by Alex Galván
Outreach and Family Engagement Administrator at Chicago HOPES for Kids
What is Mutual Aid?
Mutual aid is “cooperation for the sake of common good” – to put it simply. It is not charity, nor is it a way to “save” people, but instead an acknowledgement that, as people, our survival is dependent on one another, and it serves as a way to bring people together to meet each other’s needs.
During 2020, as government support for citizens remained scarce, communities across Chicago bound, and continue to bind, together to support one another. From providing cash assistance to those in the service industry through the Service Worker’s Support Fund, to delivering care packages for seniors through My Block, My Hood, My City, Chicagoans have shown dedication to showing up for one another.
Brief History of Mutual Aid
While COVID-19 heightened awareness around the use of mutual aid, mutual aid has been around for centuries, supporting communities that have often been failed by our systems of power. Bloomberg CityLab recently published a visual history of mutual aid, including organizations such as the Free African Society of 1787, The Ex-Slave Mutual Relief Bounty and Pension Association of 1896, and The Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast for Children Program – to name a few.
Why It Matters
In April of 2020, the U.S federal government issued stimulus checks in an effort to provide monetary support to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; however, this effort disproportionately excluded those most susceptible to the impacts of the pandemic. From the explicit exclusion of those who are undocumented, despite paying taxes, to simply failing to reach hard-to-reach populations, such as those experiencing homelessness, those with the least access to resources were left to turn to their communities for support.
How You Can Help
As the second round of stimulus checks are distributed, a number of folks will continue to be excluded from government support and mutual aid will continue to be vital to supporting our communities. See below for a list of mutual aid funds you can donate to:
American Indian Center Food Distribution
Asian Youth Services
Avondale Mutual Aid
Brave Space Alliance
Bronzeville Kenwood Mutual Aid
Feeding Chicago Families
Gage Park Latinx Council
Logan Square Mutual Aid
The Love Fridge
Rogers Park Food Not Bombs
Uptown Buena Park Solidarity Network
Want to build your own mutual aid network? Check out this toolkit, put together by congress woman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.