From custom art to donation boards: Harrisites fundraise in support of Black Lives Matter

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Outraged by the killing of George Floyd, supporters of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement across the nation are challenging police brutality and the systemic racism entrenched in society through protests, petitions, donations, and demands for reform. Several students at Townsend Harris are also partaking in the movement by raising money in support of Black Lives Matter. 

Sophomore Aimee Wadolowski is creating custom art pieces to encourage her peers to donate to BLM organizations. “We have 4 unique artists participating, each with their own style and mediums used. If a piece costs $5, you donate $5 to an organization of your choice that connects to Black Lives Matter,” she said. In addition to donating money, Aimee gives the option of streaming YouTube videos whose ad revenue goes toward BLM for those who do not have the means to donate. 

Junior Jasmine Chang, who is providing a similar service, emphasizes that donations are essential because “they allow funds, organizations or individual activists to continue their fight towards dismantling systemic racism.” She added, “I am simply offering the added incentive beyond the most important motivators for donations: funding bail money for protesters, purchasing equipment, and investing in underdeveloped communities.” 

To appeal to the juniors, a group of seniors has started a college counseling service for those who donate to BLM organizations. Seniors Togay Atmaca, Cathy Choo, Annie Lin, Jonathan Tran, and Shane Werther are participating in a nationwide effort, providing services such as essay editing for students who show proof of donation. “As a first-generation college student, I often felt alone and clueless throughout the application process, so I often looked to alumni for advice,” Annie said. “I hope that through this service, students can feel more secure and confident in their college application. I want to help students prepare for the next step while encouraging them to be aware of the real-world events going on.”

Others have taken to social media to gather donations. Class of 2019 Alumna Lucy Yang created a donation board on Instagram, with different donation slots ranging from two to ten dollars to encourage donations that her followers can claim. “The goal was always to make donating more accessible and more Instagram-friendly,” Lucy said. “Typing in someone’s Venmo tag and donating money in less than a minute is much easier than getting out your card and typing in your card information for each organization you want to donate to… If I used this popular format of raising funds, more of my friends would be a bit more encouraged to donate.” 

Lucy believes that as much as protests are vital to the movement, donations supporting organizations such as Black Visions Collective, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Bail Fund Network are more effective towards the long term goal “in targeting the real disparities experienced by Black communities daily.” 

Juniors Xandria Crossland and The Classic Layout Editor Alexa Jude Tumulak have also taken initiative, creating a “master document” that links resources and petitions to inform and educate their peers on the different ways they can support the movement. “On Instagram, there were 26 million posts for #blackouttuesday with posts of a black square, but only 12 million signatures on the Justice for George Floyd petition. If those exact people had signed or spread around petitions, it would’ve helped so much. I couldn’t just spread awareness, it was time to actually do something about it,” Alexa said. 

Alexa and Xandria have also included YouTube video links to stream. “By watching the ads that come up in their entirety, the owner of the video [can] collect ad revenue and then donate it,” Xandria explained. “I think that this is a great alternative for people who don’t have the funds to donate as much as they would like to.”

“As teenagers, we have to start dismantling the covert racism we see or experience in our day to day lives. We have to speak out on these injustices and find other ways to help rather than just do something performative,” Alexa concluded. “I am so glad our generation is learning and fighting now, so when it’s our time to be parents and role models, we’ll be on the right side of history.”