(Art by Alice + S, Edinburgh)
It has been too long since we shared an update about what has been happening with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief. We have been slowly building power, responding to the many crises already here and preparing for future ones.
Southern Louisiana has been hit by hurricanes the last two hurricane seasons. In addition to providing supplies such as food, water, herbal medicine, tarps, and PPE as well as assisting with flood cleanup efforts and engaging in other solidarity-based relief efforts with a steadily growing ecosystem of mutual aid groups, more recently we got together with Footprint Project and built out five solar generators in New Orleans to be deployed in the region in preparation for future storms. Here’s a beautiful short video recap.
Also in Louisiana, our friends at Gulf South Plan B have begun providing free mail-order emergency contraception to people in Louisiana (prioritizing people outside of metro New Orleans) by web-request. This is both in response to the calamitous Supreme Court ruling which has decimated abortion access across the South (and beyond) and in preparation for impending climate crises.
We continue to send out care packages and facilitate bulk donations of hand sanitizer, masks, and other supplies for pandemic-related needs. To build our capacity to offer more for disaster survivors, we are also turning an old school bus into a mobile kitchen to provide hot meals. We are also working on a mobile shower unit to provide showers for people impacted by disasters. This infrastructure is in addition to our already existing solar trailer and box truck.
And alongside physical infrastructure, we’ve been strengthening our relational infrastructure. A companion website long in the works, called the Grassroots Disaster Relief Toolkit, a platform supporting communication across our decentralized network’s disaster efforts, was launched earlier this year. So many mutual aid groups formed and grew over the last couple years, and there have been a number of regional gatherings to better connect our efforts. In the South, we participated in the Gulf Gathering for Climate Justice and Joy. In the Northeast, Woodbine and Symbiosis hosted a Regional Gathering on Autonomy and Survival. And just outside Chicago, a Dual Power 2022 gathering was held. These events gave us beautiful moments of reflection, connection, learning, and even a little dancing. We could see a growing constellation of climate justice and mutual aid movements interweaving our stories, visions, and practical efforts for survival, collective liberation, and building power from below.
As we write this, floods, fires, a global heat wave, and COVID-19 continue to impact our communities in devastating ways. Mutual aid infrastructure isn’t immune to these disasters either. In eastern Tennessee, flooding destroyed Mutual Aid Space Knoxville (a hub for a number of mutual aid projects in the area). But organizers there have already begun laying the foundation to not only continue their mutual aid efforts and replace what was lost but also build their capacity to be there for and beside each other.
Similarly, Appalshop, a community hub in Whitesburg, KY that has existed for half a century, experienced flooding. The archives (holding decades worth of mountain people’s stories, photos, oral histories, & documentation of resistance) were flooded. In addition to navigating its own impacts, Appalshop, like mutual aid groups in Knoxville, are still focusing much of their energy on ways they can continue to give to the wider community instead of what they can get. One example is the invaluable bird’s eye view of Appalachian flood resources, information, and mutual aid groups that Appalshop has curated for the region. Although Mutual Aid Disaster Relief always accepts donations, and we will continue to support solidarity-based Appalachian flood relief with our funds, logistics, people-power, and any way we can, we encourage people to donate directly to local mutual aid efforts providing flood relief like EKY Mutual Aid and Lonesome Pine Mutual Aid who are rooted in rural communities.
There have been a number of creative works that have come out recently or are currently in the works. Building Power While the Lights Are Out: Disasters, Mutual Aid, and Dual Power is an anthology featuring Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, West Street Recovery, Rural Organizing and Resilience, Woodbine, and a number of inspiring authors who write about building power from below during and after disasters. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) is a wonderful book about what mutual aid is, some best practices, pitfalls, and how mutual aid organizing can be an effective strategy for our movements. Pandemic Solidarity: Mutual Aid during the Covid-19 Crisis shares firsthand experiences and examples from around the world of people coming together to meet the moment and take care of each other. Our friends at Lobelia Commons created an Earthbound Farmer’s Almanac, a helpful, practical agroecology guide rooted in mutual aid and a liberatory vision.
Mutual Aid Disaster Relief was one of nearly two dozen contributing groups that collaborated to publish Hoodwinked in the Hothouse: Resist False Solutions to Climate Change, an easy-to-read, concise-yet-comprehensive compendium of corporate scams that continue to influence public opinion and policy, leading us down risky pathways poised to waste billions of public dollars while failing to protect and empower frontline communities. So far, over 20,000 paper copies in English and Spanish have been distributed to frontline environmental justice communities most threatened by these false solutions, through grassroots networks and at the UN climate conference COP 26, in addition to countless digital copies as well as an audiobook and series of webinars. Anticipating COP 27 in Egypt in November as well as widespread public interest, the Hoodwinked Collaborative has commissioned additional translations and has started a “Print Run Collaboration” crowd-funding campaign that we encourage you to check out and support.
But Next Time is a podcast uncovering hard-won lessons from people experiencing California wildfires and Texas storms, finding ways to forge a more just and equitable future. The Response continues to create and share podcasts about community-rooted efforts in times of crisis, most recently one about Wartime Mutual Aid in Ukraine. A mutual aid documentary series is also in the works. Called The Elements of Mutual Aid, the series will profile a dozen mutual aid–based projects across the so-called United States, and discuss the nuanced work of building trust between neighbors, making decisions horizontally, sharing the responsibility for communal infrastructure, and more.
We are in this for the long haul. Collective liberation is the work of lifetimes and generations. Even if there are periods of time when we aren’t as communicative about our ongoing mutual aid efforts, know that we continue to strengthen, grow, and nurture our own survival programs as well as the growing, organic, underground mycological network of mutual aid in many ways. We are here, with you, beside you, dreaming with you. When the winds come, we hope to always be a steady hand at your back. When the ground beneath shakes, the floodwaters rise, or the fires burn and everything seems in flux, we hope you know our outstretched hands and hearts are a constant.
With love and solidarity,
– Mutual Aid Disaster Relief