Reflecting on the year as it closes is often a challenging task. This year seems more so than ever. It’s a year that has felt very long and painful for many of us. At Act Build Change, our work focusing on Collective Care has increased and our team has grown. We’ve been working hard to provide space for the unpicking of harmful habits and patterns in order to build sustainable, accessible and celebratory approaches to making change.

We’ve brought together some of the books, articles, podcasts and videos that have stayed with us this year, and left us reflecting on our space in the world and our craft as organisers and trainers. We invite you to indulge yourself in these resources and see what inspiration and insight lands for you.

Read

1. Everyday Abolition by Sarah Lamble

Everyday abolition needs to be a collective effort to push back against the individualisation of social problems. We need to support each other to figure out how to do things differently, to build the world we want.

A cropped section of the graphic from the everyday abolition article of a teacher telling a child to get out, on top of a blurred wider crop of the wider comic

Recommended by molly, one of our Collective Care & Wellbeing trainers:
Lamble has such an accessible way of speaking and writing about abolition, and this article is so full of depth while also being so clear about how abolition lies in the everyday moments as well as the big pieces of campaign work.

Explore this article: abolitionistfutures.com

2. You don’t batch cook when you’re suicidal by Jack Monroe

If your response to people in crisis is to simply lecture paternalistically about how you would be better at being poor than they would, I suggest you put your money where your flapping great mouth is, and give it all away.

A portrait of Jack Monroe, wearing a denim shirt and smiling at the camera, on top of a blurred image of toast taken from the article

Recommended by Edith, our Digital Organiser:
As foodbank use soared this year whilst the Government failed to properly commit to fighting hunger, the idea that foodbank users could be ‘shopping smarter’ was yet again a narrative thrown about by some of the unfathomably wealthy elite and pedantic Twitter users alike. This response by poverty campaigner, writer and chef Jack Monroe details the complexity, relentless trauma and exhaustion of living in poverty. Jack reminds us of the power and necessity of anger when fighting the injustices of ourselves and others.

Read the piece and explore more of Jack’s work: cookingonabootstrap.com

3. Communities of Activism: Black women, higher education and the politics of representation by Jan Etienne

As black women in the various activist roles and education spaces we occupy, we have never felt a more urgent pressure to represent.

The cover for Communities of Activism on top of a blurred image of Jan Etienne giving a talk

Recommended by Ez, one of our Collective Care & Wellbeing trainers:
This book covers a range of topics from a womanist perspective. The thing I loved most about this book is that it accounts for the UK context and demonstrates initiatives and research led by Black British women. It’s also a slightly shameless plug as I have written a chapter in it!

Check out the collection, including Ez’s chapter: Communities of Activism

4. The Purpose of Power by Alicia Garza

You cannot start a movement from a hashtag. Hashtags do not start movements – people do … Movements are much more like waves than they are like light switches … We recommit to them over and over again even when they break our hearts, because they are essential to our survival.

The cover for the Purpose of Power

Recommended by Stephanie, our founder & director:
This work from Alicia Garza, the co-founder of Black Lives Matters, is for all of us interested in understanding the depth and craft of movement building work and also the complexity, joy and headaches when we are working in them.

Get a copy: penguin.co.uk

5. Gender Explorers by Juno Roche

When you tell people your truth, the way that they look at you changes and it’s hard to get that back.

The cover of Gender Explorers

Recommended by Edith, our Digital Organiser:
This compilation of interviews trans children and young people is full of light and joy. We can learn so much from the strength of young trans people who are unashamedly advocating for themselves and others. As the media landscape continues to create organised hostility and danger for trans people in the UK, Gender Explorers is both a beacon of hope, and a call to action for all those it moves to keep fighting for the rights of trans people alongside us.

Get a copy: hachette.co.uk

6. Kindred by Octavia Butler

[Tom Weylin] wasn’t a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper.

The book cover of Kindred

Recommended by Stephanie, our founder & director:
In 1976 Dana dreams of being a writer. In 1815, she becomes a slave. A book about racism, slavery, sexuality and power. Octavia’s writing is painfully beautiful. It reminds me that fiction can in many ways, speak our human truths louder and call on us to pay attention. To decide what kind of human being do I want to be – what is my contribution to the justice effort?

Get a copy: blackwells.co.uk

7. The Truth About Modern Slavery by Emily Kenway

The cover of The Truth About Modern Slavery

Recommended by Stephanie, our founder & director:
A radical unpicking of modern slavery in all its forms in the UK. From men working in Sports Direct warehouses for no pay, to teenage Vietnamese girls trafficked into small town nail bars, many immigrants find themselves trapped in this illegal economy. And while our government paints itself as a crusader against this exploitation, in reality very little has been done. For each pre-order Pluto Press will donate to the incredible JCWI.

Pre-order: plutobooks.com

Listen

8. The Practices We Need: #MeToo and Transformative Justice from How to Survive the End of the World

No-one enters violence for the first time by committing it.

The cover for How to Survive the End of the World

Recommended by molly, one of our Collective Care & Wellbeing trainers:
This podcast episode, with adrienne maree brown and Autumn Brown in conversation with Mariame Kaba, was one of the first resources that cemented the idea that harm doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s one of those foundational moments. I’d really recommend folks listen to this and the whole ‘How to survive the end of the world’ back-catalogue.

Listen to this episode and more: How to survive the end of the world

9. Government Tropicana by Lex Amor

All this suffering I seen can’t occupy my mind for free
I pray they pay their bloody dues I pray I ain’t just
Skipping through the city with my screw loose

The artwork for Government Tropicana on top of a blurred image of Lex Amour

Recommended by Ez, one of our Collective Care & Wellbeing trainers:
Aside from this project just being an all round VIBE that pushed me through some dark days this year, Government Tropicana confronts topics such as race, gender, class and imperialism from the perspective of British born, Nigerian artist.

Listen to the album: Government Tropicana

10. Dolly Parton’s America from WNYC Studios

Is she a part of this history, a continuation of it or counteracting it in some way?

The cover the Dolly Parton's America podcast

Recommended by Edith, our Digital Organiser:
This soundtracked the start of my year – it is thoughtful storytelling at its finest. Both Dolly Parton’s life and the production process behind the podcast left me with a lot to think about: how long does it take to get things right? What are the unexpected moments and artefacts that we share with strangers? How can bringing in our motivations and perspectives on our work make it better and more relevant? Though the link to organising and social change might seem a little tenuous, this nine episode dive into a figure who’s life and legacy tells us so much about gender, class and politics is itself an invitation to consider the power of stories and how they move us.

Explore the podcast series: wnycstudios.org

11. Repackaging the Pill from 99% Invisible

We are not going to sit quietly any longer. You are murdering us, for your profit and convenience.

The cover for 99% invisible on top of a blurred photo of early birth control packaging

Recommended by Stephanie, our founder & director,
I love this podcast. There’s so much fun and random learning – as well as depth and beauty. In this episode, we learn how the contraceptive pill travelled from nondescript bottles into some of the most heavily designed and recognisable pill packages in history. It reveals the stories of medical and cultural anxieties of the time and how this sparked a wave of social activism. It all begins with a family in Illinois…

It reminds me that so much around us has a history and was hard fought. But in the busyness of life we can forget the simplest of freedoms graced to us by the work of ancestors before us. Secondly that the brilliant ideas and transformational moments come through noticing, emerging and small actions. That the “5 year strategy plan” is often a nonsense – though it is a very human response. Also the team on this podcast are often hilarious!

Listen to this episode: 99percentinvisible.org

12. Busy Being Black

A growing compendium of queer Black voices, an oral history project and conversations with those who have learned – and are learning – to thrive at the intersections of their identities.

The cover the Busy Being Black podcast

Recommended by Ez, one of our Collective Care & Wellbeing trainers:
Discovering this podcast this year has helped me gain a deeper insight into the experiences of Queer Black people, learning about a diverse range of topics centring the lens of marginalised voices. In these conversations I am able to see myself but more importantly, I am being challenged to see my blindspots too.

Explore the podcast: busybeingblack.com

Watch

13. Dean Spade and Reina Gossett in Conversation

The process you’re taking to transform your community is as important as the end you want to have in your community

A still from the video of Dean Spade and Reina Gossett

Recommended by molly, one of our Collective Care & Wellbeing trainers:
I love this collection of videos and come back to them often, they’re so beautiful and full of care spending real time going into the hard questions about how to prefigure the world we want

Watch the four part series: bcrw.barnard.edu

14. The Small Axe series by Steve McQueen

As individuals, we have impossible battles. As a collective, we stand a chance.

The series poster for Small Axe on top of a blurred still from the series of a character holding up a megaphone in a crowd

Recommended by Ez, one of our Collective Care & Wellbeing trainers:
This series celebrates Black British contributions to society and accurately depicts many of the struggles Black people have historically faced in Britain. My favourite episode in the series in ‘Lovers Rock’ which so beautifully portrays Black joy, something I wish we saw more of on mainstream TV!

Watch the episodes: BBC iPlayer

15. Parasite by Bong Joon-ho

With no plan, nothing can go wrong and if something spins out of control, it doesn’t matter. Whether you kill someone or betray your country. None of it f*cking matters.

The movie poster for Parasite

Recommended by Edith, our Digital Organiser:
The first time I watched Bong Joo-ho’s Parasite, I had no idea what I was in for. Maybe I should leave it there and allow you to indulge in it with as little information as possible.

But if you must know – this impeccably crafted film is a real treat to experience. It is a cinematic gift to its viewers that throws up so many questions for us to consider about capitalism, class, and success. Every time I’ve watched it I’ve noticed something new or discovered a new point for reflection – be that on the systems we are navigating and perpetuating, or the responsibility of storytellers and those who direct the narratives we come across in our day-to-day.

Watch Parasite online: amazon.co.uk


Further recommendations

This year, we also began sharing space in our newsletter with our wider membership and network, including inviting each contributor to share one thing they’d recommend our readers watch, read, or listen to.

Here’s what they shared in 2020:

NPR’s Code Switch (recommended by Sharan Dhaliwal)

All That We Share (recommended by Alex Evans)

Daniel Schmachtenberger on Emergence (recommended by Rosie Bruce)

Think Again (Recommended by Dami Makinde)

Jay Shetty on ‘Happy Place’ (Recommended by Mel Smith)

Sanctuaries of Silence (Recommended by Becca Kirkpatrick)

Mariame Kaba talking about prison abolition on ‘Why Is This Happening? (Recommended by Edith)

Rocks (Recommended by Ez)

Beyond Survival edited by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Recommended by molly)

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