Mutual Aid: “To decentralise itself into non-existence”

Nando Alvarez/Mutual Aid Disaster Relief

In solidarity, we share a mutual aid story, a video testimonial of the Mutual Aid Disaster Relief Richmond, Virginia.

We and You and So Many Others: A Story of MAD RVA and Mutual Aid in Richmond, VA

WHO ARE WE?

We are a solidarity network of community members and organizations working together in Richmond, Virginia to help each other.

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief Richmond, or MAD RVA, aims to create a support system in response to COVID-19 and the effects it has had on Richmonders, including supply shortage, job losses and quarantine. We operate collectively and are primarily functioning as a supply delivery for folks who cannot access medicine, food and other vital goods. We have also just launched a mini-grants program and are developing other supports, forming partnerships across community and demanding policy shifts towards equity and social justice while navigating the undetermined timeline of effects on our community.

Use this site to become a part of the network: request supplies and financial support, offer your goods and services, donate needed items and funds, and dedicate your time to community mutual aid.

(From the website of MAD RVA, where donations to the endeavour can also be made).

We share a statement of the “core values” of the Mutual Aid Disaster Relief network of the united states …

Mutual Aid

Voluntary, reciprocal, participatory assistance among equals and being with, not for, disaster survivors.

Solidarity not charity!

Disaster survivors themselves are the first responders to crisis; the role of outside aid is to support survivors to support each other. The privileges associated with aid organizations and aid workers–which may include access to material resources, freedom of movement, skills, knowledge, experience, and influence—are leveraged in support of disaster survivor’s self-determination and survival in crisis, and their long-term resilience afterwards, ultimately redistributing these forms of power to the most marginalized.

Self-determination

Individuals and communities impacted by disaster have the agency, ability, and power to make their own decisions and choices about their lives, recovery, and long-term resilience, without interference or coercion from outside forces.

Mandar obedeciendo and Subsidiarity

The Zapatista principle of mander obedeciendo– leadership from below– teaches that those who command positions of power, wealth, and influence should obey the direction of those with the least. The Catholic principle of subsidiarity teaches that the most effective decisions and actions take place at the level of those closest to the problem or most impacted by the solution. By embracing and applying these principles, disaster responders have a responsibility to center and elevate the leadership of disaster survivors, especially those in the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.

Decentralization and sharing of power within groups and communities reduces hierarchies and power imbalances within and between groups of people, enabling disaster survivors and responders to participate fully in rebuilding a better world together.

Autonomous Direct Action

Saving lives, homes, and communities in the event and aftermath of disaster may require taking bold action without waiting for permission from authorities. Disaster survivors themselves are the most important authority on just action.

Intersectionality

Historical and systemic forms of oppression and discrimination work together to make some people and groups more vulnerable to different types of disaster and during the rebuilding process. A just disaster response acknowledges, adapts to, and addresses the different needs, priorities, and perspectives of diverse disaster survivors.

Sustainability

Sustainable disaster recovery encompasses a respect for the intersectionality of all living systems, community norms and practices, as well as the distribution of knowledge about ecologically-sound and economically viable systems designs, which provide for their own needs and do not exploit or pollute. Skills training and upskilling are shared within the community and people are empowered to create or regenerate diverse, resilient communities that meet immediate ecological, economic, and social needs while increasing the health of human bodies, relationships, and the ecosystems in which they are embedded.

Dual Power

A strategy for the bottom-up transformation and replacement of existing institutions and mechanisms of society with self-organized counter-institutions. Disaster response that simultaneously opposes oppressive and exploitative structures while building alternative, prefigurative structures for collective liberation and resilience unites disparate elements of revolutionary and reformist movements and meets unmet needs without waiting until “after the revolution”.

Collective Liberation

In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free”. All struggles are intimately connected and movements must work together and share knowledge, power, and resources in order to bring about a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world free of any kind of unjust oppression of others or the earth.

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