September Dispatch

Solidarity Not Charity: Generating Support

Here's an excerpt from the September Dispatch.

Continuing our conversation about what "solidarity not charity" means. Last month we discussed the differences between mutual aid groups and traditional industrial complex non profits. Nothing illustrates that point more clearly than the way the disaster in Cedar Rapids was dealt with. Mutual aid groups were able to mobilize and move into the affected areas to provide immediate support, while the big dogs got bogged down in their bureacracy which resulted in a dangerously delayed and sometimes discriminatory response.

This month we want to discuss the way we choose to generate support. Many people are confused by the idea that we do not accept cash donations, because they are used to the industrial nonprofit systems.

Nonprofits are really organized around the idea that people in need are not trustworthy. "We don't trust you with money, so we will put rules and stipulations on the help that we give you." Think about how disempowering it is to purchase things FOR people instead of allowing them choices. This type of non-profit nannying undermines individuals' self-determination and autonomy.

There's also the added issue that dealing with cash is a timesuck. When nonprofits start taking cash, a great deal of their energy and time is tied up in jumping through the hoops to manage that cash, legally. Ideally we want to invite members to our collective who are working to create systems that can flourish outside of that model.

With our food projects we are trying to do more than just throw some dried beans at a person who doesn't know how to cook them, and then pat ourselves on the back. Our food project is also designed around the idea that sharing a hot meal and baked goods with a neighbor, is freeing up time for them to do something else. ICMA still doesn't see that as charity. We are just helping someone through a tough spot today, so they can help someone tomorrow.

When it comes to raising money for bills and rent, a mutual aid group is much more likely to elevate a person's cashapp or venmo account and trust that they will do what they need to do with it.

We also want to work to create sustainable local systems. Our collaboration with various groups of local growers, is an example of that focus. We would rather process a local farmers's crew grade produce or glean unclaimed fruit from a local tree than depend on canned food bank type donations.

Depending on donations means relying on groups that might try to exert influence over our projects by placing conditions on their support. Also, only accepting gifts of a tangible nature motivates us to look for more ways to support people. You can only store so much in one garage.

Mutual aid groups ideally should not be going around tagging members who contribute. We appreciate everyone's contribution equally whether it is two tomatoes or twenty. We don't want to make people feel otherwise. People do what they can, when they can. We trust that our people who have been donating a lot, understand that and are on the same page.

Next month we will talk about the difference between the collective and it's projects- and we will discuss what makes our food project different than others, a little bit more.