Mutual Aid in Brazil and Iowa

A recent article caught my attention, SOLIDARITY, DIRECT ACTION, AND SELF-DETERMINATION: KASA INVISÍVEL. An Occupied Social Center Becomes A Hub Of Mutual Aid In Belo Horizonte, Brazil. I had not known about the concept of Mutual Aid, nor its global reach. I’ve been writing about what I’ve been learning.

In a speech my friend Ronnie James recently gave at a Black Lives Matter teach-in, The Police State and Why We Must Resist, he said he represented Des Moines Mutual Aid. I asked him to tell me about that

It started as group of my friends working with the houseless camps some years back. It has now grown into a solid crew that runs a free food store started by the Black Panthers, still work with the camps, we organized a bail fund that has gotten every protester out of jail the last few months, and we just started an eviction relief fund to try to get a head of the coming crisis, in cooperation with Des Moines BLM. We have raised $13,000 since Wednesday and the application to apply for the grants goes live this week.

Ronnie James

DM Mutual Aid
DM Rent Relief
DM Bail Fund

I love this concept. It puts the focus on us helping each other, instead of us helping someone else. I also like this multi-pronged approach. Helping each other with food, shelter, and supporting those arrested for agitating for change.

When Patrick was talking with me my first day at the food project, he said mutual aid means we should also feel free to take some of the food ourselves.

In this post, Be Vulnerable, I explain the free food program that I’ve been helping with. Yesterday on two separate occasions, two people told me these two hours are the best part of their week.

I’ve read, thought and written a lot over the years about Beloved community. I’ve found it here with Mutual Aid.

The Zapatistas have said the best solidarity anyone can offer is to start their own social centers, projects, movements, and revolutions wherever they are based. In Belo Horizonte, the capital city of the state of Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil, a collective called Kasa Invisível (Portuguese for “Invisible House”) has heeded that proposal, and hopes to inspire you to do the same.

The three formerly abandoned houses now occupied by this autonomous, anti-capitalist collective serve as a home for people in need, a social and cultural center for the community, and a meeting and organizing space for anti-authoritarian resistance and mutual aid. While there are hundreds of building and land occupations in Minas Gerais alone, Kasa is one of only a few squats in the region that explicitly exist to support struggles against the state and capitalism. As they refocus their efforts to meet their neighbors’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the collective maintains a consistent relationship of mutual aid with the surrounding community, both giving support to and receiving support from those who live and work there. While they aim to be a reference and inspiration for similar projects throughout Brazil for a long time to come, recent circumstances have put the future of their occupation in question, prompting them to call for solidarity from the international community to keep this vital center of resistance active.

An Occupied Social Center Becomes A Hub Of Mutual Aid In Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

In recent months, members of progressive direct-action organizations have developed new systems for checking on their neighbors, dropping off food and medicine, providing protective personal equipment to incarcerated family members, and giving cash to those suddenly unemployed to meet immediate rent, food, and medical needs. At the same time, they’re continuing to press for workers’ rights and proper health care during the pandemic, as well as ensure access to federal stimulus money for individuals and small minority-owned businesses.

In so doing, these organizations are harkening back to their roots: people creating social ties by helping each other out, and those ties fueling collective fights for new systems and policies.

Combining mutual aid and direct action might seem like common sense, but in today’s corporatized and professionalized nonprofit world, this model had disappeared almost completely. Community-based nonprofits in the United States today are split into distinct silos, with service provision firmly compartmentalized in one box and direct-action organizing in another.

WHY TODAY’S SOCIAL REVOLUTIONS INCLUDE KALE, MEDICAL CARE, AND HELP WITH RENT. In the Pandemic, Community Organizations Have Returned to Their Roots in Mutual Aid and Self-Determination by by RINKU SEN, Zocalo Public Square,  JULY 1, 2020

For millions of poor and working people, life in this country is going to change – and change very quickly. Already, many companies are starting to lay off workers as the economy slows and things begin to shut down. Low wage workers, many already living just on the edge of eviction and homelessness, now find themselves with even less money coming in and with young children, recently forced out of school, to watch and feed.

Autonomous Groups Are Mobilizing Mutual Aid Initiatives To Combat The Coronavirus, It’s Going Down, March 20, 2020

Teach In 8/22/2020
Des Moines BLM
Ronnie James

The Police State and Why We Must Resist

Hello all, my name is Ronnie James, and I am here representing Des Moines Mutual Aid.

I am descended from numerous peoples of so-called north america.

At this point I am supposed to do a land acknowledgment, but I don’t like what those have been distorted into. Instead I will say you are standing on and directly benefiting from stolen land, within a nation built by stolen bodies, which is the foundation of the police state that occupies these sacred grounds of the original peoples.  If you would like to know more of who’s land you are on, there are numerous resources. We are still here, and numerous, just ask us.

Historically, the police and other law enforcement were formed to protect the interests and property of the moneyed classes from the rest of the People. This “property” included the bodies of the enslaved and was the justification for brutally repressing the righteous and inevitable revolts born from the atrocity of slavery. This same philosophy of endless possession was the bloodlust that fueled the “Indian Wars” and the theft of Indigenous land and bodies that continues to this day.   (Wampanoag, 2020)

Today, this same war of conquest, the repression of the many for the benefit of the few, continues. 

Currently, Des Moines Mutual Aid and its many accomplices have been fighting a battle with the city of des moines and it’s foot soldiers trying to repress our houseless population from utilizing unused “property”. The basic universal need of a place to rest and be safe is trumped by the need of the wealthy, and the wannabe wealthy, to control every inch they can possess. It is a war for control, and the pigs have enlisted willingly.

This same war of conquest is currently using the mass incarceration machine to instill fear in the populace, warehouse cheap labor, and destabilize communities that dare to defy a system that would rather see you dead than noncompliant. This is the same war where it’s soldiers will kill a black or brown body, basically instinctively, because our very existence reminds them of all that they have stolen and the possibility of a revolution that can create a new world where conquest is a shameful memory.

As bleak as this is, there is a significant amount of resistance and hope to turn the tide we currently suffer under. We stand on the shoulders of giants that have been doing this work for centuries, and there are many lessons we can learn from.

The first, and possibly the most important, is that it was not always this way, which proves it does not have to stay this way.  

What we have is each other. We can and need to take care of each other. We may have limited power on the political stage, a stage they built, but we have the power of numbers.

Those numbers represent unlimited amounts of talents and skills each community can utilize to replace the systems that fail us.  The recent past shows us that mutual aid is not only a tool of survival, but also a tool of revolution. The more we take care of each other, the less they can fracture a community with their ways of war. Organized groups like The American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense showed that we can build not only aggressive security forces for our communities, but they also built many programs that directly responded to the general wellbeing of their communities. This tradition began long before them and continues to this day. Look into the Zapatistas in Southern so-called Mexico for a current and effective example.

These people’s security forces, or the “policing of the police” not only helps to minimize the abuse and trauma they can inflict on us, but it begins to shift the power balance from them to us.

Mutual Aid programs that help our most marginalized or other events that work to maintain our spirits result in stronger communities. A strong community is less vulnerable to police intrusion. 99% of our conflicts can be solved by those affected by them, but only with the support of those around them. Anytime we call on the police to mediate our problems, we are risking ourselves or a loved one from being hurt or worse.

The more we replace the police with organized community response to conflict, the safer we will be. Another powerful benefit is the removal of power from those that take their orders from those that have no interest in your well-being, at least past it being useful to amass and increase wealth.

Of course, part of this fight of police abolition will be fought on the political stage, but let’s not fool ourselves that the state and the wealthy will ever give up tight control on all resources. We can lobby and vote to have police resources diverted to less dangerous organizations, but they will still be working for the same state and same class that have dispossessed and repressed us for centuries. Every election has the possibility of reversing any policy gain we may won. Some of the fight will be in the government offices, but the majority of it will be us, in the street.

Many communities work to train amongst themselves mental and physical health workers, conflict mediators, and anything else we need, despite the state and it’s soldiers insistence that they are the sole “authority” of these skills, and always with the implied threat of violence.

As we work toward this, and this summer has proven des moines has the heart, desire, and skills to do so, we still have to deal with what’s in front of us.

We each have skills and resources we can utilize towards the abolition project. Some of us can use the halls of the system to make short term change there, others have skills that produce food, provide medical care, or care for our precious youth, some are skilled in the more confrontational tactics needed. Once we envision that world our ancestors want for us, finding our role is natural.

All Power To The People.

Ronnie James

If we are to survive, and more importantly, thrive, we know what we will have to do.

This entry was posted in decolonize, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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