AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We end today’s program taking a look at the extraordinary community networks throughout the United States that are coming together to secure their next-door neighbors during the coronavirus pandemic– and how you can get included. As lockdowns and layoffs sweep the country, leaving millions at threat, mutual aid groups are forming to protect and attend to the vulnerable, consisting of the senior, incarcerated, undocumented and unhoused. Their aim? Solidarity not charity.
In Washington, the Tacoma Mutual Help Collective is organizing totally free food programs for kids hit by school closures. In the Bay Location of California, the West Oakland Punks with Lunch is working with the houseless community and distributing lunch and products. In Arizona, Tucson Mutual Aid is collaborating food and supply drop-offs to individuals’s front doors. In Colorado, the Denver Service Employee Solidarity group is constructing a network to demand an instant moratorium on lease collection and evictions citywide. In Minnesota, the Twin Cities Queer and Trans Mutual Help group is arranging support for queer, transgender and gender nonbinary individuals impacted by COVID-19. Here in New York City City, now the epicenter in this nation, New York City United Against Coronavirus has actually put together a network of resources for childcare, grocery delivery, food donations, real estate requirements, bail funds and other types of assistance across the 5 boroughs. And those are simply a few of the thousands of efforts.
For more, we go to two of the hot areas of the pandemic: Seattle, Washington, and here in New York City City. We’re joined by 2 long time mutual aid organizers. In New York City, Mariame Kaba is with us, long time organizer, abolitionist, [teacher] and creator of the grassroots organization Task NIA, which works to end the imprisonment of kids and young people. She’s raised 10s of countless dollars and rearranged it to groups throughout the country in action to the coronavirus pandemic. She just did a public teleconference with Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on shared help. And in Seattle, Washington, Dean Spade is with us, associate teacher at Seattle University School of Law, founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, developer of the mutual help resource website BigDoorBrigade.com.
We invite you both to Democracy Now! in this so tough, attempting, tough time. Mariame, inform us about a couple of more of these mutual aid efforts and what you’re doing.
MARIAME KABA: Sure. As I pointed out– as you pointed out, there are several jobs happening around the nation. I have been privy to seeing the work that’s occurring in Chicago, where Kelly Hayes, Delia Galindo and other organizers gathered, on extremely brief notification, a Google doc to help people with direct needs, who needed any variety of dollars, whether for lease or food or and so on, offered an opportunity for people to sign up, and then for individuals who could use to support to step in to do that. That’s one way that, through innovation, individuals are reaching out to each other in order to be able to satisfy people’s direct needs.
There are folks here in New york city City, as you discussed, that pulled together an abolitionist group, an abolitionist shared help fund, that raised cash to be able to offer groceries to folks, grocery money to individuals.
AMY GOODMAN: And discuss what you indicate, Mariame, when you state “abolitionist.”
MARIAME KABA: Well, in this case, it was an abolitionist collective, indicating people who are prison-industrial complex abolitionists, who believe that we need to produce the conditions on the planet to be able to eliminate jails, policing and monitoring. In this particular case, this grouping came together– they’re socialists, abolitionists, feminists– and they attempt to raise money in order to be able to supply grocery money for folks in the– not simply in New York, I think, beyond New York. They got– I believe this is an important point, which was that they raised a lot of cash rapidly, about nearly $40,000. The requests that came in were $220,000. And so, you can see that there’s an amazing requirement, which require requirements to find a way to get fulfilled. And it won’t just be occurring through specific contributions. It has to also be the state activating to offer for the needs of those people. So those are just a couple of examples.
Survived and Punished New York City did a soap drive to raise cash so that soap might be sent inside to incarcerated individuals, first in New York and now around the nation, because, as you know, incarcerated individuals can be hired, for instance, through Governor Cuomo, to create hand sanitizer, that would help the remainder of the community, however they themselves can’t have hand sanitizer within the prisons since of the alcohol level within those particular– within that specific hand sanitizer. Attempting to activate to meet the material requirements of the folks who require assistance and to have that reciprocity is key.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I wish to go to Dean Spade. Mariame Kaba remains in Brooklyn, New York, and Dean remains in Seattle, associate professor of Seattle University School of Law. Speak about the history of mutual aid, for individuals who have never ever heard that term prior to.
DEAN SPADE: Yeah. The term “shared aid” basically simply suggests when people unite to fulfill instant survival needs, typically due to the fact that of a shared understanding that the systems in place aren’t pertaining to fulfill them, or definitely not fast enough, if at all, and that we can do it together right now. So, normally you see them really visibly throughout type of abrupt disasters, like earthquakes, storms, floods, where people are rescuing each other or dispersing water or dispersing masks, things like that. However there’s likewise a continuous history of people and a contemporary truth of individuals doing mutual aid jobs to handle the ongoing disasters of the systems we live under. So, an example a lot of people have heard of disappears Deaths in Arizona, which puts water into the desert, and food, so that individuals who are crossing, ideally, are less– it’s less mortal for them; or abortion funds, that aid people access abortion right now; or bail funds, as you mentioned; or projects that assist individuals coming out of foster care or our of prison find housing; or jail pen friend projects; or child care collectives. Those are all sort of ongoing ways people are meeting each other’s needs.
And I think the most probably noticeable historical example of shared help in the U.S. that people speak about a lot is, obviously, the Black Panther Celebration’s totally free breakfast programs and health programs, which were an important part of the party’s work. And it’s a fine example of how social movements typically, pretty much constantly, centrally arrange mutual help, since individuals enter social motions to get instant needs met, and they also frantically want to assist others facing what they’re facing. And when they’re there, they can develop a shared analysis: Hey, why don’t we have food? Why don’t we have shelter? What systems remain in location that all of us actually wish to get to the source of?
And I think that one other piece to say about this is that in a country like ours, the story is elites will fix the problems, we need to alter laws, or we ought to get policies passed, and you need to sort of wait to choose those individuals or lobby them and ask to do things. And shared aid has an actually various sensation to it. It’s like, you understand what? We’re not just going to wait and hope that they solve our issues, especially considering that they have a bad record of refraining from doing that, and specifically since the majority of relief doesn’t wind up reaching the poorest individuals or the most marginalized or targeted individuals. Instead, we’re going to do something right now to develop the world we want to reside in. It’s an extremely empowering, participatory kind of work that tends to build individuals’s capability to activate normally.
AMY GOODMAN: And the idea of uniformity not charity, Dean?
DEAN SPADE: Yeah. “charity” is a word we frequently utilize to believe about like social services or nonprofits that offer things to poor individuals if you qualify, if you meet these eligibility confirmation requirements, if you’re the ideal kind of poor individual. We don’t offer it to you unless you’re sober, unless you take these meds, or unless you have kids, or– you understand, there’s histories– unless you’re effectively Christian or not queer or whatever. Charity is this example where generally cash’s originating from the rich, and they get to determine who is deserving.
That’s the opposite of uniformity? Solidarity is, wow, people remain in requirement? That’s not since they have actually done something incorrect, and we require to find the good ones and reform them. It’s due to the fact that there’s something wrong with the system that makes people homeless, that makes individuals criminalized, that makes individuals desperate and makes individuals, you know, have no migration status– whatever the case may be. It’s a really various framework, and it’s not about saviorism or about elites identifying who need to get what relief, which is how charity looks. It’s rather about all of us getting together and practically simply attempting to meet each other’s requirements and resolve instant issues together, in a really grassroots, bottom-up way, rather of a top-down way.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Mariame Kaba, we just have a few minutes. How do you want to see these networks being established in action to the pandemic progress even after? Which’s a hopeful question, thinking of after the pandemic. And also where people can go to see the kind of groups that they can support?
MARIAME KABA: Sure. So, I think one of the most fundamental parts about shared help pertains to altering the social relationships that we have amongst each other, in order to have the ability to fight beyond this existing minute, beyond the present crisis, beyond the present type of a catastrophe that we’re trying to overcome. And so, one of the gorgeous aspects is that you actually do not understand where the connections are going to take you. You’re going to make and develop new relationships that will type of lead to new tasks and will result in new understandings, that will form the prospective future of, you know, your community and beyond.
I think the fact that these resemble hyper-local jobs is in fact a really useful thing, since you’re definitely going to encounter these folks once again. And it offers a foundation for future political action, if it’s performed in an excellent way where people feel great about it and good about each other. So I believe that’s really crucial.
And in regards to where people can go to discover a few of these shared aid projects, there’s a new center that was produced, that somebody created, using all of these various– how do you call it?– all the different Google docs that have actually been showing up and flowing, so that people could discover each other and find themselves. And I will send out that, because I don’t have the actual link for it right now. But I will send out that over so that you can put it on your site. And that’s a way where people can link. Individuals can go to Twitter, go to Instagram, go to Facebook. There’s numerous Facebook pages that have turned up, many– AMY
GOODMAN: And , obviously, we’ll link to it at democracynow.org. There have actually been calls by progressive district attorneys, DAs and, of course, the entire abolitionist movement around the country, to launch people in prisons at this crucial point, and detention centers. Can you quickly– we have simply 20 seconds– discuss this? MARIAME KABA: Yes, absolutely. And I desire to comment specifically for New york city. Guv Cuomo has total discretion to be able to release mass clemencies for the jails. We know that de Blasio, the mayor, has the power to be able to launch hundreds and countless people from Rikers Island and other jails. And so we actually want them to be able to do that. There’s lots of pressure and demands that have actually been released by regional groups. And we want folk– AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there. MARIAME KABA: Yeah. AMY GOODMAN: But I desire to thank you both for being with us, Mariame
Kaba, organizer, abolitionist, creator ofTask NIA, and Dean Spade, associate professor at
Seattle University School of Law, creator of
the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, developer of mutual help resource site BigDoorBrigade.com. I wish to just take this minute to thank the amazing team of family, my co-workers at Democracy Now!, who are primarily working from home. I want to thank Julie Crosby, Miriam Barnard, Mike Burke, Renée Feltz, Deena Guzder, Nermeen Shaikh, Carla Wills, Tami Woronoff, Libby Rainey, Sam Alcoff, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Charina Nadura, Tey-Marie Astudillo, Denis Moynihan, Adriano Contreras, María Taracena.