Solidarity not Charity
In this episode, Eden and William speak with Dezeray from Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, an organization that takes a “radical approach to disaster relief and to social movement organizing”. We spoke about some of the obstacles that MAD Relief has to navigate in responding to natural disasters and climate catastrophes, how their organization functions with regards to the State, and how organizing at this level today will help in the coming years as climate change worsens and more and more people fall victim to cracks in the State’s response to the increasingly severe climate events.
This episode’s Solo Praxis segment focuses on identifying personal skill sets useful to organizing so that we know just what we have to offer to a collective effort and movement as unique individuals.
We also decided, beginning with this episode, to add in some light background music following some feedback from a comrade who sometimes struggles with auditory processing. They listened to a promo reel that we put together to send to potential interviewees, and they loved it despite the fact that they have struggled listening to podcasts in the past. They said that “the low level music in the background helped them so much in focusing on it and staying engaged, that as an autistic person they do not listen to many podcasts because they often cannot focus on just voices without additional noise”. We realized that this is quite possibly an issue for many folks. Because we want to make Frontline Praxis accessible to as many people as possible, we decided to include some light and (hopefully) unobtrusive background ambience so as to help people like Eden’s comrade without making it too distracting for folks who don’t struggle with auditory processing.
As always, we invite and appreciate any feedback that you may have about this or any episode of Frontline Praxis.
Follow Mutual Aid Disaster Relief on Twitter: @MutualAidRelief
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MAD Relief on the web: https://mutualaiddisasterrelief.org/
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“…our response has to be equal or stronger than the State’s response, because the State is interested solely, only, in coming in, defending commodity and defending capital, while wealthy businesspeople and wealthy neighborhoods are cleared out and make it safety, military bodies move in to defend those spaces.”
Full transcript below:
Frontline Praxis Episode 1 – Mutual Aid Disaster Relief (Transcript)
(Radio static sounds scrolling through news clips. Intro music fades in as radio static ends.)
Eden: You’re listening to Frontline Praxis, a podcast focusing on Left organizing and direct action where we interview the organizers that you want to hear from to find out how they’re doing it. My name is Eden, and I use they/them pronouns.
William: And I’m William, I use he/him pronouns. Thanks so much for joining us. You can follow us on Twitter @FrontlinePraxis, or you can connect with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you enjoy our show and you’d like to help us continue, please consider donating to our Patreon. The link will be in our show notes as well as in our Twitter bio. (Transcript note: at this time, we are still deciding how to handle Patreon or any other support, and we will update as soon as we have that figured out.)
E: Any donations will go directly into supporting the show to help us pay for things like equipment and web services. Any additional money over those necessities will be donated each month to the people and organizations that are featured on Frontline Praxis. So, for those of you with a few bucks to spare, help spread information about good praxis by supporting the show.
W: We also want this show to be accessible to as many people as possible. To help make the information contained in each episode more accessible, we provide a transcript which you can find in our show notes.
E: We like to be upfront about our limited perspectives. If we missed something, spoke out of our lanes, or marginalized a group in any way, please let us know. We’ll work hard to recognize that and improve in future episodes. We welcome your feedback. If you’d like to uplift a radical group through this platform, please let us know and we’ll reach out about an interview. With that all out of the way, let’s get to the show.
(Intro music fades out, quiet ambient background music fades in.)
E: Welcome to the first episode of Frontline Praxis! How are you doing today, William?
W: I’m doing wonderful, how are you?
E: I’m doing great, had a pretty chill week. Excited to get rolling on our podcast.
W: I am as well, this is super exciting for me. I know it is for you as well.
E: Yeah, I think we’re going to get some pretty cool information out to our listeners, which is really awesome. Did you have anything cool happen this week?
W: Actually, I worked most of the week, so no, it was fairly boring, fairly mundane. I did have parent-teacher conferences for my son at his school yesterday, which was great. I feel like I’m really, uh… this is one of the few times that I haven’t been questioning my ability as a parent and as a father. Because, you know, he’s a kid and he’s got his own kid issues and things that we’re working through, but I’m raising a very, very empathetic young person. And that, I think, above all is my goal. I try to hammer it home to him that other people exist and their feelings are valid, and that we treat people how we want to be treated regardless of the treatment we get in return. And he really is taking that to heart. And sometimes that causes problems for him because he likes for everything to be fair. Not just for himself, but when he sees unfairness going on for other people, he’s very quick to speak up about it. And I absolutely love that. So that was one really really awesome thing that happened for me this week. How about you?
E: That’s so awesome! Um, I have two awesome things. First of all, I am taking the first step as a trans person to get my name changed-
E: -and I’m so excited! I filled out my first form and sticking it in the mail, and I am super stoked to get everything all squared away so I can get my new IDs and not have to deal with my deadname anymore.
E: Second thing, I was feeling really down last week, had a little bit of a crisis about climate change and whether or not we can make an impact on this world. I listened to an episode of Coffee With Comrades about the Inhabit website, Inhabit.global, and that conversation really helped (episode here). And then when I met up with some of my local leftists this week, we had a really great discussion, not only just like supporting each other and building those important relationships, but also taking a look at what Inhabit’s website gives us, and the little micro-fiction pieces that they had on there, and the steps they recommend, really encouraged us, like “Ok, what parts did we like? What parts did we need to flesh out more? What would that look like for us?” and encouraging each other that we’re on the first steps of getting together as a group and meeting up with each other. And we can take the next step forward of creating a hub, because with the area that we’re in we don’t have very much going on, but we want to change that. So, it was just encouraging to see that we could get together and really have a foundation and a starting point to go forward. It kind of was really healing and made me realize “Yes, we can do things, and people like us all over the world are also working together to try to make the world better.” And, so, it kind of alleviated a little bit of my existential crisis that I had.
W: Nice. You know and I’ll tell everybody that Coffee With Comrades is one of my favorite podcasts, shout out to Pearson and Mel, friends of the show. But, those last two episodes were really awesome. I’m really personally inspired by the Gilets Jaunes movement in France, and the information and interviews contained in those last two episodes were exactly what I was looking for, so kudos to them.
E: Same. So, today we have an awesome interview with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and I really liked this episode. I feel like it got a little heavy, because it is a very serious and trying topic, and a trying experience to have. But, it was really, really informational for me.
W: Yeah, I mean, there was so much about the whole conversation that struck me, but if I had to pinpoint just one or two things that really stuck out to me, the first thing I’d like to home in on is something that Dezeray said early on in the interview, which was “There have been a lot of experiences that have really kind of shaped the praxis for me.” And I feel like that kind of will be a recurring theme on this show, you know? Honestly, because how is that not how it is? That’s how it works, right? That’s the goal. You find a need wherever the State may be falling short or people are suffering, and you try to fill that need, and hopefully you get to expand that to educating people. But the education part can’t ever be the goal. It has to be kind of like a side effect. The focus is filling the need because most people are going to trust and support the people that are helping them whenever they need it. Not necessarily just in a disaster situation but just in regular everyday life. And that in and of itself is a form of education as far as community support and praxis and even, you know, socialist ideas go. That’s how Fred Hampton and the Black Panthers based their program on reaching out to the community where they needed it and then pushing education from that point. But basically it just highlights the shortcomings of the State and how, in many ways, the State is really unable to address things like natural disasters – hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados – and therefore the State ultimately is unnecessary when we as strong united communities can handle those things on our own.
E: I like that she pointed out that the experiences shaped her praxis because I think one of the big tenets of leftist theory is that it’s constantly an experiment and it’s fluid. And we have to have that human element and that adaptability. And I thought that was really a good point to hammer home.
W: Absolutely, which kind of leads into the second thing that stuck out to me – I don’t remember the exact quote, but basically the emphasis was that we needed to have a stronger and more effective response than the State does in these sorts of instances. And then to take that into what’s going on in the current day, I’m sure you know, there’s been massive flooding all over Nebraska, basically the entire state of Nebraska is under water. Shout out to Breht and comrades from Rev Left Radio, hope you’re safe. So then Omaha turns around and criminalizes all efforts of any sort of autonomous flood relief. Crossing any flood evacuation barricades is criminal trespassing subject to a $500 fine and/or 3 months in jail. And, of course, on the surface, it’s to “protect public safety” (air quotes), y’know, sure, we can’t have people wading into flood waters, they might possibly drown. You’ve gotta worry about your own personal safety before you worry about the safety of somebody else, right? And that’s just another example of the individualism of society – y’know, I’ve gotta look out for myself and mine before I worry about the guy across the street that is also drowning in the flood waters. But, that’s not even really the issue so much, in my eyes anyway, that’s just kind of the premise, the veneer that’s masking the real issue which is the fact that the State can not have demonstrations of solidarity that highlight the failures of the State.
E: It threatens them.
W: Exactly. We as community members can fill those voids and, if we do that, that delegitimizes the State and therefore they have to criminalize those sorts of actions. Our solidarity and our mutual aid makes the State obsolete and illegitimate, and because the State can never admit its own illegitimacy, the only recourse it has is to demonize and punish those whose actions show that illegitimacy through trying to just help people fucking survive.
E: I like how we talked about that in this episode, where we discussed how the State will try to repress people, will bring in police and military and FBI and right-wingers and 3%ers, and ICE agents even, trying to repress the activism that people are doing to try to take care of each other. It’s really infuriating but really contextualizes what the actual issue is at hand, really like “the State vs the people” kind if issue.
E: Another thing that I really liked that we got to discuss was coming at mutual aid from a place of consent and a place of empowerment from the bottom, and how that’s so different from the charity model of top down. And the ability to use community relationships to help ourselves, I really really liked that.
W: Yeah, absolutely, I mean when it’s a charity model it’s people coming in and saying “This is how I’m going to help you” vs a mutual aid model where it’s people coming in saying “Hey, how can we help?” and I think that’s really important, like you said, in empowering communities and rebuilding themselves and make those sorts of connections instead of keeping people on the dole, basically, and hoping for government handouts, or maybe FEMA will get it right this time, or that sort of thing.
E: This was kind of a heavy episode, so people should be aware that we do talk about the effects of natural disasters, mostly this is talking about a lot of hurricanes, as well as with climate change, and the targeting that the State does including police raids. We have one or two spots where we put in trigger warnings with timestamps because it was a more intense story, but generally we have a lot of targeting houseless folks, ICE agents/police agents, there’s some Islamophobia, medical neglect – it’s a really heavy topic because people are in crisis and the war of the State and Capitalism and Disaster Capitalism becomes so concentrated in these moments. So, people are more vulnerable, and the State tries to take advantage of that. So, just be aware when you’re listening, that those kind of things could be coming up for you, and it’s totally fine if you need to come back to the episode later.
Two other things – listeners of the show, if you have a story about praxis in your life, an organization, a person that you helped, an experience that you had with your comrades, feel free to send us an audio clip or a tweet or an email and let us know. We would love to have a segment of the show where we read out your stories. We also have a Solo Praxis segment at the end talking about evaluating our own skills so we can come to movements knowing what we can contribute. So, with that, let’s get to the interview.
Interview with Dezeray from Mutual Aid Disaster Relief
Dezeray: My name’s Dezeray, and it’s she/her pronouns. I’m one of the, like, I guess co-founders of this mobilization effort, this started probably like 3 or 4 years ago.
E: And how did that get started?
D: It was put together, organized by a group of folks that had been involved in these kind of mobilizations and, you know, after Hurricane Katrina with Common Ground, and after Occupy Sandy and other movements that were based on mutualism in a disaster relief context. And we came together with the intention of making a really robust national network and movement and mobilization based on ideas of autonomous direct action and mutual aid where people could plug into in times of acute crisis like natural disasters.
E: So you really wanted to build infrastructure for all these smaller groups.
D: Yeah, we wanted to get a scaffolding together and really solid so that we could start – y’know, climate change, this is the reality that we’re existing in – so we wanted to intentionally get together some guiding principles, core values, get that scaffolding together so that we had this infrastructure ready to go and ready to tap into and ready to mobilize and have support and solidarity for folks.
E: That’s amazing. I feel like that’s super important when we’re building these left movements that we can build it in a way that other people can replicate it. I think that’s awesome. You mentioned the values were a big guiding factor. Can you go over some of the values and objectives of Mutual Aid Disaster Relief?
D: So, Mutual aid, of course. Dual power, y’know, building power from below while challenging the hierarchical structures from above. Working with consent and on a consensus based decision making process. And then understanding that the communities that are most affected are the ones that are going to be leading the effort that have the most stock in rebuilding their communities, and coming in a good way by listening and respecting the self-determination and agency of communities that have been stunted by disasters.
E: In other interviews I’ve heard with your organization, I’ve really loved that emphasis on consent. I feel like so many people don’t realize that the charity model is so broken because it doesn’t enact consent and doesn’t empower people from the bottom, so I really like that that’s part of your model. What have you had experience, specifically with your organization, what capacity do you usually fill?
D: I’ve been a part of the response in Puerto Rico, and in the Carolinas after Florence, and in my own community in Tampa, and then all over Florida and the Keys after Irma. The capacity that I’m usually in is as a medic, but also I’ve been a part of assessment crews, and supplies and distribution, trying to do the social media aspect of it and amplify call-outs from the ground. So really, been able to be pretty versatile in different roles, like most people, just take it as it comes and plug in and be able to densely populate different areas that are in need at that time.
E: Do you have any specific stories that you like to tell people when you talk about the work that you do?
D: I mean, there’ve been a lot of experiences that’ve really kind of shaped the praxis for me…
(Content warning inserted here – William: As a courtesy to those listeners who might benefit from it, we’d like to warn folks about the content of the next few moments of our discussion. As Dezeray describes some of the violent police intimidation that she and her comrades experienced. If you are concerned that this sort of discussion may make you uncomfortable, please skip ahead to timestamp 22 minutes 47 seconds)
D: I guess one of the stronger moments have been in Puerto Rico where our base was raided by the feds, and that was a really harrowing experience, and a lesson, and a takeaway. We were organizing out of a space in Guaynabo, staying on the floor of an empty church space, and ended up getting SWATted, which is, I guess where – I didn’t know about it until after this happened to us – it’s where someone calls the police and says “Oh, they’ve kidnapped people, they have hostages” and the interesting thing was that when these 60 plus agents came and kicked in the doors and held us at gunpoint and screaming at us at 3 o’clock in the morning, it went from a situation where they realized that there was no guns and bombs and hostages and all of this stuff, but what it gave them was the ability to hold us at gunpoint while they went through all of our things without any consent. And then when they found anti-capitalist artwork and propaganda, then it turned into questioning us about “Well, are you here organizing to overthrow the government? What are you doing here? Have you ever raised your fist before?”, like, these silly, silly questions, and “are you involved in Antifa and antifascist organizing?” and it quickly turned into an opportune moment for them to have access to these folks in our group and be able to question us, and it was a lesson on the opportunism of the State and how quickly they can use a moment to their benefit to get intelligence or to harass people that were ruining their narratives and working in a decentralized fashion which threatens their work. That was definitely a learning moment during disaster response, something that I didn’t expect that I’ll always be able to learn from that lesson from that day.
E: Yeah, I don’t think that there’s anything that’ll teach you about the State faster than interacting with them directly. That’s why I find that communities that deal with the police more often are usually ones that hate the police more. That’s definitely a harrowing story.
W: I feel like I read an article where you folks were in Puerto Rico and didn’t a headquarters in Tampa get raided as well?
D: No, it was our crew from Tampa that was raided and then we had subsequently done some interviews with local news outlets that were questioning. But, our Tampa headquarters, we had an issue where we had a community space that was kind of pulled together days before Irma hit where there was 3%ers and a group of people that were trying to infiltrate our space and get our supplies that we had, but that was the extent of the pushback we had in Tampa locally.
E: Did either of those situations hinder your ability to continue with the work at all?
D: No. I mean, it easily could have. We used it kind of to learn locally about OpSec and securing our spaces with the help of some comrades, and it’s important to note that in that time our own community was going through this disaster, so it was something where we were trying to fight on a few different fronts. In Puerto Rico particularly, what happened in the wake of that, it was 3 o’clock in the morning, we’d been thrown out of this space by the agents and told to get our stuff and get off the property or we would go to jail. And the hotel space that we secured kind of ramshackle at the last minute got cancelled as we were on our way there. So we ended up in the airport parking lot, just sitting there regrouping, and we were able to just – it almost focused us more because it kind of put into focus what we’re up against. And it really angered us that those resources, at a time when their own community was so stunted, was used by law enforcement there and federal agencies who were essentially occupying the area at the time, were utilized not to help the people who were suffering and dying by the thousands but to harass a group of folks that, within minutes it could have been dismissed as “This was a prank call” but it ended up being like an hour-long ordeal. I think it’s important to remain fluid and act spontaneously and realize that those things are a possibility.
E: What about security would you advise people who are doing this sort of work that you learned from these experiences?
D: The main thing that I have realized through my experiences, also in Panama City, have been to know that these moments in the middle of an acute crisis can erupt. One thing that makes this movement so strong in all the different spaces where it manifests is that we’re building on relationships that we already have. The people in the Tampa community, we have relationships with people in Black Lives Matter, Love Has No Borders, Anarchist Black Cross, different movements that are here locally for years. So, we’ve already built these relationships based on trust and just genuinely spending time together organizing, so it’s important when something like this happens, where people are coming together, to already have that trust in those relationships built within your community so that you’re not operating in a space where you don’t know folks, you don’t know what’s going on, you don’t know who you can trust and who you can’t, who’s operating with consent, if there’s predators, so it’s really important to have those networks established. That’s one thing that I learned through a lot of perilous situations that we’ve been in where we’ve had to face the State and where there have been white supremacists that have been either, y’know, we were alerted to their presence or they’re posting saying that they are going to come and infiltrate our space, that we’re around a community that’s a safer space and people that we trust and that we can know that we can move from a place that we feel secure. And then, just securing your space, keeping an eye out for red flags. It was kind of a clumsy effort by 3%er people to try and take our stuff, and call and try to catch us off guard. So I guess people that call and try to frenzy the moment and say “We need to come there, we need to take everything you have!” It was just this very quick trying to throw things into a panic. And I think as long as cooler heads prevail and you kind of keep an eye out for red flags like that. People trying to destabilize efforts while you’re in the midst of them is a good sign that something’s going on that’s trying to hinder efforts.
E: That’s really great, thank you so much. I think that’s really critical advice that you have to build off of established safe communities, and then make sure that you’re looking out for those red flags of the people that just don’t fit and people that are trying to cause chaos. So, then, one of my questions that I wanted to address with you was whether or not it was a good idea to start a Mutual Aid Disaster Relief chapter before a crisis, and it sounds like from your last comments that really the best way is to start early so that you can start building relationships. Would you say that’s true?
D: Sure, so here’s a couple things. So, mutual aid is not a new idea, it’s not something that we have come up with, we didn’t reinvent the wheel. And that doesn’t need to happen in every community and we don’t have a need to brand these different chapters as Mutual Aid Disaster Relief specific. We have supported partnerships with different communities. What we did in Tampa was, when we heard Irma was coming, of course we had this background, a lot of the folks here, with going to respond to Hurricane Katrina and trying to provide offsite support for folks in Houston. So when Irma happened what we did was folks from different movements came together and we decided “What are our resources that we have? Realistically, what spaces do we have?” because it was critical to have a space to organize out of. Not just a home, but a community space where people could come and go, and be really fluid. We have a tour that’s gone around for months and months of folks doing these workshops that are really versatile and really understanding that the space that they’re working in have very unique communities, unique resources available to them, and that every disaster is going to look different based on this confluence of different elements. So, having workshops and skill shares, and getting prepared, and understanding that an accelerating climate catastrophe is the reality that we’re existing in, so having those networks strengthened and intentionally getting together and figuring out specifically what space you have that you can go to to organize from. One of those tour stops that I was able to participate in, at the end of it, we were able to kind of facilitate this realistic drill. So, like, you’re in your community space right now. Working groups are important, separate into working groups – medics, supplies and distribution, legal aid, all these different things that are going to be needed at the moment, and get those things defined. It’s always good to get those things together early, but also to know that we can’t etch anything into concrete, that the movement needs to be very fluid and very spontaneous, and know that we’ll be dealing with who knows what – flooding, wind damage, dangerous conditions, houses falling apart, injured people, but also an occupation of the State and then the later occupation of the NGOs and FEMA and Red Cross coming together to pick at the bones of the community once the disaster has gone through. So, yeah, I would say getting those resources defined early and calling on all grassroots radical movements to understand that this is a reality and what can be done in the moments during and after a crisis.
E: So, we really want to build our communities up from existing communities is what I’m hearing a lot with our existing community relationships with other radical groups. If someone is in an area where not much is happening on the radical side, and they want to get started – like, in my area, wildfires are a big deal – would you think that it would be a good idea to get people together in sort of a community call-out situation, like “Hey, let’s come prepare for this early for the next fire season” and get that started like that?
D: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all. I mean, getting prepared and at least knowing who can be called, maybe facilitating a rapid response crew where you can rapidly communicate and get the group together who’s going to respond, and knowing that you can plug into national networks like Mutual Aid Disaster Relief that can amplify call-outs from the ground and help coordinate and facilitate offsite support and people that are going to be coming into the community, those are important elements that can be put into place. I know different communities are dealing with different levels of radical populations and how many folks are willing to get involved in autonomous direct action in the wake of a disaster. But I think as prepped as every community can be, and then, like I said, knowing that you can plug into national movements that are there specifically, that’s a really great start.
E: Would you say that there’s a minimum level or things that you should be looking for for resources or material conditions that you think would really be a good starting point – like, if you’re one person you can’t form a network, but if you can get to this tipping point – do you feel like there is a tipping point of relationships or resources to the point where you know something’s really going to be successful? I just know that there a re a lot of people that are worried about starting something from scratch and it not coming to fruition. Does that make sense?
D: Yeah, of course. So, I think one important thing is that, when something like this happens, pretty much all eyes are on that community, and a lot of support is going to be coming in from the outside. And one thing not to get mired down in is starting small. A band aid cabinet quickly becomes a first aid station, quickly becomes a community clinic, quickly becomes a wellness center. Knowing that starting small is ok, we don’t know exactly what we would be preparing for or what’s going to happen, so there’s no real level of what you can have. If you have a box of band aids, if you have some batteries, flash lights, things like that, it’s ok to start small and it shouldn’t paralyze efforts. Getting call-outs out as soon as possible, and knowing things like how police in your state and your community react to radical movements, or how they react to direct actions, or the level of violence that people will be facing, things like that are really important. And, y’know, information gathering is also really tangible. You’d mentioned in an email kind of some boring logistical stuff. Knowing ordinances in your community so that you can challenge the State, and to document things that are happening that are blatantly illegal and just harassing the communities that are going through this trauma of a disaster. Being able to know what shelters are going to have ICE agents present or going to have police ID checking people that are coming in. Luckily, we had a really overtly ridiculous sheriff in one of the counties here, and when Irma happened, he actually tweeted like “Hey, if you need a place to go to be safe from the storm, if you have warrants out, come to the jail and we’ll give you a nice cozy space” –
D: -yeah, and that was a snarky way to say “We’re going to use this disaster to trap you” and literally stop people from getting somewhere safe under the threat of arrest.
W: Fuck that guy.
(Content warning inserted here – William: We’d like to insert another warning about the content following this message. For the next few moments, our discussion centers on othering, involuntarily being committed, and violations of the autonomy of houseless folks. If these topics may be difficult for you, please skip ahead to timestamp 38 minutes 53 seconds).
D: In our community, so much other horrendous shit happens, like houseless folks were getting “Baker Acted”, or they were being involuntarily committed, if they didn’t want to go with police to go to shelters. Folks that were in shelters that were houseless were given specially colored armbands and segregated from the rest of the community, and othered and marginalized and treated like shit by the people that were running the relief efforts there. So, just knowing things like ordinances, like how legal is it for them to just come in and Baker Act someone? Which, I don’t know if that’s the same terminology that’s shared in other communities, it’s just them taking away your agency and saying that under mental health reasons they’re taking you into custody, and they can do whatever they want with you. And knowing those things, because they’re gonna use everything they can, and if we don’t have that kind of information that we can utilize, they’ll take advantage of every inch they can get. So, I would say starting small is okay, and having what you can together and knowing that you have a bigger community that you can tap into and that supplies can get to you once the needs are more defined. And then intel gathering is really critical.
E: That’s super encouraging – the idea of just starting super small, basics, and letting it grow from there, because I think that once people see something happening, they’re much more likely to jump in. It’s like, the first and second person are the hardest to get going, and then everything else starts snowballing. And information gathering is definitely something that I think a lot of people don’t think about around these things that can be so helpful. Speaking of that, what type of different roles and tasks do people in do inside of a mutual aid crisis situation. What kind of boring logistical stuff, information gathering or different levels of skill and ability do you see manifest in the sort of situations?
D: There was a legal collective that offered itself to us in Panama City. That was incredibly helpful because one of the main things is being really communicative and responsive and accountable, and they were all of those things. So, they were there because communities were being – this is one of the things that can happen, so I wanted to mention it – impoverished housing projects in Panama City were all illegally evicted, and a lot of the housing was still livable, and there’s an ordinance that says you can still live in the part of the house that’s not destroyed, and you get prorated on your rent. So, these are things that we found out through the legal collective that was there to try and help defend residents against the landlords and the cops kicking them out of their homes on the worst days of their lives. So, stuff like that, like legal aid, is really critical. Medical, of course. People that can do scouting, like we had scouts and people that told us that they were seeing ICE agents checking in people that were in a line to get food and supplies. They were getting like a scant amount of food and supplies. So people were able to get the word out quickly and warn people, “Hey, there’s ICE agents parked across the street from this table that’s ID checking people in exchange to give them a small amount of food and supplies”. So that is really critical in getting that information to each other quickly. And knowing at the same time that your comms are going to be heavily affected because phone lines are going to be down, WiFi is not going to be available, and things like this. Somebody coordinating and facilitating offsite support, because it can be really overwhelming just as much as it is really comforting and heartwarming that people are there for you and supporting you and responding to your call-outs, it’s really good to have somebody mainly that’s offsite helping to coordinate those offsite efforts, somebody helping to intake volunteers that are coming in from out of the community to help out. Roles like, supplies and distribution are really critical. One big thing is media narratives will, without fail, every time prop up this narrative of looting and things like this, and what we’ve done in every community we’ve responded to is go in with giant trucks into low-income housing projects and just open the trucks up and people can take freely as they like, and we’ve never ever had an experience where people were looting. It was a really critical moment where people were telling us about “this neighbor is hurt” or “this neighbor needs something”, so really just knowing which communities are really at risk. In Tampa specifically, we’re really fortunate to have a really diverse community of resettled refugees here, and so there’s housing contracts that they have, so there’s a concentration of resettled families in different areas, like really impoverished, crumbling areas, and people were out checking those communities. So just defining spaces that would be really vulnerable, going there, and having a way to communicate back and forth, all those things are really important.
E: Thank you. Yeah, I think that’s really helpful for people to kind of have expectations of what they’re going to do before they sign up, because I feel like a lot of people get so overwhelmed by the big picture that they don’t know what to do so they think they’re going to be signing up for the world when really all they could be doing is sitting at a desk and checking people in, and that’s something that so many people can do.
D: That big picture stuff can put you into a paralysis. You know, already you’re going through a crisis, so as long as you just really know that it’s totally okay to start really small, to do what’s in your capacity, and trust that others are able to do the same and that things will change on a minute-to-minute basis.
E: Speaking of that, something I want to ask people as we’re interviewing them is how they are addressing either preventing or recovering from burnout with big events with a lot of activity, and how to keep people emotionally safe so that they can keep going and still have that sense of community.
D: So, that’s… I mean, that’s something that I struggle with also, but movement-wise, one example is that we had an Abolish ICE encampment local in Tampa outside of DHS. Comrades from offsite brought in their ‘zines, I think it was from Icarus Project, about rising up without burning out, and like occupying. Basically, sharing information and having a radical mental health perspective and being able to break the isolation that can be really toxic and harmful to people who are already dealing with a traumatic situation externally. So, like sharing information, being there and listening to folks, and I think these kind of situations have the kind of affect where you’re involved and you’re just going and going and going and going, where you’re not even really recognizing where you’re mind and body are telling you “I need to stop now”. And I’ve been caught up in that numerous times. I wouldn’t venture to prescribe one certain blueprint, but I would say that just being connected, and knowing your comrades, and listening and making yourself available, and knowing yourself and have the ability to recognize that you need to – it’s funny me saying this because it’s the part I have the absolute worst time with.
E: No, I think that’s really important though, because I think when we’re doing work that’s so vital and critical to the community, we really kind of get this idea that “Oh, it doesn’t matter if I haven’t slept enough. Oh, it doesn’t matter if I haven’t checked in. It doesn’t matter because this is literally life and death in a lot of these situations”. But I think it’s really helpful to kind of check in with ourselves and remind ourselves like “Hey, I can’t keep going at this rate and I need to breathe and step back for a second so that I can charge on the next day”. And I think it can be really helpful to have that community with other comrades that are like “Hey, I notice that you’re getting really glassed over in your eyes. Can you come sit with me for a minute? Do you need some water?” and that kind of check-in is just really helpful.
D: Yeah, definitely, and like making sure that we all have the basics – like, we have water, we have food, we have sleep, and if we notice that our comrades are not getting those things or we’re not getting those things – that’s where accountability comes in, if we’re all accountable to each other then we know that we’re there if someone needs to step back and likewise. And then we can work together to make sure that everyone gets through it as safely as we possibly can.
E: I wanted to ask what are some of the important organizing tools that you guys have used, whether that be something physical, like walkie talkies, programs, or structures, or ways of organizing that have been helpful for you.
D: To that end, it’s been pretty creative. In North Carolina, there was anarchists coming in on private planes from some, I think, an NGO, I don’t know which the bigger group was, but they were utilizing these small, independent planes with pilots that were volunteers, bringing supplies into Wilmington, NC, which was essentially like an island at that time. So, being able to grab on to those moments of possibility where we have those resources available and do the best we can with utilizing those resources. One thing is – I’m trying to think of the name of the app – Zello, we used that for comms. After Irma, we set up an alternate to 911, like a call-in line for folks that didn’t want to call and deal with cops, folks who were stranded or needed someone to come out or needed transport or something like this could call us and that was really really helpful. We’ve used walkie talkies One big thing is community spaces – we used an empty house that was next to a church that they said “It’s empty, you can use it if you want” and for five months we ended up utilizing the space as a community kitchen, a wellness center, we had workshops in there, we had all kinds of prisoner solidarity letter writing nights and things like that. So, I guess, utilizing spaces in the best way possible, and comms are always a little bit iffy, but if you can get something like walkie talkies or if Zello is able to be utilized in that space, that’s helpful. Burner phones are great. It varies in different times, all the way from private planes to cellphone apps. But trying to be creative, in every space there is something different that you can grab on to.
E: Just like thinking outside of the box and using your resources.
D: Yeah, exactly.
E: What sort of skills do you think it would be helpful for comrades to facilitate in themselves to be able to be prepared for these sort of situations? Obviously medical is one that people think of often, but what are other types of skill sets that you think would be helpful?
D: “Know Your Rights” trainings are always really helpful, something tailored to what ordinances could be weaponized in your community during a time of disaster. Knowing different physical routes that can be taken to medical facilities, different routes that you can get out of a space in the case that there’s a police or military occupation in your area which usually happens after a disaster. And places and a way that you can communicate securely where if there’s something like undocumented folks or folks with mental health issues or people that are vulnerable, having a predefined space that the location is as secure as possible and a way to provide transportation or assistance. Getting together logistics beforehand, so like workshops on local community logistics and resources,. Legal, medical – I don’t know, I’d say that one thing I’ve been wanting to learn is “Search & Rescue” stuff because that end I don’t know about. I had heard that there was something to that end available, so that would be something that I would be really interested in having. We had an impromptu chainsaw training workshop on the ground in Wilmington right after Florence for the group that was there so that folks could clear roads and be safe because that’s particularly dangerous. So maybe something with tools and things like that that might be used for road clearance and helping folks that might be trapped inside of their houses or something like that. And then something really critical would be safety in the presence of mold. If you’re doing mold remediation work, or gutting houses afterwards, or dealing with floodwaters and things that can be toxic and personally dangerous to people that are present, are all also really important information to disseminate.
E: Yeah, I feel like those are all types of things that we can prepare for in our daily life and as a community where we can get together workshops in between crises of environmental racism and disaster capitalism. We can get together and say “Hey, who wants to learn how to get people out of their homes? Who wants to learn how to do a medical training for street medic and for medic on-the-go?” That’s so important.
D; And two other things I wanted to revisit really quickly – like, you said “What things might be needed?” One thing that we’ve used, and we’ve given them to so many people, is these IDs that just say we’re with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, you should let this person through checkpoints and things like this, and we’ve been able to use those to access all kinds of spaces. And, it’s just like the arbitrary nature of having this ID. So, we replicated these IDs and sent them off to autonomous response and people in communities that are organizing urgent mobilizations, and they’ve been super helpful. We were able to get through checkpoint in the Keys with them, we were able to supplies at FEMA distribution sites and things like that. So that’s one thing that we’ve been able to back up and support folks with. And, then I forget the second point I was going to make…
W: That’s amazing to me that those badges worked for you guys. I heard about that story before, I can’t remember where I heard it, but that just blew my mind that just these printed badges, just walk into a warehouse and grab some bottles of water, good to go.
D: It was completely ridiculous, but it was super helpful and needed.
E: I think it really points out how the legitimacy of the State and State-approved organizations is so tenuous and is really not even a thing. It’s really just about whether or not people believe you. What does working with government and NGOs in an outside autonomous way look like in these sort of disasters? We’ve got NGOs and the State swooping in to put in military and put in police forces. What does that look like for your group?
D: So, it’s like disaster colonialism. One big example of that was in Puerto Rico where they had this enormous amount of resources coming in to the area to maintain the harder occupation of military bodies on the ground, and law enforcement – like there was FBI, police from Boston and all these other cities from the mainland were there – and all these resources were going to maintain this occupation. They had a Starbucks. They had power and clean water inside of the Sheraton Hotel in San Juan. They had a dedicated buffet and catered service. They were living in luxury while people were literally getting water from these PVC pipes that were set up by other folks down a mountain. So, expecting things like curfews, and them to be enforcing curfews and arresting people based on that. In Puerto Rico, we were there pumping clean water with this large scale water purification system, and then storing the clean water in these giant IRC tanks in these mutual aid centers so that these communities could set up autonomous water brigades and bring water to the rest of the community. Well, we had to face FEMA to get one of these tanks that we needed while we were staged in this community to purify from this water source, and the FEMA Director told us “We can’t give you this water storage tank that’s collecting dust literally in our Sheraton warehouse, because if you give it to the people then you look like the good guys rather than us looking like the good guys and, can you see how that would be a problem for us?”
E: Imagine that.
D: So, it’s that kind of bureaucratic nonsense, but it’s also the issue of them upholding the whims of the State where these kind of things have a blueprint to them – y’know, coming into a destabilized community, being able to block off roads, being able to evict people from their homes, being able to gentrify communities in the aftermath and having developers swoop in. The NGOs who come in and their “charitable” approach is to treat people kind of infantilized – people that have gone through a trauma – rather than understanding that this is a unique community that has a stake in rebuilding their streets and their neighborhoods. I’ve heard, and repeated it many times, stories of them going into Muslim-majority neighborhoods and giving them Pork & Beans, or going into Vietnamese communities and giving them macaroni & cheese where the population is highly lactose intolerant. It’s like this “one-size-fits-all” approach. And them trying to put up every barricade to decentralize response by – like, in Jacksonville, civilian medics were told that if they put one foot into the water, where people were on the other side calling out for help and posting on social media “Please help us”, they were told “If you put one foot in the water you’re going to be arrested”. So, understanding that those barricades, they will literally go to any lengths to stop decentralized autonomous response. So, that’s like the predictable violence of it, and then the unpredictable nature, things like vigilantism, racists like the Oathkeepers and other white supremacist or nationalist groups that arm themselves and come in to communities. Like, Oathkeepers were responding that they were going to nice, White communities in Panama City to make sure that “their people” were safe, and then patrolling the streets. Their car was dressed up to look like a patrol vehicle and they had tactical vests on, and they were heavily armed and going out to harass and who knows what to communities that were non-white that were disaster survivors. Preparing for those things and knowing that all these issues together present a really unpredictable situation that you have to have a discussion about and know that that’s a possibility. It’s always an occupation either way, and people that are getting things that they need from a store that has food, water, supplies, things that people need, and they’re going to move in and arrest. In North Carolina, they were charging women with felonies at a Dollar Store after a manager was giving out items and the police decided to swoop in and say “No, you’re looting”. Just things like that are things to expect and look for and know that that very much feels like an occupation. That’s where all that pre-planning comes in about knowing which roads you can take, which houses are safe, which spaces you can go to, what your vulnerable communities are, things like that.
E: I think that’s a really important part of that scouting and that information gathering, of making sure that you know kind of how to play their game as much as you need to in order to use your badges and to get around them as much as possible. That’s definitely very important. Can you talk a little bit about hurricane-specific challenges, and solutions that are unique to hurricanes or other weather-related disasters that you’ve seen?
D: So, I think it’s important to know that, based on the size, the category, the duration of time that it’s going to be over your community, you’re going to face different challenges like flooding, wind damage, buildings destabilized or trees destabilized. One really specific thing that’s not directly hurricane-related but it’s a byproduct of having a hurricane pass through is that medical access is going to be heavily affected. A lot of folks in Puerto Rico died waiting for medical care. If they’re insulin dependent, insulin doesn’t keep if it’s not refrigerated. And in the absence of electricity, you’re going to have things like you medication going bad, you’re not going to have regular access to the medications unless you have a really good – like, pharmacies are going to set up tents and things like that, which I’ve seen happen. But there’s going to be a delay on things, and because you have such, I think, shorter notice, you can’t go get advance prescriptions. So people are really at risk, people who have hypertension, diabetes, cardiac conditions, and things that exacerbate that are sitting in sweltering houses that don’t have air conditioning, or sitting in a house that’s flood affected that you’re breathing in mold and things like that. Those are all hurricane-specific, but a lot of people die in the aftermath, not from a tree hitting them of from being swept away in flood waters, but from what can happen after the hurricane passes through. Another thing is that, because hurricanes cover such a wide area, it’s not like a tornado where there’s a specific acute area that’s been hit, because there’s such widespread damage, police and military can do arbitrary things that are necessarily needed, like closing off roads, closing off access to areas, throwing people out of their houses, making sure that they can quell any kind of resistance that comes up, filling the jails, predatory practices inside of shelters, things like that. I would say “hurricane-specific”, I mean, definitely making sure that you know that there’s going to be a medical crisis after the fact, because access is going to be heavily affected. That’s one of the biggest things.
E: That’s really important for people to know, and I don’t think a lot of people focus on that. I think a lot of people think of hurricanes and they think of the immediate issues that happen while the hurricane is there, and not the lack of access that happens after, and the waiting, and the fact that the State has privatized it neutered so many of the responses that are supposed to happen. Speaking of work post-crisis, what does that look like and how can you use work after a hurricane has hit during that gap to help enable victims to be able to self-determine their recovery?
D: In every community that I’ve responded in, it’s been the community itself that has been leading the response. So I think resilience lies in being a support system, amplifying call-outs, respecting self-determination of the people on the ground. Doing things like making sure you have a lot of medics and as many resources as you can, not just that are on the ground but connections to outside medical support. We had a doctor that was helping us to get Ativan to Puerto Rico, we got a nebulizer running on battery with Albuterol to get to people for rescue breathing. I think after the crisis passes, having teams who of course will go out and do street debris cleanup and things like that. But I think being really educated on mold remediation, because it’s something that can strongly affect your own medical reality going forward, and having that information out there. Because that’s going to be a project that’s going to be ongoing for months afterwards, and it’s something that’s going to get worse and worse and worse conditionally as you go. So, being educated about that, and also having as much medical connection and medical assistance as possible. One thing that was really helpful was, particularly in the Keys, was to go into low-income housing projects and everybody knew each other and they were like “Oh, this person’s in a wheelchair and their wheelchair hasn’t been able to be powered and they’re stuck inside of their house. Can you get there?” So, tapping into community that’s on the ground that know their neighbor, specifically they know people that need medical, they know people that need check-ins, so really really communicating with folks on the ground and understanding that disaster isn’t like this acute context. We go through an every day disaster of capitalism, and concentrated poverty, and environmental racism, and colonialism, and racism, and white supremacy, and patriarchy, and all of these things that we go through on a daily basis. So, resilience is being built day by day in communities that have to constantly deal with these crises. I guess just making sure that information is readily available for people and that you can connect with people on the ground to know who needs help and who needs check-ins are really critical.
E: In that vein, while we have these gaps during crisis of State running as normal, how can we, as the radical left, reframe and help use these moments as radical community moments and also as a way to show the illegitimacy of the State?
D: Well, I think we’re responding the way we’ve been responding really highlights the illegitimacy of the State and the propaganda that they put out. There was a lot of propaganda around Puerto Rico and them not doing the work that’s needed and them expecting all this help from outside, meanwhile radical mutual aid centers were being set up everywhere that are still ongoing to this day. I think that understanding that these moments are moments where we’re kind of creating the ground we walk on but we’re also kind of reverting to our most natural state of cooperation and mutualism. And those movements tend to populate very rapidly and very robustly. So, seizing these moments of destabilization as much as the State – like, our response has to be equal or stronger than the State’s response, because the State is interested solely, only, in coming in, defending commodity and defending capital, while wealthy businesspeople and wealthy neighborhoods are cleared out and make it safety, military bodies move in to defend those spaces. Literally, that’s what happened in the keys. All of the military response was down in the wealthy neighborhoods of the Keys while other people were starving and had no water and no food. So, I think remaining fluid and remaining able to move on a minute to minute basis, not getting paralyzed by the amount of resources that you have and being able to remain creative, because bureaucracies and the State, they have more or less a lot of red tape that they have to get through, but we can move quickly. Making sure that we remain decentralized is important because that gives us this element of rapid response and fluidity. People have occupied spaces that they were going to bulldoze for no other reason than they were in a neighborhood where they wanted to build, what once was black neighborhoods are now up and coming white neighborhoods, like in New Orleans, where they’re gentrifying and taking over these spaces. So, I think utilizing the moments where we revert back to our state of cooperation to challenge the narratives that this kind of work isn’t effective, or that somehow we don’t have the proper credentials as community members that have gone through a crisis and they’re incoming and they’re not a part of our communities, that they’re better equipped that we are to rebuild our communities. And along with those boring logistics, being sure to document the things that the police do and that city and federal government does in these spaces is really critical after the fact, because it helps us the next time to know what’s coming, and the next time and the next time.
E: Yeah, I like a lot what you said about it challenging the narratives, that it gets spun a lot. I mean, we hear so often as leftists that humans wouldn’t be cooperative and we wouldn’t help each other, but I think disasters are definitely one of those points where there’s a direct example of human mutualism and wanting the best for each other as a community, and I think that’s definitely a point where we can say “Hey, look, we had all of these awesome autonomous organizers on this side, and then we had the State making it worse on this side”, so it’s a really great point of connecting community and reframing the narratives. Are there any books, resources, podcasts, pages to follow, or anything that you would recommend for people who want to get more informed and get going into starting some mutual aid in their area?
D: Well, I think in general, Naomi Kline’s “The Shock Doctrine” is a really helpful resource in just understanding how the State operates in a “shock-and-awe” capacity, which is not only utilized in areas of conflict but in disasters. I’m reading this book now, “A Paradise Built In Hell” (Rebecca Solnit), I think that that’s a really good resource. There’s a section of “Expect Resistance” from CrimethInc. that talks about disasters and talks about that cooperative state of being and how the life we know seems to stop, like what is seems to stop in these moments and how everything becomes possible. So I think that that was something that was really inspiring to me. And then Scott Crow, who was involved in Common Ground, he has some books, like “Black Flags and Windmills” I think is the name of it. So, there’s a lot of text that’s being written now, a lot of information, a lot of ‘zines and things. MAD Relief has one too, “A Love Letter to the Future” that has kind of a compendium of stories from different spaces that we’ve been able to join in recovery and relief efforts in as well as an ongoing narrative about seizing power from below and building resilience and challenging disaster colonialism. And that’s a really good resource for information as well.
E: Cool. So, for anybody who didn’t catch that the first time, that’s “Shock Doctrine”, “Paradise Built in Hell”, “Expect Resistance”, Scott Crow’s several books including “Black Flags and Windmills”, and MAD Relief “Love Letter to the Future”. Awesome! Well, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. Kind of got some inside look at the way autonomous organizing around disasters happens. Is there any way that people can keep up with your work or with Mutual Aid’s work in general?
D: For sure, yeah, mutualaiddisasterrelief.org has a lot of different blog posts and writings from a lot of different communities that are responding on the ground, so if they want to plug into the website, and then we have an action network email list, so if people want to sign up for email updates, they’ll get the blogs as they come out, or call-outs. And then we have on social media a Twitter @MutualAidRelief and then there’s the Facebook page Mutual Aid Disaster Relief community page. So there’s all different ways to keep up with the work that’s going on with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief. And then we blast out all other folks that are doing mutual aid organizing in the context of climate justice and things like that. And during disasters we repost and share all of that stuff and amplify that, so they can also plug into those efforts through us and find links to other communities that are doing this work.
E: Perfect! Alright, thank you so much!
D: Yeah, thank you, and congratulations on your project, and let us know how we can support you and share your stuff. Thanks so much for reaching out, I’m glad we could connect with you.
W: On a personal note, you folks, the work you do is just amazing and I’m in awe, and you deserve all of the credit and then some. So, thank you for that as well.
D: Well, you all keep in touch and get in contact anytime, and thank you so much for giving me this space. I appreciate it.
Solo Praxis – Evaluating Personal Skills
(Eden is speaking alone in this segment.)
Welcome to Solo Praxis, the segment of our show where we go over some tips and tricks for when you’re an isolated leftist and you don’t know anyone in your area who’s doing anything radical, but you still want to engage in actions or self-improvement that can help you in the future. We talk about building up your skills, self-awareness, influencing people in your life, as well as small actions of mutual aid or fighting oppression, as well as finding other radicals.
Today, I wanted to talk to you guys about how to evaluate your skills. It’s really easy, when looking at the big picture of organizing, to not know where to start or how to help. It can get really debilitating and paralyzing, and I, as somebody with anxiety, definitely look at big picture sometimes and just don’t know what to do and how to help, and end up getting frozen and sometimes don’t help because I don’t know where to go. And part of being comfortable giving, volunteering, and working in solidarity with people is knowing how you can give.
So, we’re going to talk about the different ways that you can look at your skills, so that you know what exactly you can give. On the next episode, I want to talk to you about evaluating your boundaries. With the combination of knowing your skills and knowing your boundaries, you can fully enthusiastically consent to whatever you’re signing up for. Not all organizing is intense and/or glamorous. Skills come from all over, and you may not even realize that you have skills that can be easily used for leftist organizing.
So, first of all, what do you think of off the top of your head of things that you’re good at? What are you proud of that you know you do well? What is your ideal way to show up and help a project? If you were imagining that there was a project happening in your area that you could go to right now, if you can think of an ideal 30 minutes of time where you feel like you would be really productive in something that you think you would be good at, what would that look like?
Would it be helping greet people as they come in? Giving a training? Signing up people? Cooking in a kitchen? Would it be handing out flyers? Would it be yelling in a fascist’s face? Look at what you would think you would feel the most comfortable doing inside of an organization.
You can look at what type of skills you use in the workforce. What tools do you use? DO you know how to handle equipment? Do you work on a computer? Do you handle customer service situations? Do you have interpersonal skills like conflict resolution or training, coordinating, teamwork, research? What are things that you would put on your résumé? Because, I can guarantee you that almost everything I have on my résumé I could definitely tool towards leftist organizing. I could put in ways of writing up material and my writing skills into how we’re going to put out information on a website. I could use my graphic design background and work on making posters. There’s lots of different things that we could use from our résumés that can also go into leftist organizing, and knowing that you have those skills in your back pocket is really important.
You can look at what hobbies you have. Do you think any of your skills from your hobbies can be applied? Do you cook? Can you build things? Do you like to write? Do you like to make music? There’s so many things that we often do in our spare time that we find a lot of joy in that isn’t commodified under capitalism but is still a very valuable skill when we’re working in community with others.
For those of you in school or recently out of school, what things do you remember? What things did you learn? Bet there was research. What about writing? Dealing with authority? Learning how to work with teachers and finding expectations can easily apply to figuring out the expectations of others that you’re going to run into in organizing. Group projects? Speaking? Were there specific skills that you learned in your classes that they taught you? Were you in a technical program where you learned things that can be applied in a variety of situations?
Other things to look at include what do people tell you that you’re good at? Like, are you ever talking with friends or coworkers and somebody comments “Oh, you’re really good at explaining things” or “You’re really good at finding those detailed questions”, “You’re really good at rallying a crowd”. Often times, we don’t look at ourselves the same way that people around us see us, and sometimes others can be a really good resource in finding out what you’re good at.
Are there things that you volunteer yourself to do within your family or friend dynamics? If you’re making plans for a get together, vacation, or party with your family or friends, is there something that you usually bring to the picture? Are you the person that makes the menu and coordinates food? Are you the person that likes to book the flights, or the person that likes to find the activities, or the person that’s just really great at bringing everybody’s mood up and getting everybody really hyped? Those are things that you can bring into leftist organizing.
What skills have you learned or used with your family? A lot of people undervalue many of the skills that we develop inside of familial situations, especially for people who were raised in a gendered situation of being gendered female. As women or people who were gendered that way from their childhood, there’s a lot of skills that we learned in managing family dynamics in cooking, or cleaning, or sewing or crafting, that can easily be applied. And, if those are things that you like, and you enjoy and you’ve cultivated a skill at, definitely bring that to the picture.
When you see a project that you want to help on, it’s a really great idea to rethink these skills, and it’s good to have these already evaluated so you’re aware, so that when an organizational opportunity pops up, you can go to the other community members working on it and say “I have this list of skills, where can I apply them to help with this movement? Where can I use my skills of technical writing? Where can I use my skills of gardening? Where can I use my skills of leadership?” into the mechanisms that are already in place so that you know “Hey, I’m going to volunteer for something that I know I’m good at.” And that helps everyone, because you’re able to do something that you’re good at, that you’re confident in, that you don’t feel like you’re going to mess up, which means you’re more likely to volunteer in the first place. And it also gives direction to other people because they’re able to see how what your skills are are applicable and how that can be spread around the community.
So, in conclusion, I think it’s really a great idea, even if you’re totally alone out in the middle of nowhere, to just take inventory of what skills you have so that when opportunity knocks, you have a set list that you can go and you can say “Hey, I’m really good at this, let me help you” or “Hey, I can do A, B, and C, but not really D, E, or F, so where can I fit into this picture?” It just gives a lot more direction than somebody who just comes up and says “I want to volunteer.” That’s always appreciated, but when somebody knows what they can do and how they can contribute, it really helps organizers and it helps ourselves be really enthusiastically involved and engaged with delegating out assignments. Because, if we know that somebody’s comfortable in a role, it gives other people the ability to trust you more, and it gives yourself the ability to fully consent to something, because if we’re really hesitant, if we’re really nervous, if we’re feeling like we’re doing something more out of obligation and hesitancy than we are out of enthusiastically consenting, then we really don’t put our best work into it, and we don’t feel the safest that we could be. And at the end of the day, we need to build these revolutionary relationships with each other as comrades, and part of that is understanding what you can bring to the table as yourself, so that other people don’t have to pull it out of you, and so that you can all feel safe and in community together.
I hope that’s helpful for you. We’ll see you next time on Solo Praxis.
Closing Segment (William is speaking alone in this segment.)
So, that does it for the first episode of Frontline Praxis. We hope that you all enjoyed it, and found the information contained here helpful and illuminating.
One small note: you may have noticed some quiet ambient background music throughout this episode. This is something that you don’t really hear in many podcasts, but we included it for a very specific reason. As we mentioned in the intro segment, we wanted to make efforts to ensure that this podcast is as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, such as offering a transcript for each episode. When we put together our promo clip, which we send to the folks and organizations that we’re looking to interview, we had background music playing throughout that clip, and a comrade of Eden’s made an observation. They said that the low level music in the background helped them so much in focusing on it and staying engaged, and that as an autistic person, they do not listen to many podcasts because they often cannot focus on just voices without additional noise.
Apparently, this is a common problem for people who have focus-affected disorders like autism and ADHD. So, as a courtesy for those folks, we decided that we would try to make our show a little easier for them to focus on. I tried to keep the music as low-level and unobtrusive as possible, and we hope that it doesn’t interfere with anybody else’s ability to focus and absorb the information we’re sharing with you all.
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Thanks for listening. Love and solidarity to you all, and we’ll see you next time.
(Outro music – “Together Underground” by The Wild)