In his pamphlet Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During this Crisis, writer and lawyer Dean Spade said: “Left social movements have two big jobs right now. First, we need to organize to help people survive the devastating conditions unfolding every day. Second, we need to mobilize hundreds of millions of people for resistance so we can tackle the underlying causes of these crises.”
There is no shortage of crises in the state of New Jersey. Recorded cases of COVID are at over 200,000 with no signs of stopping, as the state government seems to be giving no hints at taking serious steps to close establishments and halt the spread. Our employment rate is standing at 11.1%, a rate that does not include underemployed workers who can’t make ends meet or undocumented people who are not included in official government counts. Fair Share Housing predicted that there can be over 300,000 evictions after the COVID moratorium. There is proof that help from the federal government is not coming soon and so New Jerseyans are turning to each other for what we need most. Politically, our liberal leadership is doing very little to advocate for us in Washington, ignoring key ways to save us from the pandemic like a full and robust Medicare for All program.
Northern New Jersey DSA’s Mutual Aid Working Group (MAWG) is excited about how some of our projects are evolving to meet the needs of our communities, bringing new people into socialist organizing and changing with the constant twist-and-turns of a new pandemic world. Here are some of our on-going projects and if you’re interested in getting involved, please join us in the fight for a fair and equal world.
Ramapough Lenape Solidarity Project
The Turtle Clan of The Ramapough Munsee has suffered from severe health issues for the last 56 years caused by the illegal dumping in the late 60s and early 70s from Ford Motor Company. Munsee Three Sisters Medicinal Farm in Newton has taken on the responsibility of growing traditional medicines, foods, and healthy vegetables to combat this environmental injustice. Chief Mann, who runs the farm with Michaeline Picaro, says that the “goal is to provide fresh food to our communities and to also be able to provide much needed jobs as well as cultural restoration and physical as well as spiritual well-being.” Our working group has been providing both monetary and labor support on the farm. Just recently we raised over $6,000 on Indigenous People’s Day to help buy a chicken coop and irrigation system for their greenhouse. Volunteers from DSA have also helped prepare soil for compost, pull weeds, harvest potatoes, and prepare garlic seeds for planting.
About two dozen members from our Mutual Aid Working Group, along with many other participants in the coalition project met with Chief Mann and Michaeline at the farm this past Saturday. We heard a lot about the colonial injustices the Munsee people have faced over the centuries, and the eco-violence they’ve faced over the last 50 from the Ford Motor Corporation. Chief Mann talked about their plans for the future–a vision of healing, regrowth, sustainability, and a responsibility to the community. We heard about his political strategies, both in terms of navigating and combating capital and the state, but also in terms of building dual power and the networks of seed trade, and skill building, and resource sharing. If the Turtle Clan is going to recover from Ringwood, there’s going to need to be major land reclamation efforts, as well as a community effort to heal and sustain itself. He also shared with us some beautiful music, words, and moments.
It’s important to give land acknowledgements and to demand “Land Back” for indigenous peoples, but this project is an attempt at actualizing it. As we organize on unceded Munsee Lenape land, we must ensure to keep a solidarity ethic in our organizing and maintain a commitment to justice, autonomy, and sovereignty to indigenous people.
Brick City Mutual Aid
Brick City Mutual Aid (BCMA) is a mass member mutual aid group based in Newark and supported through the MAWG. Members are a mix of non-DSA Newark residents and MAWG members. We focus on raising funds to buy and deliver groceries, as well as assist folks with critical expenses. Every month, BCMA hosts a food distribution in downtown Newark where we share homemade food and resources with community members—directing folks to unemployment help, naloxone and harm reduction, housing resources, and lit on police abolition. BCMA also has begun to move into a partnership with the Newark Water Collective to provide clean water to Newark families. We also look forward to holding know-your-rights trainings for renters rights and immigrant’s rights as well as distributing zine guides for both. Because BCMA is a mass member organization, if you’re interested in joining please fill out the following form.
Our survival is collective. Our liberation is collective. Distributing resources, information, skills, our labor, and our care is how we build a base to advance other organizing. We must nourish each other if we want to have the strength to build a better world as we fight the injustices of the old one.
A new collaboration between Solidarity JC, MAWG and BCMA to have a free market in downtown Jersey City this past weekend. Free markets are based on the idea that sharing is better than owning. We have all we need to support each other and even all we need to give each other joy. We plan on doing the next event in Newark and we’re excited to see where a partnership between two city mutual aid groups means for the future!
More than anything, mutual aid is required to build a future where our communities are shielded from the harms of capitalism. In an essay on mutual aid in the beginning of the pandemic, New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino wrote: “There are those who will want to return to normal after this crisis, and there are those who will decide that what was regarded as normal before was itself the crisis.” We do not have to continue to give capitalists the power to create crisis and then sell themselves as the best solution. For the working-class people of New Jersey, every day their labor is exploited is a day in crisis. We only have each other and if we organize towards community power, we can stop the cycle here. Join us.