Right before coronavirus arrived in Buncombe County, we bought a bird feeder. It now hangs outside the window where I work, attracting an array of winged visitors. The birds in my yard have always been a source of delight for me, these days they are of particular comfort.
I am deeply grateful for our home, the garden we get to tend, my loved ones, and on and on. I am grateful to have space to grieve, pray, and to find ways to be of use in this moment.
Amidst processing the horror of the pandemic, I have also been pondering paradigm shifts. Planting possibilities. What can we learn and implement during this extreme slow down of capitalism? What transformative changes could happen, now that many of our habits of consumption and travel are stopped? How do we solidify the increased investment in local food and home gardens? (Related: land partnerships are being coordinated by Patchwork Urban Farms.) How do we leverage the fact that the critical value of workers and creators is being made abundantly apparent for dramatic shifts in resources? How do we practice collective care?
We take interconnected routes on this journey.
There are opportunities to advocate for the liberation of those who are currently incarcerated and detained, and to use mutual aid to care for our networks and neighbors (while we are ever so tender with ourselves). Here are some tools towards both…
Free them all
I’ve seen various posts comparing the complaints some are making about the challenges of sheltering in place to the realities of those in prison or detention centers. Perhaps more will develop an empathy that leads to the belief that locking people up is always wrong.
In their piece, “Abolitionist Organizing in the Time of Global Pandemic (COVID-19),” Southerners on New Ground (SONG) says, “What can public pressure look like in these times to advance abolitionist demands and a Black queer feminist vision? We need action that restores our relationship to the work, humanity, and dignity of our people – from the factory workers to the drag queens. This moment poses a tremendous threat to those most vulnerable, particularly our loved ones locked up in jails, prisons, and detention centers. We see tremendous potential to move bolder and broader abolitionist demands: let everyone out of cages immediately.” The post includes action steps you can take today.
The WNC Response to COVID-19 for Those in Custody is a FB group created by the Racial Justice Coalition of AVL as a space:
1) To provide accurate information, resources and support to families in Western North Carolina who have loved ones in jail and prison custody in response to COVID-19.
2) To engage and educate community members who are less impacted by jail and prison to facilitate advocacy and a compassionate response to COVID-19.
3) To build capacity for more equity and justice after this pandemic, by sharing information and nurturing connection across systemic barriers imposed by our justice system and mass incarceration.
From Siembra NC: Make a call today to 404-893-1210, wait through the message, press 3 to speak with Thomas Giles, and ask that ICE release detained immigrants in the Stewart Detention Center, as is happening in New Jersey. Detainees are being kept in increasingly overcrowded conditions, are forced to ration one roll of toilet paper for two weeks, and many of the guards live in counties with coronavirus outbreaks.
Caring for neighbors
In the likely challenging days ahead, we will care for people where we live. We will practice mutual aid – “cooperation for the sake of the common good.” We will come together to meet each other’s needs, knowing that, as always, our survival is dependent on one another.
As we build our proficiency with these practices, it is helpful to learn from those with experience. In an informative interview entitled, Solidarity Not Charity: Mutual Aid & How to Organize in the Age of Coronavirus, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now talks with Mariame Kaba an organizer, abolitionist, educator, and the founder of the grassroots organization Project NIA, along with Dean Spade, an associate professor at Seattle University School of Law and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Worth a view/listen/read.
Earlier this month, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Kaba discussed a toolkit they created on mutual aid which I can’t seem find a link to, though the graphic above gives an overview of the key points, as do these steps:
- Find a buddy or two (if you can) to build your neighborhood network/pod.
- Identify your zone.
- Invite your neighbors.
- Build your pod.
- Have an intro conversation with each other.
- Support each other.
In addition to the local mutual aid groups I mentioned in my post “Community care during coronavirus,” I’d like to highlight #AshevilleStrong, a site which provides a way to support local small businesses by buying gift cards, and avl.tips, a platform for giving tips to service industry workers who can’t work right now.
For future musings, I am interested in your ideas around resilient local economies.
Onward, as we make our way through, together.
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