A few weeks ago, my neighbor taped handwritten notes on every single door in my off-campus apartment building. The note suggested the creation of a mutual aid network in our community. He explained that he wanted to meet for a conference call to discuss potential needs or support services in our building. With 20 sheets of paper and the motivation to help others, he responded to our circumstances with a collective action call.
Mutual aid is more important than ever right now. Whether you’re in Berkeley or taking time away somewhere else in the world, there are many ways you can give your time, labor or money to support a collective cause.
Start with a few safety precautions
The safety of your community is a priority. Wash your hands often, including before and during any work you are doing. When hand-washing is unavailable, have hand sanitizer within reach at all times. Wear a mask, always, and be sure to remind others to do the same. While it might make some people uncomfortable to cover their faces, it is important for anyone present to wear a facial covering. Finally, get tested! If you’re able to get tested often, doing so is highly recommended for any type of work in your community.
Consider what your community needs
Once you take public health and safety precautions, call or email local organizations and ask what aid they need at this time. It is important to first ask what they need, rather than introducing yourself with the skills you can provide. You might have a lot to offer, but try to practice listening so that you understand the needs of others in organizing spaces.
Spread the word!
After you’ve connected to an organization, you can offer to spread information about its work. Nowadays, petitions and donation links are all over social media news feeds. Posting these are great for getting donations, but go beyond a post. Educate yourself on the issue you are advocating for with this organization. Then, continue to support these groups when you log off of social media. Call friends and family, and explain to them what you are supporting and why they should support it too. Write letters to your neighbors, or connect with old teachers and school administrators. Collective action begins with individual efforts.
Supporting organizations’ needs in your community is helpful, but sometimes collective action looks like the work of groups that may not have a website, a logo or a place of business. If you find that your community’s people are in need of a service that is not being offered, be creative and make a difference this summer!
Contact Sera Smith at [email protected].