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“Let’s Talk Mutual Aid”: A Discussion About Care-Based Community Initiatives

“Let’s Talk Mutual Aid”: A Discussion About Care-Based Community Initiatives

The unemployment caused by the pandemic is amplifying hardship in several communities, particularly among minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, homeless people and other vulnerable groups. While these have been times of strife and hardship, businesses and individuals are transitioning, and communities are coming together to support one another, demonstrating the importance of mutual aid. 

In the wake of the pandemic, several businesses and live music venues are also going through a major transition. Nowadays, a laid-back and dynamic venue serving food and drink alongside showcasing various musicians and artists, has gained a cult following, particularly within the EDM community. Nowadays has managed this transition effectively, organizing live streams of sets and discussions that focus on community-based initiatives. 

 On the 16th of July, around 8 pm EST, I tuned in for the Mutual Aid Roundtable livestream, moderated and organized by [Virtually] Nowadays, a taproom and live music venue in New York. The panel consisted of Regan De Loggans (Mississippi Choctaw/ Ki’Che Maya) a two-spirit activist, art historian, curator, and educator based in Brooklyn on Lenape land, and the author of the zine, Let’s Talk Mutual AidDisCakes a rave collective that is presently raising emergency funds for immigrants that have been affected by COVID-19, and Nina Berman, the organizer of the Woodbine Food Pantry.

The discussion started off with defining Mutual Aid: “Mutual aid is educating yourself on different skillsets for the community’s benefit,” said DisCakes. Mutual Aid is about learning certain skill sets that can benefit other members of the community. For example, a member of the community can learn basic medical skills or homeopathic skills and assist others that may need basic medical care. Initiatives such as the Woodbine Food Pantry, the result of a partnership between Woodbine and Hungry Monk, which provide food to members of the community who might need it, are examples of collaborative mutual aid initiatives. These projects are especially essential right now when economic and physical/medical hardship is high. 

Mutual aid isn’t charity work, it entails understanding how everyone can pitch into a community in an attempt to keep everyone else afloat. Loggans’ zine, Let’s Talk Mutual Aid, emphasizes that “charity is not mutual aid” and defines it as “the breaking of the binary of the “haves and have nots” with the intention to re-allocate for equitable access to resources, education, and needs…Mutual aid is a long-term commitment to the community.”

Mutual aid can include skill-shares and other initiatives that aren’t merely based on a transactional mentality but instead arise from a commitment to sharing, stemming from a place of compassion and care. 

Mutual aid also involves being aware and conscious of small ways to redistribute wealth, particularly for those from privileged backgrounds. Gentrification has long been a phenomenon that has displaced communities of color and people from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, causing a housing crisis, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. 

“White people don’t have to worry about being gentrified,” stated DisCakes. 

In the wake of COVID-19, gentrifiers have left their homes to escape the dangers of high-density lying in the city. A simple measure these individuals could take is providing their empty abodes to displaced individuals seeking shelter. 

As a white person, I found the discussion enlightening, and I became keenly aware not only of my privilege but of the small actions I can take to benefit others. A key aspect of allyship is listening to the needs of minority and underprivileged groups. Mutual aid reminds us that we are not islands, that our words and actions are part of a larger network, and, most importantly, that true aid arises not from a transactional mentality but from a place of humility, compassion and care.