I’m Immune Compromised & High Risk COVID19, Mutual Aid is What’s Saving My Life
Last week, I found myself breaking down into a panic attack when realizing all the Lysol disinfecting spray online and in the greater Los Angeles area was sold out. My panic attack wasn’t rooted in the common hysteria linked to COVID 19, my panic attack was rooted in the fact I was becoming barred from having access to the products that keep me and have KEPT me safe on a daily basis since my cancer diagnosis 3 years ago. This all resulted in me going on Twitter asking for help — I was able to connect with multiple people who have since sent me the specific Lysol I needed, Clorox wipes, and more.
Even after my disinfectant needs were met, I still was experiencing various people messaging me saying they’d go to the fully stocked stores in their area on my behalf. The organizer in me paused and thought, “Well, I’m not the only person part of this at risk population experiencing a lack of access, what can I do?” And a Twitter thread (now transformed into two Google docs) was born where immune compromised people could make their needs known and people willing to help immune compromised people could be connected to others in need. At the same time, several other people and groups nationally were undertaking mutual aid projects and significantly helping their communities.
Now, we are seeing more conversations surrounding mutual aid and most importantly: we are seeing the self directed efforts of solidarity. Mutual aid is an anti capitalist practice and a liberatory practice for disabled folks. What’s keeping myself and many other disabled people alive right now is not state institutions or a capitalist market. What’s keeping myself and many other disabled people alive right now is instead solidarity efforts from mutual aid to social distancing.
Mutual aid has the aim of not just compensating for institutional failures, rather its aim is to challenge and subvert the entirety of the system which directs these institutions — that system being capitalism-imperialism. For example, the “failures” embodied in the lack of disability justice aren’t necessarily failures, they are the consequences of a system which measures our worth as human beings in terms of how much value our labor can create for the rich. In the context of this capitalist system, “disabled” becomes a measure of to what extent a person’s labor can not be exploited. This takes on various forms but the common thread is a lack of regard for the lives of disabled people.
For example, I’m 26 years old, Black, non binary, queer, and a cancer patient who lives in South Central Los Angeles. I’m immune compromised meaning I can’t work full time and pay my bills either via fundraising or doing small college gigs once or twice a month. Based on my previous paragraph, it’s obvious that a capitalist system views me as disposable on a daily basis to begin with. Now, add in a global health pandemic, people not taking social distancing seriously, everything closing, being self quarantined even more than usual, a gig economy going completely underwater, yet somehow bills are still due — I, as a disabled person, am not meant to survive. Mutual aid makes survival during a COVID 19 pandemic a possibility for myself and many other disabled people because it prioritizes community care and our livelihood — from getting the medical supplies we need to fundraising efforts to grocery store and pharmacy runs and more.
Mutual aid goes beyond crisis pandemic modes though, it’s meant to stimulate self directed modes of autonomy consistently. The practice of mutual aid can fundamentally shift community relationships and interpersonal relationships by emphasizing self motivated reciprocity (not charity). Imagine how much mutual aid can improve the lives of disabled people and frankly all community members on a day to day basis. Mutual aid asks us to humanize the same people capitalism will call useless. As a practice, it can be an essential introduction to radicalism / radical politics — especially in working class communities.
While this global health pandemic shows just how fragile and nonsensical capitalism is, it’s also important to push for continued organizing during and after this crisis. The same systems that have been created to starve us of resources, exploit us, dispose of us, commit acts of violence against us, and eradicate our communities, those systems were created by people and therefore can be replaced by people too. Let’s continue prioritizing the safety and survival of all our community members and continue to allow mutual aid to be a pathway for The People to become organizers too. Let’s also prioritize accessibility so disabled organizers and disabled peoples can be included in our movements.
Immune Compromised People in Need: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xdmHQVS8wxAiApUM53MYMq1Atiqm5UsLGQlTp61oNcM/edit
Willing to Help Immune Compromised People In Need: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1u6JQDlkjEWaYtfTxQ54gshOjOl9Fc76UCi5jVYYGn9E/edit
Want to Support Me?
I’m currently searching for a stem cell donor for a life saving bone marrow transplant please visit: www.join.bethematch.org/itswalela or text ITSWALELA to 61474 — all it takes is a cheek swab to find out if you could save my life (COVID19 does not get in the way of donor searches, proper precautions by Be the Match are being taken)
My partner (who is also my caregiver) cannot work during the pandemic and I cant either — if you’d like to contribute to helping us continue paying our bills: