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What we’ve enjoyed reading, watching and listening to in 2020

A round up of 15+ resources that have shaped our thinking and practice.

Edi Whitehead | 17 Dec 2020

An image of a book by a large window looking out to a forest.

Image credit: John-Mark Smith.

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 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 unpicking harmful habits and patterns 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 in these resources and see what inspiration and insight are for you.


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.

Recommended by molly, our Collective Care & Wellbeing trainers:

Lamble has such an accessible way of speaking and writing about abolition, and this article is full of depth while also being so clear about how abolition lies in the everyday moments and the big pieces of campaign work.

Explore this article:

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.

Recommended by Edi, our Associate 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 poverty’s complexity, relentless trauma and exhaustion. 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:

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.

Recommended by Ez, one of our Collective Care & Wellbeing trainers:

This book covers a range of topics from a womanist perspective. What 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.

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:

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.

Recommended by Edi, our Associate Digital Organiser:

This compilation of interviews with 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:

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.

Recommended by Stephanie, our founder & director:

In 1976, Dana dreams of being a writer. In 1815, she became enslaved. It is 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 I want to be – what is my contribution to the justice effort?

Get a copy:

7. The Truth About Modern Slavery by Emily Kenway

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.



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.

Recommended by molly, one of our Collective Care & Wellbeing trainers:

This podcast episode, with adrienne maree brown and Autumn Brown conversing 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 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

Recommended by Ez, one of our Collective Care & Wellbeing trainers:

Aside from this project being an all-around 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 a 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?

Recommended by Edi, our Associate Digital Organiser:

This soundtracked the start of my year – it is thoughtful storytelling at its finest. 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 whose life and legacy tell us so much about gender, class, and politics is an invitation to consider the power of stories and how they move us.

Explore the podcast series:

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.

Recommended by Stephanie, our founder & director,

I love this podcast. There’s so much fun, random learning, 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 our ancestors before us. Secondly, brilliant ideas and transformational moments often come through small actions by ordinary people over a sustained period. 5-year strategy plans are often nonsense. Also, the team on this podcast are often hilarious!

Listen to this episode:

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.

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. I can see myself in these conversations, but more importantly, I am being challenged to see my biases, too.

Explore the podcast:


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.

Recommended by molly, one of our Collective Care & Wellbeing trainers:

I love this collection of videos and return 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:

14. The Small Axe series by Steve McQueen

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

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 is ‘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.

Recommended by Edi, our Associate 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 let you indulge 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 unique 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 daily.

Further recommendations

This year, we also began sharing space in our newsletter with our wider membership and network, 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)