In the following I try to express why I believe Friends should do our justice work using the Mutual Aid concept. Mutual Aid is far from a new idea, having been practiced globally for centuries. Christine Nobiss recently wrote truth telling and mutual aid discourage colonized ideas.
Quakers are known for our long deliberation. But we are rapidly moving deeper into environmental, political and social collapse.
There are two fundamental concepts we need to understand, for our own sake and so we can convince others to join in this emergency work.
The first is that capitalism is a system only of the rich, and oppresses the other 99% of us in so many ways. We have to understand so we don’t waste our time working within this system.
Secondly, the alternative to capitalism and structural racism is Mutual Aid. We can and should begin our own work with Mutual Aid now.
We can’t look away from the millions who have just been added to the numbers of those who are food, health and housing insecure.
As capitalism continues to “fray around the edges” as Ronnie James puts it, we will continue to see greatly accelerating social collapse. I am convinced Mutual Aid is the way to respond.
I’ve been researching the concept of Mutual Aid for most of this year, beginning in February when Ronnie James came to Friends House to join Peter Clay, Linda Lemons and I for a vigil for the Wet’suwet’en peoples. Since then, Ronnie, of Des Moines Mutual Aid and the Great Plains Action Society has moved his office to Friends House. Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting, under the care of Peter Clay and Deborah Fisch, has graciously allowed Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA) to use their kitchen to prepare food that is then distributed to the houseless community.
Since that time Ronnie has graciously taken a lot of time to mentor me about Mutual Aid. This education has been augmented by my participation in DMMA’s food giveaway program.
At the end of this is the biography about Ronnie that was used in advertising for yesterday’s #TRUTHSGIVING online meeting. This shows Ronnie is an Indigenous Organizer, and his main work is DMMA. It is also significant that Ronnie and Mutual Aid are fully supported by Christine Nobiss and Great Plains Action Society.
“Truthsgiving is an ideology that must be enacted through truth telling and mutual aid to discourage colonized ideas about the thanksgiving mythology”.
You can view a video of yesterday’s TRUTHSGIVING event here, where Ronnie, Christine and Trisha Etringer discuss their decolonizing work. https://fb.watch/2669vqdfrG/
It is also significant that Des Moines Black Lives Matter/Liberation embraces the concept of Mutual Aid. Which means there has been and will continue to be significant interaction between DMMA and Des Moines BLM.
From the Des Moines Black Lives Matter Facebook page:
mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.
capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.
in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices.
Mutual Aid has become the focus of what I’ve been praying and writing about for some time now. I believe Friends should embrace the concept of Mutual Aid and that should be the focus of the work of our peace and social concerns committees.
In justice work it is essential to be responsive to what oppressed communities are asking of us. Midwest Indigenous organizers and Des Moines BLM are embracing Mutual Aid. By inference, they are asking us to do so, also. One of the concepts of Mutual Aid is Mutual Aid communities will crop up all over.
Some of the more relevant articles are:
Ronnie James, Indigenous Organizer
Law Student @Great Plains Action Society and Des Moines Mutual Aid
Ronnie James is an Indigenous activist and organizer in Des Moines, Iowa. He currently organizes with The Great Plains Action Society and Des Moines Mutual Aid, in addition to being a father and a pre-law student. He is involved in many Mutual Aid projects centered around food insecurity, racial and economic justice, and our houseless relatives. He has many years of boots on the ground grassroots organizing experience, all informed from an Indigenous and anti-capitalist perspective. Ronnie is pursuing a law degree to further these goals and believes that by having a law license he will be able to effectively protect the vulnerable and support the courageous.