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  • Writer's pictureHugh Manatee

Mutual Aid: What it Means and Why it Matters

While most are aware of the pertinent issues that are affecting people's livelihoods today, such as wealth disparities, houselessness, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are unaware of how they can provide for others. As we plan for long-term change, we must also take measures to assist people in the short term.

In his book, “Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity through this Crisis (and the Next),” Dean Spade outlines why mutual aid is crucial. First, it enables people to meet their needs when institutions fail. Second, it facilitates a shared understanding that our current system is insufficient to address the issues like those previously mentioned. We can see how mutual aid has played a pivotal role in our society in the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. During the uprising, people offered support to protestors and helped bail people out of prison.

Mutual aid promotes a collectivist society by encouraging compassion and solidarity. In addition, it can take on many forms. When we talk about housing, mutual aid can mean giving people what they need to afford their rent. It can also mean offering money, clothing, and food to those requesting those forms of support. Mutual aid allows people to practice self-determination by giving them resources without strings attached. Furthermore, it fosters connections between people and builds community.

You might now be wondering, “How can I contribute?” Luckily, now that we live in a digital age, it is easier than ever for people to reach out to one another through social media.

By following @peoplesparkberkeley, you can stay up-to-date with mutual aid requests for People's Park and what the community is looking for at the moment. Another resource that you might want to take advantage of is Berkeley Mutual Aid, part of the Berkeley Disaster Prep Neighborhood Network. On the Berkeley Mutual Aid website, you have the opportunity to request or offer help in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their GoFundMe, “Keep Berkeley Mutual Aid Running,” is designed to raise money to fund its support services. You can also donate produce, bottled water, pantry staples, and prepared meats to Town Fridge or send them money through PayPal to help supply food to their network of free food fridges around Oakland.

Ultimately, mutual aid is a practice that benefits the whole of society. When the systems in power cannot adequately serve the most vulnerable members of our community, we must step in to better respond to crises now and in the future.

If you are a student looking to meet housing needs, look at the Basic Needs Center for more information on finding housing.

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