Community organizer, creative technologist and owner of Streetcat Media, Maggie Kane, was recently interviewed about her upcoming class, Modelling for Mutual Aid, by curator and critic Régine Debatty. This course will deliver an insightful and hands-on look into the digital and social tools for building and managing mutual aid models.
Did you find that, with the pandemic, mutual aid has spontaneously developed more than ever? In Atlanta where you live and elsewhere?
Mutual aid has absolutely been essential for many people's survival here in the US during this pandemic.
Our government (on both federal and state levels) has done a horrendous job taking care of people on two fronts: 1) the government has focused solely on the capital gain / survival of corporations and not working people by focusing on corporate funds disbursement programs over taking care of all its citizens essential needs. Many people are facing eviction, going hungry, and our government does nothing for these people! 2) and a number of government leaders have spread extremely harmful information about the pandemic claiming it's a political attack(!) from the Chinese government instead of a global health crisis. I mean, with this kind of stupidity from our leadership, a lot of people have lost hope and a great deal of their livelihood due to the selfish political stance of a number of elected officials.
Here are two projects I made during the beginning of the pandemic that explore this theme of government inadequacy when it comes to focusing on the needs of the people during a scary event like this:
+ my response/rant to how DIY/community organizations can survive during the pandemic)
+ a satirical commercial made by me and a group of friends that criticizes corporate marketing during the pandemic - I designed and fabricated the "product" in the video)
But, alas, mutual aid is a primordial model that every living system has utilized since the beginning of time, so i think if people take a closer look at the historical struggles of people/animals/plants over time, you would be able to identify some kind of mutual aid system or network that was created to combat whatever struggle these things faced.
Are you involved in mutual aid projects yourself?
I'm involved in so many mutual aid projects - like too many! But i love everything i'm involved in because it has helped change my perspective for how people should interact with each other - we need to care for each other more! I'm a huge fan of alternative economies that center equitable access and work trade. Some projects i'm currently involved in are:
a) I'm the lead (volunteer) designer and fabricator for the free public food shelter project in Atlanta Free99Fridge and have built 6 shelters that are managed by a team of volunteers that clean / fill the shelters each day. each shelter feeds dozens of people / families in need each day.
b) I'm a (volunteer) art and educational program manager for The Bakery Atlanta, which is a multi-use community space in Atlanta.
c) I'm the (volunteer) technical producer for Nourish Botanica (formerly Nourishinblack), which is a project that centers storytelling, healing, and land reparations for Black farmers in Atlanta.
There are many more projects that i'm involved in & will be happy to share with people who take my class! Notice how i noted all those roles i play are "(volunteer)"? i do a lot of work "for free", but while i may not be making any money on these projects myself, the value of my efforts have created so many opportunities for growth and stability for many people and organizations, so i view that as the collective "payoff".
Some might say that governments tend to welcome “mutual aid” initiatives because it means that the population takes care of its own needs and problems. This might also mean that governments take advantage of communities doing all the work and defund aid programs. Is this something that worries you?
Honestly, the way our federal and state (even city) governments function in the US, it is extremely inaccessible/difficult to start a mutual aid project and sustain its growth without compromising some of the core components of mutual aid networks - including: issues with hierarchical leadership, corporate "charitable" giving, and so many other things.
I would go as far to say that the US federal (state and cities included) government actively sabotages mutual aid projects as an insidious form of social control that maintains the inequitable class systems that we are forced to live in. For example, in the city of Atlanta, it is illegal to hand out free food to homeless (unhoused) people. You will be issued a citation if you are caught doing this! It's so ridiculous! We are able to get around this issue with Free99Fridge because all of our food shelters are located on private properties outside of restaurants / bars that want to support our project.
In the past 3 years, I've actively started traveling to other countries (mostly EU countries) and have been astonished at the level of basic care that these governments provide their people compared to the US.
The class will critically analyze a lot of these inequalities & systems of social control as a way to help students understand & give direction to how they can efficiently tackle problems in contemporary society.
Modelling for Mutual Aid takes place 20. Feb- 20. Mar. To reserve your spot visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/modelling-for-mutual-aid-tickets-134402297891
13 January 2021