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Be the best ally! How to support and stand up for the communities you love: A YP Summit recap

Written by Katie Fourney    on April 21, 2020    in
NOTE: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic reaching the Midwest. While we at SHARE Omaha worked to respond to coronavirus needs, this recap of an important Young Professional Summit session was put on hold. Although March 13th YP Summit feels as if it occurred in another lifetime, the message shared during the ‘Be the best ally!’ session is relevant now. When we begin to leave our homes again, we have an opportunity to declare anew who we want to be as community members. We can be allies in action.

Are you an ally? Are you the best possible ally? Have no clue what an “ally” is? (That’s okay! Let’s listen together.)

At the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Young Professional Summit, Erik Servellon of the Tri-Faith Initiative moderated a powerful panel that explained terminology, debunked myths and provided the framework needed to be the best ally to diverse communities.
Moderator: Erik Servellon, Tri-Faith Initiative
Panelists: Ina Bhoopalam, Dream Equal, Roger Garcia, Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors, Eli Rigatuso, Speaking of Happy and Jaymes Sime, The MICAH House
Let’s dive in with terminology first, as shared by Erik Servellon:

Privilege is earned or unearned advantages that you have throughout life.

Oppression is the opposite of privilege; it’s the challenges that keep you from having power or influence or money or voice.

Solidarity is a simple concept but it’s very hard in practice. When you believe in something you hear from an identity or a community, and you act, you’re acting in solidarity with them.

Why are allies important? Allies acknowledge truth.

“Allies are here to create space. When you step back and allow someone else to speak, you create that space for someone to have their voice. You support the work. When someone gives you a great idea, or policy or procedure, you say yes and you start acting to make it happen. Allies amplify the voice. They show up. They stand in solidarity and they start acting to amplify the voice of others,” says Erik Servellon.

Myth busting:
  • An ally is defined as a good person with the right views
    • No. “Just because you are ‘woke’, it means nothing unless you act on it,” says Erik Servellon.
  • Having privilege makes you a bad person
    • “Privilege is not a good thing or a bad thing. It is a thing. What’s important is that you acknowledge it and use it to elevate those around you,” says Erik Servellon.
  • An ally never makes mistakes
    • When some checks you, acknowledge it. Declare your mistake, apologize and ask what you can learn.
  • An ally must sacrifice themselves for others
    • Don’t be a savior.

Allyship is a verb. You do allyship.

Erik Servellon describes becoming an ally as a process. Go from being apathetic to being aware (by reading things like this recap of the YP Summit Be the Best Ally panel). Acting is when you start exercising and doing the things it takes to be a good ally: supporting, getting out of the way and speaking truth to power. Advocating is your goal. It is intrinsic to who an advocate is to be an ally, in practice, to other communities.

You’re an ally in progress. It’s all about listening.

“It is important that we realize it is all about listening. When I think about allyship, the piece of advice I would give is to take a step back, swallow your ego, and listen to another person when they call you out for something that is wrong,” says Ina Bhoopalam.

A favorite definition of an ally was shared by Eli Rigatuso: “An active, consistent and arduous process of unlearning and revaluating, in which a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group.”

Eli Rigatuso also says to consider that allyship is not an identity. “It is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency and accountability with marginalized groups of people. Allyship is not self-defined. Our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people that we seek to ally ourselves with.”

“Don’t tell my story”. Direct people to learn for themselves.

“If I hear an opportunity where someone can drop some knowledge bombs, I say, ‘I want to connect you with this person because he is extraordinary and this is his expertise,’” says Eli Rigatuso.

The work continues.

“I listen. I learn. My blind spots are real and they are big. I try to be open and receptive to information. As it changes, I must change. As people are learning and asking more, we have to learn and ask more,” says Jaymes Sime.
As you support Omaha metro nonprofits, you can support marginalized communities donating to and volunteering with organizations like Tri-Faith Initiative, Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition, Inclusive Communities, River City Gender Alliance, Empowerment Network and OutNebraska.