Safety Pin Box created by two black women makes allies back up their words with coins, and it’s brilliant
In 1937, the incomparable Zora Neale Hurston wrote in her masterpiece Their Eyes Were Watching God, “De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.” Malcolm X echoed those sentiments in a 1962 speech, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” Our extraordinary gains in almost every arena hasn’t much changed these truths. But with the advent of social media, like-minded black women are shouting from the mountaintops that we are not your mules and demanding to be paid for our labor. It’s in that spirit that activists Leslie Mac and Marissa Jenae Johnson created the Safety Pin Box for allies truly interested in black liberation.
The Safety Pin Box is a monthly subscription of ally tasks for the month. A physical box is sent to those who subscribe with tasks that range from “individual to group assignments, and task categories include data collection, personal development, influencing your networks, and showing radical compassion,” according its website. Additional features of the SPB include a subscribers-only Facebook group where allies can convene to discuss the tasks, post exclusive “calls to action” during a crisis when allies are needed, and an online feature on the “Pin List” of members contributing to the movement. The subscription is $100/month. Additional boxes are available, too: The Pink Pal Box is $50/month, the E-Ally Box is $25/month, and the Revenge Box is a one-time fee of $50 per box.
If the Safety Pin Box sounds familiar, it’s because the idea was derived from the misguided attempt of privileged allies (men, white people, cis hetero, Christians, etc.) wearing safety pins as a show of solidarity following Donald Trump’s win. The safety pin was supposed to identify them as “safe people” as a response to the rising attacks against the oppressed. The backlash for the safety pin was immediate because it did nothing more than make allies feel good without them actually having to do any work. White women quickly commodified their ally-ship by selling $300 safety pins on Etsy.
Instead of just pointing out the missteps of the safety pin initiative, Mac and Johnson turned it into a bonafide business. The pair conceptualized the business after meeting in November on a trip to Jamaica. If black women must educate the privileged, then black women must get paid. The great Memphis philosopher Gangsta Boo once asked, “Where them dollas at?”
“Transformation happens when commitment meets consistency,” Mac told Daily Dot. “A subscription box is a way to build in consistency and continued commitment. It’s easy to read one thing and not have a direct connection to continuing the work… We want to make ally-ship less of something you have to think about and more something that’s integrated into your life, and that’s why a subscription box makes perfect sense.”
It’s a brilliant way for black women to get paid for the labor we do for free all the time — on Twitter and in our daily lives. Part of the subscription box funds will go toward substantial financial gifts to black women/femmes. Each month, black women will be chosen at random from SPB’s pool of Black Women Being applicants doing work toward the liberation of black people.
As with any visionary idea, critics are sure to follow. Some allies feel two black women trying to profit off of activism is wrong. Mac and Johnson have been called “scammers” accused of “plenary indulgence.” Is it even surprising that people would have a problem with black women being paid to educate folks who claim they want to fight oppression?
“We put this project together very quickly because it was timely around the discussion of the safety pin and what ally-ship is, but the work that we did is work that we charged clients for all the time,” Mac told Daily Dot. “Marissa is a writer, I charge people for my graphic design skills, so this notion that just because the content itself is meant to educate people, it should be free—I just don’t buy it. It doesn’t add up for me.”
But the support has been overwhelming. So far, the SPB has received over 100 subscriptions and over 600 people have downloaded the sample task.
Not only are the SPB creators excited to be able to give black women money, but they are happy to build a community of like-minded allies committed to doing the work. “We actually have a part of the white population where the convo isn’t IF institutional racist exists, but WHAT can be done about it,” Mac told The Frisky in a direct message on Twitter. “We intend to create a community of white folks that are moved from well-intentioned to well-equipped.”
Now is as good a time as any “after two years of education about the realities of racism,” Mac told us. Every day black women educate folks on Twitter about everything from feminism, to racism, to foreign policy. For free. Not only does the SPB ask for payment for that labor, it redistributes some of those funds to the hands of other black women, all while making the world a better place.
If allies want to help transfer their inherent power to black women, this is one hell of a way to do so. And allies learn something in the process. Sounds like a win-win.