushed past these tendencies when I attended the protests. This is not the time to be a passive activist; we cannot only offer silent solidarity.

Despite this, remember that we are protesting peacefully — the protests are not about inciting violence. In addition, speak up but not over. You are here to amplify and support Black voices. Remember that one of the biggest points of the Black Lives Matter movement is to shed light on issues surrounding the Black Community. By showing up to a protest, you are representing the movement as a POC ally. Understand where you fit, and do not control the narrative. 

Photo Credit: Natriya Chunapongse

6. Understand that photography can have repercussions

Wanting to photograph the moment is understandable, but posting can have serious consequences. Know the repercussions of posting anything with protesters in the background — even if they have masks on. No matter how minimal an article of clothing is shown, protesters can still be identified. Be responsible, fair, and respectful of others by pixelating (not blurring!) faces. 

Above all, seriously consider not bringing a camera at all. The protests are not about “getting the shot”, and the Black Lives Matter movement is not your story to tell. Give space for Black photographers to capture photos and build their own visual narrative for their own community.

7. Look beyond and continue the conversation

It is incredible to see Asian Americans show up to support the Black Lives Matter movement by protesting, and it is important to continue the conversation beyond the physical protest. You have the power to inspire others within your community.

At the end of the day, I can never fully understand what it is like to be Black. I have the privilege of walking back to my car and driving back to my apartment after a protest. I am still a fair-skinned Asian American woman who benefits from white supremacy and a broken system. However, I know that by showing up to be an ally, I am refusing to deny what has been happening in our world, and helping change this reality.

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