Hello friends! We wanted to introduce you to an exciting new project that we have been helping create. As you may know, many of us went to New Orleans in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina and stayed for several months afterwards. I was amazed at what a small group of us were able to accomplish with very little resources or experience, but a lot of passion and compassion.
Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy shocked many of us around the country. We were also shocked at the inaction and inability of government and large non-profit organizations to respond effectively. We had to act. In both instances, people with experience in grassroots social movements turned to disaster relief. Using the skills and contacts we learned from decades of community organizing, together with our vision of a better world, we created health clinics, legal clinics, a roof-tarping project, tree-cutting service, community media centers, and bioremediation. We stopped house demolitions, distributed aid, documented police abuses, created a tool-lending library, gutted thousands of houses, cleaned up debris, among other things, and perhaps even more importantly we listened.
Our willingness to engage in direct action found a new context in defending public housing, re-opening shuttered school doors, delivering much needed supplies past checkpoints, and helping community members maintain their historic centers of worship despite the opposition of church hierarchies. The experience and wisdom gained from mass mobilizations against global capital melded with the legacy of the Black Panther survival programs – all this practical knowledge accumulated in the course of several lifetimes of social movement organizing found a space where it could be deployed – far from the uniforms and sirens.
Those experiences opened us up to what is possible. With climate change and the increasing frequency and severity of major disasters, we are coming face to face with our vulnerability. But in vulnerability there is strength too. What better place is there to come together and exemplify the kind of world we are trying to create, than the immediate aftermath of a disaster? Following in the tradition of Common Ground and Occupy Sandy, we are creating Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, a permanent network of volunteers, supplies, and coordination. Our mission is to provide effective and efficient disaster relief based on the principles of solidarity, mutual aid, and autonomous direct action. Through working with, listening and being responsive to impacted communities, especially those most marginalized, we will help build long-term, sustainable and resilient communities. We envision strong, vibrant, resilient, connected and empowered individuals and communities and an awakened civil society that restores hope and turns the tide against disaster capitalism and climate chaos, in favor of a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world. Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is a community organization that depends on a diverse network of individuals and organizations working in solidarity with the people affected in times of crisis. It is organized as an open, self-empowered, transparent structure which welcomes and encourages the participation of disaster survivors and any who wish to support them.
As natural disasters increase in intensity and frequency, we recognize that our hope for a livable future rests in developing resilient preparation for and response to crisis as individuals and communities, while simultaneously opposing intensive resource extraction and other root causes of climate change. We are engaged in a horizontal, multidimensional and multidirectional process that contributes to the liberation of everyone involved, not charitable acts. This means we share resources, skills, experience, knowledge and ideas without perpetuating relationships based on hierarchical power.
We have a Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram that you are welcome to like, follow, and invite your friends to. We are currently responding to a call from community members affected by the floods in West Virginia who have taken it upon themselves to respond to the needs of their neighbors. We will be driving up to the flood affected area this coming Saturday, July 16th. The exact items needed and where to drop them off (for transport from Florida) up to West Virginia can be found on this event page.
Any assistance is appreciated! If you read this and your heart starts fluttering and your mind starts to race with ways that your vision, skills, knowledge, experience, interests, or passion align with this vision and could strengthen this project, we want your participation! There are conference calls and working groups that we can plug you into. Simply get in touch and we will make it happen… together.
with love and solidarity,
Mutual Aid Disaster Relief