Who We Are
Covid-19 Mutual Aid – Seattle is a completely grassroots, volunteer-run formation predominantly co-led by queer femmes of color who live our lives within the communities who we are working to support. Our practice of mutual aid is connected to struggle, to resisting white supremacy, to supporting BIPOC youth protesters on the streets who keep us inspired and on point, and to building the world that we dream of. For us, the political struggle and mutual aid are inseparable. We are not your white liberal philanthropy. We are invested in building new, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, pro-worker, pro-disability justice, abolitionist, liberated ways of thriving in loving coexistance. Our distribution model is built on trust and self-stated need, and made possible through a non-hierarchical web of individuals working in service of the greater collective. We know that neoliberal individualistic public health hurts us all. We work to provide diverse support to our communities most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the winter of 2020, local organizers with PARISOL (Pacific Rim Solidarity) became aware of the great material and financial support needed in Wuhan, China as a result of the novel coronavirus. While they quickly began mobilizing support, the message they received back from grassroots Chinese community organizers was clear: the Covid-19 pandemic was going to affect us all. Direct your organizing efforts towards mutual aid in your local community.
With this in mind, numerous grassroots organizers and community members came together who, for years, had been collaborators on initiatives including No New Youth Jail, Block the Bunker, Undocumented & Unafraid and workplace organizing efforts. Together, we formed Covid-19 Mutual Aid – Seattle, and joined a rapidly growing, international ecosystem of mutual aid groups. As our Seattle network has grown and strengthened, networks from around the globe have reached out about how to establish mutual aid coalitions in their own locales.
As the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded, government and non-profit organizations holistically failed to respond at the scale and speed necessary. It was Covid-19 Mutual Aid – Seattle who questioned the true public health crisis and who was at risk to be most negatively impacted. The collective thinking was clear: those who are most impacted by structural oppression — BIPOC, the working class, sex workers, disabled folks, and detained and incarcerated individuals — would be hit the earliest and hardest and considered the least.
In partnership with our wider community, Covid-19 Mutual Aid – Seattle got to work planning our collective response. Driven by our interest in alleviating the various burdens on workers, especially undocumented workers and those in precarious workplaces, we formed work groups around horizontal mutual aid (financial, material, and mental/emotional support), workplace organizing, and making demands on existing systems around testing, resource distribution, and abolitionist public health.
How We Do Our Work
Aspects of our work have shifted, as has the pandemic, with the recognition that with evolving circumstances comes changing needs. Through and through, our work has remained committed to centering those most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, those continuously most impacted by structural oppression.
The Revolution Will Be Fed
In March of 2020, we launched our online Covid-19 Request Support Form, encouraging folks to let us know how they could best receive community support. By the end of May we had received nearly 2,500 requests, with the vast majority of folks requesting grocery/supply deliveries, financial assistance, and rental assistance. We also received over 4,200 offers of direct aid, including offers to purchase groceries and transport groceries / supplies. Our team of volunteers got to work fulfilling requests, prioritizing folks who were sick, quarantined without pay, elderly, undocumented, LGBTQI and BIPOC. Regional and language (Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Chinese, Tigrinya, and Amharic) work groups were created. As the summer continued, we realized we needed to transition to a more collective response.
Since March, the Vietnamese group has fulfilled over 1,400 requests to over 600 families. In addition, we partnered with other organizations – ACRS, United Way, and Lifelong – to support enrollment, delivery, and general programming for weekly delivery of groceries and/hot meals to over 500 elders and families.
Since July 2020, the Spanish language grocery group with Covid-19 Mutual Aid began collaborating with Uprooted & Rising – Seattle and South King County Mutual Aid to organize Community Pantries / Despensas Comunitaria, to support BIPOC communities in South King and Skagit County, so our people could have access to nutritious and culturally relevant food. Since its inception we’ve collaborated with BIPOC farms and 300 volunteers, to feed over 600 families. Our collaboration demonstrates that a sustainable future is possible, and that it exists through anti-oppressive, joy-inducing, and nutritious community pantries.
BIPOC communities in Washington State were experiencing food scarcity before the pandemic, and Covid19 intensified this inequality. Instead of bouncing back to the previous system, we’re addressing major flaws in the food nexus: the racism and anti-blackness associated with food desserts, abuse of migrant workers, wage inequality, health disparities, and environmental pollution.
Our long term goal is for our BIPOC communities to achieve food sovereignty. In order to achieve this, our short-term goals are: to build immediate collective support for families experiencing food scarcity, connect our community to local BIPOC farmers; and thus, divest from corporations that deepen the socio-economic gap. Covid-19 Mutual Aid – Seattle has put more than $40,000 towards fulfilling general individual grocery / supply requests, supporting the ongoing organizing work to deliver weekly groceries to Vietnamese elders and families, and to build out the community pantries.
The #FreeThemAll campaign is the abolitionist public health work group of Covid-19 Mutual Aid. The formation brings together formerly incarcerated people, family members with loved ones in DOC custody and community members to advocate alongside currently incarcerated BIPOC people for their health and well being while in DOC custody. Our vision of mutual aid combines resource redistribution with political organizing, coming up against institutions that endanger our collective health. We recognize that the historical patterns of anti-Blackness and white supremacy which are the foundation of the prison system in the US have only expanded during this pandemic.
We draw upon the years of organizing that cultural groups such as the Black Prisoners’ Caucus (BPC), the Asian and Pacific Islander Cultural Awareness Group (APICAG), the Native Circle and Nuestro Grupo Culturale (NGC) have built over the years. We understand that the historical trauma that BIPOC communities experience due to the state violence of incarceration is often minimized and made invisible by the powers that be. #FreeThemAll has undertaken the challenge of community organizing during covid and have planned creative direct action campaigns and offered mutual aid funds to dozens of impacted families to mitigate the often invisibilized emotional and financial burdens of having loved ones incarcerated in the midst of this pandemic under the negligence and violence of the prison system.
Survival Fund for the People
On March 10th, we created the “Survival Fund for the People” through GoFundMe which has been shared widely and generously supported by hundreds of donors.
Throughout the summer, it became clear that the Covid-19 pandemic — and its various impacts — was going to be long lasting and that it was necessary for us to build sustainable, long-term support systems. With this in mind, we pivoted much attention to administering a community-driven, community-serving financial distribution infrastructure. With one hand, we continued fundraising in our communities. With the other, we used a similar request submission process as our initial Covid-19 Request Support Form, through which community members in King and Pierce counties submitted requests for financial support. Through community, we were able to translate the form into 11 languages. Within hours we received over 400 applications.
We distributed money through the “beehive method,” a system that combined the efforts of a core organizing group with numerous distribution volunteers (individuals who were willing to temporarily receive funds and redistribute them to community members in need). This model was inspired by this fund. To date, we have raised and distributed over $450,000 through this community-supported infrastructure. While the majority of recipients have been individuals and families, we have also distributed funding to grassroots oriented organizations such as Community 2 Community, La Resistencia, and Yakima farm workers, who have in turn redistributed money to their community members. We have supported multiple local solidarity projects, including making and sending medicinal teas for elders in the Navajo Nation, purchasing masks for distribution to undocumented and Native community, and multiple fundraising efforts to support local Black, Native and undocumented youth and families.
Fierce Undocumented Youth Self-Organizing: Super Familia
Over this Fall and through the Winter, a grassroots group of undocumented youth (@unaccompaniedyouth_mutualaid) have self-organized to protect each other and push back against exploitation by non-profits. We aim to provide sustained support to their powerful, grassroots organizing. They have laid out plans for a “Centro de Jovenes no acompañadxs / Unaccompanied Youth Center” where other community members can support with resources (link for support form here, Venmo: @super_familia). In their own words, “The Unaccompanied Youth Center is NOT a non-profit. We are a completely grassroots, volunteer-run group led by Unaccompanied Youth in Washington State. The Unaccompanied Youth Center is part of our current ongoing Mutual Aid and Abolitionists efforts in Washington State. We, as unaccompanied minors, are tired of being forgotten by our community and the current existing systems. We are fighting detention, exploitation, deportations, and the lack of support after we reach the age of 18. As Undocumented Youth, we will push for a movement that’s led by us, where our suffering WILL NOT be used to benefit the non-profit industrial complex.”
Over 700 individuals and families have been the recipients of $500 each in survival funds. Among those who self-reported information around age, income, documentation status, race/ethnicity, disability, LGBTQIA identity and if they were a farmworker, we have the following picture of who has received funds thus far. The numbers below do not reflect all of the resource distribution we have been part of, however, it is a realistic sample.
AGE (reported by 482 applicants): 5.4% (26) were under the age of 18, 25.7% (124) were between 18-29 years old, 50.8% (245) were between 30-49 years old, 16.8% were between 50-69 years old, and 1.2% (6) were over the age of 70 years old.
INCOME (reported by 459 applicants): 76.2% (350) reported they had no source of income. Many of those who did indicate they were receiving an income stated that the income was fixed (SSI) and / or not enough.
ABILITY TO RECEIVE BENEFITS (reported by 475 applicants): 70.7% (336) reported that they did not qualify for governments or were afraid to try to apply for benefits. Among those that reported they did qualify for benefits, many reported the quantity was not enough and was not coming soon enough.
DOCUMENTATION: 211 applicants were undocumented and we know this number is likely larger because many people are afraid to disclose documentation status.
LANGUAGE: The fund application was translated into 11 languages. 294 applicants filled out the application in a language other than english. Of those applicants, 98.0% (288) responded in spanish. We also received several applications in Thai, Tigrinya, and Somali.
BIPOC: We reserved the fund for BIPOC individuals and families, among the 589 applicants who reported race/ethnicity, 27.5% (162) reported being Black, 26.1% (154) reported being Indigenous, and 3.2% (19) reported being Pacific Islander. Many applicants reported multiple, intersectional identities, such as being both Black and Indigenous.
DISABILITY: 22 applicants were disabled and we know this number is likely larger because many people are afraid to disclose or do not feel believed / recognized.
LGBTQIA: 30 applicants were LGBTQIA and we know this number is likely larger because many people are afraid to disclose their sexuality and / or gender identity.
FARMWORKERS: 46 applicants reported being farmworkers.
We are facing an unprecedented public health crisis as we pass 400,000 covid related deaths in the United States. Families and our communities are struggling. In the midst of an economic and political crisis, it is our mutual aid and support for each other that will get us through. Covid-19 Mutual Aid – Seattle has supported hundreds of families, many of whom are already most impacted by structural oppression, including: QTBIPOC, undocumented folks who lack access to state resources, and people impacted by incarceration and detention (DOC, ICE). Our work supports those who fall through the cracks of formal non-profit and state services.
We can not do this work without robust community support. As we head into the Covid-19 surge that is expected to accompany the winter months, we are asking for your help. Please take a moment to donate if you have the capacity and resources. No donation is too small to be impactful to someone else. Work with us as, together, we build new systems of community care.
We are honored to work with many local organizations, some of which include:
Asian Counseling and Referral Services (ACRS): https://acrs.org
API Chaya: https://www.apichaya.org/
Community 2 Community: http://www.foodjustice.org/
Community Queens :
Decrim Seattle : https://www.instagram.com/decrimseattle/
FIGHT (Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together): http://fightwa.org/
Freedom Project: https://secure.lglforms.com/form_engine/s/ykMsKAkRNcY3hihoDM79Ow
Free Them All:
Gathering Roots: https://gatheringroots.org/
King County Equity Now: https://www.instagram.com/kingcountyequitynow/
La Resistencia: http://laresistencianw.org/
La Voz de Auburn: https://www.facebook.com/VozAuburn
Lifelong Chicken Soup Brigade: https://www.lifelong.org/chicken-soup-brigade
Mutual Aid Books – Seattle: https://www.instagram.com/mutualaidbooks/
Native Circle: https://www.facebook.com/thenativecircle/
No New Youth Jail: https://nonewyouthjail.com/
Nuestro Grupo Cultural
PARISOL (Pacific Rim Solidarity): https://www.facebook.com/parisolseattle
Queer The Land: https://queertheland.org/
Rooted Reentry: Rooted Re-Entry Collective is a community-led collective of people with lived experience with mass incarceration and other abolitionists who are working to secure comprehensive resources for loved ones returning home during the pandemic.
South King County & Eastside Mutual Aid: https://www.instagram.com/skc_e_mutual_aid/
TWOCSN (Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network): https://www.facebook.com/TWOCSolidarityNW/
Uprooted and Rising: https://www.uprootedandrising.org/