As I was learning about Mutual Aid over the past year, one of the things that impressed me was in addition to work related to food and shelter, Des Moines Mutual Aid also manages a bail fund. I was glad to see support for those who agitated for change. Mutual Aid is about meeting survival needs, and working for system change. The system that failed to provide food and shelter, that often was the cause of food insecurity and people losing their homes by eviction.
The bail fund supported those who were arrested in Iowa during demonstrations related to police violence and racial injustice.
The situation in Iowa was/is so bad that Des Moines Black Liberation declared a Black State of Emergency #BlackEmergencyIA.
In the following video, Matt Bruce discussed these issues.
Matthew: All right everybody, I want to thank everyone that’s come out, especially those that have supported BLM – Des Moines BLM – all summer.
Just to run down some of the things we’ve accomplished:
we’ve accomplished getting the curfew ended – a racist curfew ended –
we accomplished getting all of our protesters out of the Polk County Jail
we accomplished a racial profiling ban here in Des Moines
we accomplished a plan for a more perfect union statewide
we got 60,000 people their rights to vote back, and
we’ve established also – Iowa City has done a lot of work on police accountability. The only city, the only city council to force their police department to release body [camera] footage of tear gassing people, the only people to get that level of accountability.
And we have institutionalized a direct action movement, and that is bigger than any of those one things, is that the tools that got us those amendments to the system is gonna sit here and exist indefinitely. And that’s the most – yeah that’s some claps – that’s the most important part of what we’ve built so far.
Those remarks were followed with more people speaking. I’m including what Patrick Stahl said, because he is one of the people I know from my recent engagement with Des Moines Mutual Aid’s food giveaway program.
Patrick: Hi, I’m Patrick Stahl with Des Moines Mutual Aid.
Des Moines Mutual Aid is a collective that does outreach for homeless folks in our community, houseless folks in our community. We also assist BLM with their rent relief fund, and most of the work we’ve done is running the bail fund for the protests over the summer. In the course of that work, we have witnessed firsthand the violence that is done upon people of color, Black people specifically, by the white supremacist forces of the state – in this state, in this city, in this county. There is absolutely a state of emergency for people of color and Black people in Iowa. The state of emergency has been a long time coming. We will support – DMMA will absolutely support any and all efforts of this community – BLM, and the people of color community more generally- to keep themselves safe. Power to the people.
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.
So you can see how Des Moines Mutual Aid and Des Moines Black Liberation work together, to support each other. The following post describes these relationships in more detail.
January 5 · One year ago today Des Moines Mutual Aid participated in a march protesting the potential for war or increased hostilities with Iran that followed the fallout of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani by drone strike in Baghdad.
This was our first “public” event since adopting the name Des Moines Mutual Aid, a name we gave our crew during our growing work with our relatives at the houseless camps throughout the city and our help with coordinating a weekly free grocery store that has a 50 year history, founded by the Des Moines Chapter of The Black Panther Party For Self Defense.
A year ago we started laying the foundation for work we had no idea what was coming. As we were adjusting our work with the camps and grocery re-distribution in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both that continued to grow in need and importance, the police continued their jobs and legacy of brutality and murder. This nation exploded in righteous rage in response to the pig murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. DMMA realized we were in a position to organize a bail fund to keep our fighters out of jail, both to keep the streets alive as a new phase of The Movement was being born, and because jails are a hotspot of Covid-19 spread. Not to mention the racial and economic oppression that is the cash bail system.
In the past year DMMA has expanded its work in multiple directions and gained many partners and allies. We partnered with the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement to create the DSM BLM Rent Relief initiative to help keep families in their homes in the midst of a pandemic and the winter.
The camp work has grown exponentially, but is being managed with our collaboration with Edna Griffin Mutual Aid, DSM Black Liberation Movement, and The Great Plains Action Society.
The bail fund remains successful because of desire from the public and a partnership with Prairielands Freedom Fund (formerly The Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project).
The weekly free food store has maintained itself, carrying on the legacy it inherited.
Every one of our accomplishments are directly tied to the support of so many people donating time, talent, and funds to the work. We are overwhelmed with all of your support and hope you feel we are honoring what we promised. All of these Mutual Aid projects are just a few of many that this city has created in the last year in response to the many crises we face, not only confronting the problems and fulfilling the needs directly in front of us, but creating a sustainable movement that will be capable of responding to what’s next and shaping our collective futures as we replace the systems that fail us.
These last 12 months have been wild and a real test of all of our capabilities to collectively organize. But it is clear that we as a city have what it takes to do what is needed in 2021, no matter what crisis is next.
Much gratitude to you all. In love and rage,