• Feature

Forget Amazon — give real gifts this holiday season

We've got dozens of progressive gift ideas for everyone from your radical best friend to your libertarian uncle.
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Amidst the politically pendulous year we’ve all had, we’re thinking with gratitude of the people in our lives who are holding it down and getting shit done in so many ways — and scratching our heads for holiday gifts that will convey that appreciation and solidarity. Are you also grappling with a holiday shopping list amidst battling capitalism and its discontents?

To help us out with the act of radical redistribution that holiday gift giving can and should be, we turned to our trusty Beautiful Trouble strategy card deck to divine the future. (ICYMI, the Beautiful Trouble book and online toolbox of key strategies and tactics that have inspired centuries of people-powered victories are now available in a deck of more than 100 cards you can play!) While we know a single consumer choice won’t change the future of the world, small change adds up, and where we put our resources matters.

With no further ado, here are our top principles to guide your holiday gift selection this season: our gift to you! 

Joy is a revolutionary force 

As African-American author, filmmaker and social justice activist Toni Cade Bambara reminds us, “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.” And there’s no more revolutionary force than joy! Bringing joy and creativity to our street actions is what helps make them contagious, newsworthy and transformative. So too, when we give gifts about social change — they actually get used when they are fun to use.  

Who better to spark joy than the TESA games crew, otherwise known as the Toolbox for Education and Social Action, whose action-packed games have us fighting fascism with cats or barking, sniffing and licking our way through the apocalypse as packs of zombie-defeating dogs? For the household that has been cooped up in the pandemic for so long they forgot how to laugh or protest, give Rise Up! — a game of people and power, where all players are on the same team, running different parts of a movement that’s struggling to beat “The System.” All these games get extra points for their ethical production standards, having been produced almost entirely by worker cooperatives in the United States, with environmentally friendly materials.

And one more fun game, if we do say so ourselves, is the new version of the Beautiful Trouble Strategy Card Deck and flashcard your way through social movement history, learn and teach organizing, win grassroots victories, or just have fun staying up late with friends playing Radical Charades. Archbishop Desmond Tutu says it’s a “crucial resource for change-makers.” (Speaking of the Most Reverend, see him palling around with the Dalai Lama in the new documentary “Mission: Joy,” which highlights the neurological evidence behind the importance of joy — yes, even for revolutionaries!)

Dori Midnight’s Apocalypse Potion. (Sea Grape Apothecary)

It’s hard to be a joyful protester when you’re exhausted. How do we embrace resting as a form of resistance in a capitalist world?  As we share in the principle “Burn brightly, but don’t burn out,” often the people doing the most to take care of the world do the least to take care of themselves. If you’re looking for something to soothe and care for an exhausted compatriot, and support them for the long-haul struggle, send bath bubbles from ethically sourced and frontline-movement-supporting cosmetics company Lush. Or shop cooperative apothecaries for radical remedies like Apocalypse Potion, an elixir “for grace, resilience, rigor, and curiosity in the face of mystery and unraveling.” (A portion of proceeds from this remedy, created by ritualist/herbalist Dori Midnight, in collaboration with visionary activist sisters adrienne maree brown and Autumn Brown, supports Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project.) As adrienne says, “Feeling good is not frivolous, it is freedom.” 

Or, consider signing your lover-in-a-dangerous-time up for Just Seeds’ 2022 Community Supported Art subscription, which is “challenging artists to visualize self care as deeper work, for restoration and revolution!” If you gift a year-long art subscription, the recipient gets a fresh, visionary piece of art every month.

Make the invisible visible

As the adage goes: “If you can’t see it, you can’t change it, so the first task of an activist is often to make the invisible, visible.” Expose injustices and broadcast messages for change with the gifts you give. Do you value leadership over bosses, land over landlords, and elections over the elite? Gift a “Fire the bosses!” tee, tote or mug from the New Economy Coalition. Or, from the For Everyone Collective, the “Death Penalty Kills Innocent People” hoodie features the list of 173 individuals who were sentenced to death and later exonerated. 

Get the “You are on Native Land” pin from Urban Native Era, and help educate your family about paying the Indigenous land tax in your area. Decolonize your shopping list and support Indigenous artists by buying cozy blankets from Eighth Generation instead of Pendleton this year. 8Gen’s tagline? “Inspired Natives not Native Inspired.” Or break the gender binary with a gender pronoun pin from Dissent Pins; pins raise funds for the Trans Lifeline and other transgender support organizations. 

The “Verdant Dreams of Olam haBa” Hebrew planner. (Dreaming of the World to Come)

“How we chart time is a political act,” say Nomy Lamm and Rebekah Erev, the makers of the “Verdant Dreams of Olam haBa” Hebrew planner, which leaves out holidays like Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, and includes Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples’ Day, highlighting legacies of resistance and de-emphasizing the hallmarks of empire. Envision a radical year to come with Syracuse Cultural Workers’ 2022 Peace Calendar or the Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar

And of course, do your research: Your consumer choices can also help make the invisible visible when you choose to buy fair trade, organic and ethically sourced products, and tell the recipient about it. For example, let your loved ones, comrades and neighbors know you’re thinking of them this holiday season with survivor-made greeting cards, where artisans are making a living wage of $28.85 an hour, and 100 percent of the profits go to FreeFrom, an organization reframing intimate partner violence as a structural economic issue that intersects with other systems of oppression.

Support the lead of the most impacted

Following the lead of the most impacted is also funding those on the frontlines of change. Donate in the name of a loved one to a progressive organization helmed by the frontline communities directly affected by the injustice. For example, give a gift for all seasons and support the Climate Justice Alliance and the Sunrise Movement’s special “in honor of” portal. Or support the six Palestinian organizations that were recently wrongfully labeled as terrorist groups. 

Or send food to striking workers at John Deere by contributing to their GoFundMe campaign (in the name of your loved one). Workers in the United States, alone, have waged over 150 strikes this past year across virtually every sector of the economy, as they continue to struggle through anti-union laws amid pandemic-exacerbated working conditions. 

As we know all too well, the pandemic and economic downturn has been especially brutal on the houseless in our communities. Support community-based organizations delivering supplies to those in need through the cold months, or donate items like socks, blankets and warm food directly. Buy gifts from businesses that employ unhoused people, such as jewelry from Giving Keys and mosaic art from Piece by Piece. 

If you envision a world where no children of activists suffer alone when their family faces repression, consider donating to the Rosenberg Fund for Children, a group supporting the children of progressive U.S. activists started by the son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

Want to help abolish unjust debts and change the way our economy works so no one is forced into debt to survive? Sponsoring the Debt Collective or a membership to the Debtors’ Union could be your gift.

We know that the past 20 months since lockdown began have been brutal for so many small businesses. “Buy local” goes without saying. This month, the hashtag campaign #smallbusinesschallenge has gone viral, helping spread the word about where to buy this holiday season. Instead of more Amazon boxes, be part of building a solidarity economy in your community. 

Use the spectrum of allies

Pulling the Spectrum of Allies card, a powerful methodology whose superpower helps activists discern where to focus their energies in order to shift people power to win their campaigns, gave us pause. What direction does this suggest for our Holiday Gift List?!

Clearly, we need to select gifts that speak to each specific person, and as the tool teaches us, the more refined our knowledge is about each stakeholder, the more likely we can reach them and shift their thinking to support the change we need.

So if we put our family and friends on a gift giving spectrum and think about giving gifts that support change and transformation, we can celebrate this opportunity to open up dialogue through gift giving:

For our ‘opponents,’ or friends and family who traditionally disagree with our progressive values:

Use the Trojan Gift Horse to sneak in some progressive gifts and open up a way to have less polarized conversations.

Sweeten the message to stop child slavery by putting Fair Trade chocolate in the stockings. Grease the gears for a conversation on Palestine and catastrophic settler violence by wrapping up some Palestinian olive oil or colorful ceramic kitchenware for those who appreciate cooking. 

Jacobin’s Class War board game.

Play Class War, a newly remixed game from Jacobin that invites players to assume roles of workers and capitalists who battle for the future of society. It even promises to reach across the aisle: “…Even your libertarian uncle won’t be able to resist the world-historic struggle unfolding in the deck of cards before him. And if he looks closer, he just might see, for the very first time, what a socialist perspective on our society’s class antagonisms really looks like.” 

For those ‘passive allies’ who agree with you but need to be moved to action:

Bring the issue of abolition home to those who think it’s just a buzzword by wrapping up one of the recent New York Times best sellers on racial justice: “We Do This Till We Free Us” by Mariame Kaba, “My Grandmother’s Hands” by Resmaa Menakem or check out this list for suggestions.

Support independent media! Make a donation and sign up for an online subscription that will send your compatriot critical news and continued learning through thought-provoking analysis. We’re partial to the publication you’re reading now (which you can support right here) and they’ve got some pretty spiffy swag too. 

Support Us

Waging Nonviolence depends on your support. Become a sustaining member today and receive a T-shirt or tote.


Help folks imagine a reality that they can see themselves in by pre-ordering the forthcoming book “Beautiful Solutions” (Summer 2022) that will showcase the stories and strategies that show how another world is possible, or gifting a Yes! Magazine subscription to get inspired by real-world solutions monthly. 

And what about the kids in our lives?

Tell a more inspiring story: Bring the revolution to your friends with kids by gifting a copy of Innosanto Nagara’s “A is for Activists” or Ibram X. Kendi’s “Antiracist Baby.” The “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” books illustrate stories of courageous women to help shift the stats on who the next generation calls a hero. Help kids understand international solidarity with a cute and fuzzy Heifer International gift of baby chicks or goats for a family in need.

Direct action 

How can we make our gifts more likely to immediately interrupt business as usual, introduce an alternative narrative or stop a wrong?

First of all, let’s let our money do the talking. (Money = power, right?) 

Make a donation in Justice Kavanaugh’s name (or your right-leaning uncle?) to Planned Parenthood. Purchase gifts or gift certificates from immigrant-, women- and Black-owned businesses. 

“Don’t feel like flushing your finances for the loved one who has everything?” asks Oxfam. Gift a potty as a present and prevent the spread of deadly diseases.  

Every day, tens of thousands of people languish in jail simply because they can’t pay bail. Contribute to the National Bail Out and bring mamas home for Mother’s Day! 

Make a Kiva.org loan to support women, students or refugees from all over the world and help improve the quality and direction of their lives. Do it with your own money, in the name of others.

It goes without saying that you can ditch Amazon and shop independent booksellers like our friends at AK Press, Haymarket Books, OR Books and Powell’s.

(Miranda Kharsa/No Dough for the Occupation)

The flip side of spending money is of course to boycott. You might want to skip the Pumas this year (the main sponsor of the Israel Football Association, which includes teams in Israel’s illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land). And steer clear of Pillsbury pastries, which is the target of the international boycott campaignNo Dough for the Occupation,” due to its factory in Atarot, an industrial zone in occupied East Jerusalem. 

Consider stepping outside the capitalist consumer system and give the gift of time: Cook food that is not only delicious but promotes “peace and builds cross-cultural understanding by introducing people to the food and culture of places with which their government is in conflict,” as the pioneering Conflict Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant in Pittsburgh, did.

For those of you planning to get crafty bringing the protest to the shoppers, some inspiration: The Barbie Liberation Organization and the Santa Claus Army made very good use of the tactic of culture jamming. For those of you who want to bah-humbug any and all consumerism this year, and get some inspiration for how to do it, check out the awesome work of our friends at the Church of Stop Shopping!

To wrap it up…  

Whatever you give (and receive), remember, you don’t have to wait to put in place the world you want! Wherever you find yourselves on the knife edge of hope this holiday season, may it be one of recharging and visioning the year to come.

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