Last week marked the end of our Tampa Mutual Aid Disaster Relief Post-Irma Convergence Center, the space was generously offered to us by St. Paul Lutheran Church. This space was artful, accessible, warm and creative. Like larger social experiments where collectives have free reign to create, projects zipped in and out, ideas flourished and plans were encouraged to fruition.
From prisoner letter writing nights, to documentary screenings, to food prep, to the hundreds of care packages sent out from on site, to reportbacks, to workshops, to skillshares, to group meetings, to open mics, to radical caroling practice, and of course, the launching of relief teams doing disaster mutual aid to Puerto Rico, Immokalee, the Keys, Apopka, Jacksonville, and even refugee solidarity work in Belgium and France. We used those four walls to break down other walls and it worked. The space was opened for houseless friends to shower, do laundry and even for a houseless couple to have a romantic anniversary dinner.
We shared the space with Tampa Food Not Bombs, Love Has No Borders, Tampa Bay DSA, Restorative Justice Coalition, Black Lives Matter Tampa, Tampa Anarchist Black Cross and other liberatory movements. The space held a free clinic, a free library, a children’s playroom, a community kitchen, and an open space for people to share art and literature. The walls held revolutionary Zapatista quotes, portrait-stories, other messages of support and solidarity, and photos in memory of Andrew Joseph III, Meg Perry and Alonso Guillen – people we have lost along the way. The clinic treated emotional and physical trauma, provided acupuncture, reiki, massage, herbal teas and tinctures, diabetes care, treated dehydration and launched many, many mobile clinics.
Hakim Bey, the originator of the term temporary autonomous zone says they are “like an uprising which does not engage directly with the state, a guerrilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself, to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen, before the state can crush it.” The goal of these zones is not permanence or confrontation, and its lapse is not defeat, but a seed planted that will be carried to another time and place to be recreated again.
The aim is to spread these autonomous zones far and wide, so that everywhere and every-when, not just in disasters, people share goods and services freely, connect deeply and authentically with one another, have agency, self-determination and meaning in their chosen work, live in the moment, and are free to imagine with minds, but also with hands and feet, the better world we know is possible. These moments, when our bodies are sung electric by the possibilities taking wing inside and all around us, need not be fleeting. Most of human history has been spent in communities whose foundation was mutual aid, and our future can be likewise if we have the strength and courage to follow our vision through to where it leads.
Another example of temporary autonomous zones are the 12 Centros de Apoyo Mutuo (CAMs) located throughout Puerto Rico. These constitute an intricate web of people-powered, locally rooted recovery efforts that are proving revolutionary self-governance is not a utopian dream, but can actually be a natural response to the absence of authoritarian, statist means of control. We are currently raising funds to get the CAM in Caguas its own micro-grid solar photovoltaic system – an autonomous alternative to the bankrupt and perhaps, soon to be privatized, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. You can donate to this project here.
Some of us are still in Puerto Rico assisting with projects whenever and wherever we are needed and plan to continue doing so for the forseeable future. Some of us are busy preparing for a multi-state tour. And look forward to seeing many of you in person over the coming weeks and months and strategizing on how to build the movement for mutual aid together. To check out locations, visit our website. If we aren’t making it to your town yet, we apologize and thank you in advance for your patience. We have had far too many requests to meet them all at once, but we will continue booking spots for the Fall.
Dandelions lose their minds in the wind, and spread their seeds in a thousand directions. We are a result of one of those seeds. And we know that every end is a beginning. Wherever you go, may you carry a piece of a liberated zone with you. Wherever you stand, may you be the heart and soul of that place.
Until next time,