Permanently Organized Communities.

We must navigate a just transition from a ‘Banks & Tanks” economy to economies of sacredness and care in this emerging COVID-19 moment.

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Like the spider, human communities can help restore the web of life or we can continue to slash it at our peril. Photo of the Web of Life activity at Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Retreat in Buffalo-Niagra, NY, May 2019. Photo credit: Brooke Anderson Photography

Here are 10 reasons why the time for Permanently Organized Communities is now.

1. LOCAL: We need place-based and community-based organization because impacts — like COVID-19- will be felt in place-based ways. Most human needs must be met at the local level — shelter, food, water, care. We can provide each other emotional support from afar but many of our basic needs must be met in place. Extra ventilators that might start to appear in China won’t help us if we’re in New York right now.

2. SELF-GOVERNANCE: This is a time to self-govern. If we aren’t governing our families, communities, schools, and economies, someone else is governing us for us. Decision-making is always rooted in values and principles and this is a moment where we can make decisions based on values of sacredness, interdependence, abundance, and care. Many of us are taking back governance over our own time, the way our kids spend their hours, the way care work is distributed in the home so that care workers have the time to take care of their families.

3. PERMANENT: We can’t stop organizing in our neighborhoods and communities when this shock/crisis subsides. We must stay organized in order to codify the positive cultural shifts we make in these moments. By codify we mean, pass laws and policies (rewrite the rules) to make permanent the social gains won in the midst of this crisis. Permanent no-eviction clauses. Permanent debt freezes. Permanent paid sick leave. And so on. New rules that make it is easier to create, expand, protect and defend what we know we all need to lead dignifies lives. Rules that codify sharing and caring over profit and hoarding. Everyday. Not just in crisis.

4. RESILIENCE: This is a time to lean into units of organization that make us more resilient. During this time of crisis, people may cling to the units of organization that work well for patriarchy and capitalism — ie. individuals, couples, nuclear families, and individual households. But resilience requires that we build up other forms of organization and mechanisms of organizing ourselves that go in many directions. Like the pods that Mia Mingus and the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collectivehave been teaching us to create to address child sexual abuse and other intimate violence/harm. Or the mutual aid networks set up by the Disability Justice Culture Club during the PG&E shutoffs as a call for Power to Live. The mutual aid network set up in Seattle early into the COVID-19 crisis provides multiple ways for people to contribute and receive based on a range of needs and resources. Resilience reminds us that diversity is our best defense. The binaries and hierarchies of the crumbling system don’t do justice to the wide range of needs each of us has and the ways we can each contribute. And overreliance on any one form of organizing ourselves could be our downfall.

5. CARE WORK: This is a time to shift more of our labor to mutuality and care. There are so many mutual aid networks springing up and into action right now! We get to take care of our neighbors, children and elders in ways we don’t get to when the machine requires us to spend so much time on the hustle. At the same time, there are some areas where people’s labor will be increasingly required by the capitalist system — grocery stores, amazon delivery workers, medical care, etc. How can this work be increasingly converted to life ROLES from J.O.B.s? Like the supermarket workers who were never noticed until people realized how critical they are to our survival. People doing care work play critical roles and should be increasingly be making decisions about that work.

6. SHARE DON’T HOARD: Especially for those of us with privilege, this is a time to build that muscle of SHARE OURS over GET MINE. Our security depends on it. There are so so SO many people who were barely scraping by before COVID-19 emergency measures. Encampments of people without shelter. Evicted families sleeping in vans. Those living paycheck to paycheck about to be laid off. If you are someone with access to resources this is the time to GIVE THOSE RESOURCES BACK. Give money, your second home, extra food, toilet paper, whatever back to the communities most impacted. Give it away like your security depends on it. Because it does. The transition from a hierarchy in which some people matter and “deserve” to have their needs met while others don’t is going to be awkward and scary for those who’ve been on the privileged side of this economy. Groups like Resource Generation are helping folks take those awkward and scary steps. Contribute to the mutual aid funds being set up by organized base-building alliances like the Climate Justice Alliance. Donate your second home to a community organization who can ensure it goes to a family who needs it. As we put our resources into communities rooted in collective care, one day someone will have your back when you need it most too.

7. PRACTICE: Self-governance takes practice. This is a time to practice. Especially right now when we have to be making decisions all the time. And revisiting them day-by-day. Holding regular family or household or pod meeting to talk about who is most impacted and how we’ll roll to ensure everyone is cared for. Consciously considering who we are networked/connected to and the implications of those connections, to limit risk for those most vulnerable in our webs.

8. TIME: Self-governance takes time, especially if you’re not using power over. Meeting needs through mutuality and consent requires a lot of communication and decision-making. Both of these things require a lot of time to do well. Most of us — gender-oppressed, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), and poor/working-class– have been conditioned to NOT name our needs. In this context, recognizing what we need takes work. Asking someone else to help meet our needs takes work. And the person/people receiving that ask must work to ensure that they’re really listening rather than imposing their own needs on that person. I’m taking baby steps as I learn these lessons in my family especially as a parent.

9. SHOCKS, SLIDES, AND SHIFTS: This Covid-19 pandemic shock has created lots of room to win the shifts we need and our movements are codifying some of those wins: Paid sick leave, eviction/foreclosure moratoriums, free testing and care. How do we expand these so that they are not just emergency measures but the new norm? This is a step towards normalizing values of sacredness and care. We know that economic contraction and a likely depression will hurt workers and the poor first and worst. More and more people will become unemployed (many of them gig workers, domestic workers, independent contractors, sex workers and folks with multiple hustles who won’t get unemployment). More people will be unable to pay rent not just for a couple of weeks but for months or longer. Can we organize rent/mortgage strikes across class lines? Can we get the rich to put land in the commons instead of more speculation? Organize to win the shifts possible in this moment when the landscape is wide open.

10. PROTECT THE SPACE: This moment offers opportunities to shift more of our labor into care and regeneration right now. We must protect that space after things return to “normal”. We know right now that is at least a couple of months. Let’s use that time to reset how we are going to organize ourselves going forward.

by michelle mascarenhas-swan /movement generation

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