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Video: Hey Walmart! Respect the Workers!

Hey Walmart! Respect the Workers! from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

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Election Day, 2012

New York, NY–Recently someone asked me if it was true that most people that joined Occupy did so for “selfish” reasons, meaning their lost home, lack of steady employment or underutilized college degree. I told her I thought for some it might have started that way, but Occupy was a place where those people had encountered others like them, where they had built a community, and where they had come to understand that their personal grievances were tied to a larger structural failure.

These words now echo in my mind as I sit in the freezing darkness of the Rockaways, after less than a week of relief work with the communities here that were devastated by superstorm Sandy.

I’m sitting in the dark under the light of a tiny flashlight writing from the second floor of my beloved friend Heather’s house. I hear the buzzing of an infinite line of ambulances brought from all over the country by FEMA as they burn precious gas outside waiting in line to evacuate seniors from a nursing home in preparation for a new storm coming our way tomorrow.

I still remember all the work we put into fixing up this house when my friend decided to move out here last summer. I took the long train ride out here a couple of times to help her rip off carpeting, tweeze out staples from the floor, stop by the beach for a quick swim and then back to painting walls and building a library. So much work went into making this house a home.

Today I walked in surrounded by total darkness, to find myself in an emptied out living room. Around the corner, a hub of kindness and solidarity has been built in the last few days as Occupy Sandy Relief set up shop in order to put words into action and show what mutual aid really looks like.

It almost sounds unnecessary to recount the myriad encounters of the last few days, and the stories that accompany the flood of strangers that have become brothers and sisters in this enormous effort. I don’t want to fetishize their need or glorify our instinctive desire to lend a hand.

I just came out here to help my friend clean her house after the strong winds and high waters battered it, my friends from Occupy just happened to be around the corner.

Perhaps it’s just that the personal is political. Always. Blah, blah, blah.

I could hardly care less who my overlords are by tomorrow.

All I know is, there’s a storm coming tomorrow, and I need to make sure everyone is safe and warm.

-Sofia Gallisa Muriente-

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From mutual aid to mutual inspiration

I was a bit freaked out about this storm on the night before it hit, which increased as the hours passed and I followed my bud @occuweather’s tweets regarding the storm. Having come through the storm with minimal roof damage and a leak, I started checking in with family and friends to ensure they were fine.

I got a call mid-morning on Tuesday from two awesome friends and fellow occupiers, Laura and Diego, who needed help locating shelters and hubs in Red Hook and Rockaways since those areas were horribly hit by the storm. I had power and was ready to do what I could. I had no clue how I would find places, so I started with Red Cross Locations as locations. I had a dry erase board that I planted on the ground and started listing shelters by borough and plugging in these places with cross-streets on a document. I got FEMA number and info for Spanish-speaking people as well. Keeping in contact with both Laura and Diego, I sent this information to them. They printed and canvassed areas to provide information door to door to anyone who needed it.

This sent me on a whirlwind of an adrenaline-fueled anxiety rush that intensified as I kept seeking information. I decided I had to use what I could to get the information out to anyone I was connected to about shelters and FEMA and any details that would be helpful. It dawned on me that I needed to send out information to people regarding New Jersey. I tried to get verification from friends and family of what conditions were like where they lived or had family, and many couldn’t respond, which I confirmed later was due to loss of power. I still kept posting on Twitter and Facebook, the information I could and thought would be of use.

More and more Occupiers began plugging into the group of people trying to mobilize efforts to reach out to all the communities that were in desperate need of water, food, and basic supplies. Reports kept coming in about Barrier areas in New Jersey and then NYC and the other boroughs. I was so overwhelmed and felt hopeless that all I could do was gather info and post, update and tweet out. All forms of transportation were shut down and I was home with my son, hoping to shield him from the hurricane porn and my own panic over the destruction this storm had caused.

In what seemed to be less than 24hours Occupy Wall Street morphed into @OccupySandy and I was tuned into the hyper speed network from an angle I had never experienced. Once the group found the ability to tackle efforts for NJ, I began gathering more info to assist with this aspect, which is now called @OccupySandyNJ. It was a bit easier to gather data since I have family and friends in different areas of NJ, and I used them as sources of information. I was connecting w lots of people through Facebook that were and still are working toward a common goal of making sure the communities that could be reached had or could attain what they lost in the storm. I got super addicted and was sleeping 3hours a night for the first five days after the storm. Being part of how this came to be this wonderful efficient expanded system of #mutualaid still amazes me and baffles me because it was so rapid.

At the first opportunity to get out on the ground and canvass areas that were possibly hardest hit I headed south on a train and met other occupiers who were ready to push this through for NJ with me.
Fast forward to today. We have multiple hubs in NYC and the boroughs and NJ has Hubs and great connections in at least 7 communities with countless drop off zones all over the state. I am currently the connection for the central hub in Newark NJ, which runs 24/7, feeding large groups and accepting donations from everywhere, which the entire community in Newark comes to in order to begin the process of putting their lives together.

The stories of empowerment that we hear on our nightly conference calls, through twitter and on Facebook keep fuelling me to push through. I have never been so proud and equally amazed at the occupy community that I belong to. I am extremely humbled by the people within the communities I grew up in because of how we have banded together to defeat the threat and devastation this storm posed on our lives. It has manifested into #mutualinspiration. It has been a gift to be so involved in this effort because knowing how this all came to fruition and that the beauty of humanity is continually winning in the face of devastation, gives me hope that my son will inherit a community full of humanitarian support, interdependence, and above all LOVE!

-Katherine Ramos-
@LatinaAnarchist

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Digging in at Jacobi, Digging out Far Rockaway

In my time with the occupy movement, I’ve been a part of hundreds of conversations about the ‘future’ of the movement and tiring debates about what direction to go next. These conversations and debates have often been fraught with disagreement and hot tempers, and most of the time end in frustration or too many proposals tabled for discussion. Its funny how sometimes the things you don’t and can’t plan for are the things that force you to pivot and change direction.

As “Superstorm” Sandy came ashore, I really did not expect it to do as much damage as it did. I’m from Miami – I’ve been through countless hurricanes (and even Irene in New York) and had chocked up the hype around this storm to the usual fear-mongering of the media machine. I experienced the storm seated at my computer, intermittently checking social media websites to see what was going on. When I started seeing photos of a flooded lower Manhattan, videos of power stations exploding and cranes precariously dangling from skyscrapers, I began to understand that the repercussions of this storm were going to be on a grand scale. I was proven correct the next day as more pictures of the devastation in Far Rockaway, Coney Island, Staten Island and other affected areas starting cropping up online. Personally, I never lost power and my neighborhood of Jackson Heights was left relatively unscathed by the storm. But I knew that in other parts of the city, people had lost everything. And I wanted to help.

I was elated as murmurings began in my many occupy email lists of a occupy-led relief effort, but when I went down to one of the main distribution hubs in Sunset Park, Brooklyn for the first time I was truly blown away. I spent the day today sorting donations, answering questions, directing traffic and generally running around like crazy. The stream of donations was constant; even as we were leaving, two U-Hauls were pulling up full of more stuff. Occupiers (READ: not FEMA or the Red Cross) were coordinating the distribution of these goods to the worst affected areas in NYC AND sending hundreds of volunteers to these sites to provide relief. While one group is helping a family gut their flooded basement in Far Rockaway, another is going door to door on Coney Island checking if folks are ok and delivering supplies. The sheer human effort at work here is breathtaking, reminiscent of the ‘good ol’ days’ (a little over a year ago) at Liberty Square. This is a people-powered recovery. We’re going where the institutions are not – hell they are giving us supplies to distribute!

A week after volunteering at Jacobi, I had the opportunity to go down and help first-hand in Far Rockaway. This time I was also blown away, not as much by organizational work going on, but by seeing this shattered community come together to recover. After checking in at YANA (which stands for You Are Never Alone, a community center acting as Occupy’s hub in the Rockaways), I went down to Beach 60th Street, right where water meets land. Here the boardwalk had been ripped apart and lay strewn on the beach and on the street. Directly across from it, houses were practically buried in 4 to 6 feet of sand that had washed up during the storm. In fact, most of these streets were absolutely inundated with tons and tons of sand. It wasn’t exactly what I thought I was going to see upon going out there. I was ready for mangled houses and moldy basements, but seeing the piles and piles of sand everywhere – and the hundred or so people with shovels and wheel barrows engaging in the Sisyphean feat of digging it out – really took me back. I thought about the people here and what it must be like to have every single possession washed away, but I also thought a lot about the utter power of nature. How quickly it had reclaimed this tiny barrier island and essentially shut it down.

After a few hours of working with both volunteers from outside and community members, the sun began to set and we were advised to leave before ‘the darkness.’ As I got back into the bus that brought me out there and prepared to leave, I looked back at all the people who lived here that didn’t have that option. They would face another long, cold night at the edge of New York City and of the media’s consciousness. I was exhausted after a laborious day moving sand around, but I had a heated, lighted home to return to. These people had no where to go but back to their cold, damp, dark houses. After over 2 weeks, they’re still living in these conditions – powerless, both in the electrical and political sense of the word. There are many beautiful moments of solidarity and kinship happening every minute here, but there is also a lot of work yet to be done.

-Danny Valdes-

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VIDEOS: Two Updates from the Rockaways

These videos, by Kisha Bari, were featured at How Sandy Hit Rockaway.In each, a resident describes the difficulties they and their community has faced at receiving aid from governmental organizations after Hurricane Sandy struck.

More than one week has passed, and still this woman has not heard from any kind of agency or aid organisation on how to find help in Far Rockaway.

Mr Turner describes how difficult it is for him to get aid in Rockaway.

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Rockaway is a war-zone

I was lucky enough to get a tour of the devastation of the Rockaways from resident Josmar Trujillo who writes “Walking around the Rockaways today was a weird contrast seeing the ugliness of the disaster and the overwhelming rebuilding left to do; and the beauty of seeing people from Jersey, Westchester, Long Island and even Connecticut providing hot meals for my community. Met a 9/11 first responder who walks around with an oxygen tank to breathe who had organized a caravan of 30+ cars full of neighbors and friends who brought hot food and coffee for Rockaway. Never in my life have a felt such a mix of extreme emotions… that and the war-zone sight of it all is so fuckin’ surreal.”

I totally agree, and for someone that was out of town, and missed the worst of the devastation caused by Sandy, its hard to believe people when they say “things are a lot better now” and “you should have seen it right after the storm”. And by the way, we witnessed hundreds of people STILL relying on hot meals and food and clothing donations provided by the dozens of volunteers that came from all across the NY state area

-Jaisal Noor-

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Helping Out at Sunset Park

New York, NY–I made my way to Sunset Park last Sunday.  It only took 2 hours by subway from Washington Heights.  I helped St. Gertrude’s get set up as a resource center.  Worked with an incredible group of people who turned the auditorium from a mud-filled flood zone into an incredible resource for the community offering food, clothing, cleaning supplies, etc.  Thanks to Cathleen for driving us to and from St. Jacobis.  Had been watching the news all week from my dry spot in Washington Heights.  Had to do something.  Many thanks to Occupy Sandy group for their awesome organizing.  Will be back to help on Monday Nov 12th, Veterans Day in honor of my dad Mike, a WWII vet who passed away almost one year ago.  He never turned down a request to help a friend, neighbor or family member.

-Tina-

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Mutual Aid is a Social Relationship

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on the author’s blog and is republished here with permission.

Author’s Note: If you’re looking to lend some love and mutual aid in post-hurricane NY and NJ, look no further than http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/. And even if you don’t end up pitching in through Occupy Sandy Relief, the fantastic and fantastical legacy of Occupy last year, it’ll lead you — as it did for me today — to other sites of marvelous mutual aid. Here’s one story, amid so many right now.

*  *  *

Midafternoon on November 9th, I headed over to the new Occupy Sandy Relief distro site for Red Hook at 83 14th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Brooklyn to lend a hand for a bit. On my short walk there, I thought how the Occupy dream, which had turned into a nightmare for so many of us, was now not only persisting but in fact transforming into something far more dreamlike than any of us could have imagined a year ago — a self-styled and effective “hegemonic” force in what mutual aid looks like and indeed is all about, in sharp contrast to “The Persistence of Dystopia” in the wake of Hurricane Sandy for some many in New York and New Jersey.

When I arrived at the new Red Hook Occupy Sandy Relief distro site, a gaggle of what appeared to be mainstream reporters with cameras, microphones, and little regard for anything except themselves were jostling to film a donation delivery out front. Inside, though, I found three incredibly nice folks, clearly just getting this new site set up. I asked if they needed help, but they said that the weekend would be better; it would get busy when folks came in to pick up material aid. They needed to organize things first so as to better integrate other volunteers into this space.

“I’m involved with an archive fairly close by, but won’t be there tomorrow,” I said. “How about Monday?” “Do you have a car?” asked one, and then without pausing, answered his own question, “No, I doubt it. Probably just a bike, huh? We need cars for deliveries.” “Do you have a laptop?” inquired another, who seemed the point person here. I affirmed that I did, and the response was, “Great! Could you bring that on Monday?” They then bent over their own computer, after handing me a whiteboard to write down my name, number, email, and availability.

“Did you say you’re an archivist?” they asked distractedly, staring at their laptop screen. “No,” I replied, “I’m an anarchist.” I instantly got a big smile and high-five from my new acquaintance. “Cool! I’ve never heard of that archive. What is it?” When I explained it was an independent space filled with social movement cultural production more for us than preservation — cultural ephemera like zines, posters, films, books, stickers, banners, buttons, T-shirts, audiotapes, periodicals, and more — and that we did related events, they eagerly asked, “Do you have ACT UP materials, especially from Philly? ACT UP was amazing in Philly.” A minute later we discovered that we had both sublet the same apartment at different times in Philly at Fancy House, one of those anarchic collectively owned West Philly residences. “Can I hug you?” they beamed. Hugs are always good, especially since genuine ones, and I thought, what a lovely interconnected world we’re trying hard to create, by design and spontaneously, and how much even the most minor of mutual aid attempts leads, serendipitously, to reshaping social relations in micro ways. Macro ways, too, perhaps, as Occupy Sandy Relief seems to be doing. Again that sharp contrast: our cooperative, communitarian, egalitarian social relations against the cruel backdrop of the competitive, individualistic, imbalanced ones instilled by capitalism.

Back to the new Red Hook distro site: My new acquaintance mentioned that if I still wanted to help today, I could walk over to Coffey Park in Red Hook, where folks were supposedly setting up tents for another, outdoor distribution hub. So I trotted off in that direction, walking across toxic Gowanus Canal and snaking under an freeway menacing high overhead as toxic-smelling fumes wafted by, to see if mutual aid was indeed needed in the park a mile away.

The minute I got past canal and freeway, into Red Hook, I found what shouldn’t be a surprise — and yet … I found another poor neighborhood shit outta luck in “natural” disasters. It was as if Hurricane Sandy had struck the night before. I walked past someone pumping murky-muddy water out of a basement, then a corner store lit by candles, and then public housing projects still sans lights and heat. On reaching the park, there was no sign of tents or Occupy Sandy Relief but plenty of signs of suffering and devastation: downed trees & debris lingering, fowl-smelling air and toxic-looking muck on ground, ConEd workers trying to get electricity going again and “restoration” workers with masks/gloves on, homemade and bilingual signs about where to get help or when/if school would be open, and police. Lots and lots of police — doing nothing (which is maybe preferable to them doing something!). I saw two Red Cross trucks, one handing out a few supplies to a few people; the other seemingly just parked and serving no one. Nearby to this Red Cross van, there was a Warner Cable van and and two Warner Cable guys had set up a tent, with a well-made banner with the Warner Cable logo that also said “recharging station,” but no one was there, and they decided to pack up and drive away as I watched. Failed effort number two to offer some mutual aid.

I stood in the big, desolate park, in this big, abandoned (by state, capitalism, racism…) neighborhood, trying to decide what to do next. Hmm, I could walk the couple miles or more over to 520 Clinton to the big Occupy Sandy distribution hub to see if they needed volunteers (the photo at the start of this blog post is from that site; more on that later).

Then, in the near distance, I spied a big National Guard truck, its green camouflage paint job seeming like an insult directed at the bare-limbed park trees and many wind-torn branches. Next to it were three cops cars with their flashers going, along with a group of people, so I wandered over. Troops and cops had blocked a street off, and they were chatting among themselves in the middle of it, between camo truck and cop cars, flanked by a dumpster overflowing with hurricane trash. A crowd of neighborhood folks — mostly black and Latina moms with kids, pushing various ramshackle carts and strollers to fill with material aid and wheel home (home likely being a place without power) — was congregating around an open garage. Inside the garage, clean-cut, working-class-looking folks in T-shirts and sweatshirts were giving out gallon jugs of orange juice, big packs of bottled water, and canned goods. “Are you sure you don’t want some apples? Take as many as you want!” said one man to a bunch of moms, who peered into a massive cardboard box filled with fruit. The troops and cops seemed done chatting, and took their vehicles and themselves and drove off. I heard one of the garage folks mention that they were with Catholic Charities; I saw them and the moms all schmoozing, in English and Spanish, about the storm, their situations, their lives, while the kids ran around and played with each other, apples in hand. It almost appeared to be, simply, a neighborly street fest. No one seemed to notice the cops and troops leaving, nor seemed to have any need for them. Nor need for me. They had each other.

Strike out three. Back to, hmm, maybe walking over to 520 Clinton? I turned the corner, and saw severl woman with overflowing shopping carts of material aid, including stuff I knew wasn’t in that garage, and continued down the block and around another corner. It was then that I realized that the garage was the back side of a big cathedral-like church. A big truck arrived just as I did, and volunteers streamed out of the church, laughing and smiling, to unload paper towels, coats, water, and so much more. I walked up the church steps to go in, but before I could even get in the door, a cheerful woman said, “Can I help you?!” “Yes, hello, my name is Cindy. I’d like to volunteer. Do you need people?” She told me her name, shook my hand, and happily ushered me inside, “Do we need volunteers?! Yes, of course!”

There was, it was instantly clear, so much energy, enthusiasm, and initiative in whatever Red Hook church I had stumbled on in my search for an Occupy Sandy Relief site. And it was apparent that the Catholic Charities’ folks who had borrowed this church put anyone and everyone to work the minute they walked into the entryway—even godless anarcho-jews like me. First things first, though, before I was given a task. The woman who greeted me offered me warm food and coffee, and then gave me a thoroughly warm hello again. Most people were wearing nametags, but everyone introduced themselves to each other anyway, as she had to me.

There was no power, no water, and no heat in the church; a generator (or maybe more) were keeping the lights on, although only in targeted parts of the massive church. For folks pitching in at the church and probably just folks in the surrounding houses, also without power, water, or heat, port-o-lets were placed outside in a neat row. A bit later, someone asked me to break down cardboard from all the donation boxes and then take it outside, next to those port-o-lets, to a “garbage area,” where within minutes of me bringing out a bunch of scrap, a trash truck of some sort came and took it all away.

Inside the cavernous church, there were mountains of donations, first unloaded by the front door, and then carried into the enormous main sanctuary (if that’s the right word for it; “no gods, no masters, no correct religious vocabulary!”), and then divided into areas between by type, such as paper products, blankets and clothes, or “babyland,” “baby world,” or “baby island,” as it was variously called.

At first, I was put to work hauling in rolls and rolls of toilet paper to the paper area, and each time I did so, over dozens and dozens of trips, a guy organizing that area with self-directed efficiency said, “Thank you, thank you!” “Thank YOU!” I started replying each time. When I’d run out of toilet paper to deliver to him, he explained how he was trying to set up that area so that people could easily get four rolls each tomorrow, when there would likely be a big distro push. A woman brought him a bunch of sponges, and he redirected her to the household cleaning supplies area.

A friendly Catholic Charities woman than asked if I’d mind helping to sort diapers in babyland, and even though it was self-evident how to find that self-created area, she patted me on the back, thanked me, and walked me over, again asking if I needed food or coffee first. The baby products area included diapers, diaper wipes, and assorted baby stuff like powder, but for some mysterious reason (like the ol’ gender binary, I suspect) also tampons, “sanitary” pads, and shampoo, and then for good measure, toiletries like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and deoderant. But the diapers overwhelmed all else. One woman told me that she had taken it on herself to make order of the diaper chaos, and between her, myself, and another woman, within forty-five minutes, the mayhem became manageable.

Two other folks joined us. One was from Park Slope and the other from Bushwick; they said they were still shocked by how their neighborhoods were untouched and here, well… yes, it felt almost as if the hurricane had just hit. One told me that they had tried to lend a hand with an Occupy Sandy Relief site, but “because it is so big, doing so much, it’s harder to instantly plug in.” She didn’t say this as a criticism but rather as an observation. Her matter-of-fact explanation underscored for me how, for volunteers like her and so many others, mutual aid has proved to be the mainstay of how people are helping each other after Hurricane Sandy and the nor’easter; how longtime and large NGOs like Catholic Charities are now the little guys by comparison; and FEMA, the city, the police, the National Guard, “caring” capitalists, and other “from-above” people and institutions seem — and pretty much are — irrelevant (well, irrelevant in terms of offering help; dangerous and sometimes deadly in terms of most else). No one mentioned the standard “relief agencies” or city/state/federal officials that usually get associated with disasters. Instead, it was Occupy, or that “a friend” had told them about this church, or that they were already part of Catholic Charities (yet another friendly Catholic Charities’ woman came over to say good-bye to us, as she was leaving for the day, thank us yet again, and then offer her heartfelt “God bless you!”). The guy from Bushwick said that he’d been to DUMBO, and a fancy waterfront cafe where one of his friends work had been decimated by the hurricane. That cafe, he told me, “lost millions and millions,” and “will be closed for a year. They have insurance,” he observed. “I guess my friend is out of a job, though.” Her Park Slope friend remarked that she hadn’t thought of that at first — how even if big businesses she didn’t like and could afford it got destroyed, that meant lots of people making little money wouldn’t have jobs now. What about them? The Park Slope and Bushwick pair marveled at the profound unevenness of the destruction, relief, and reconstruction.

We were all getting overly involved in both chatting with each other and being super efficient, super organized. The first woman I’d met  — the diaper-organizer extraordinaire — commented that she was going to bring a big “organizer shelf” that she had at home to the church tomorrow, to make it even more clearly organized for the big distribution weekend and beyond. The Park Slope woman and her friend were putting together toiletry packets in ziplock bags, and she had determined that removing the boxes from toothpaste first meant fitting more toiletries in each baggy, so people would get more supplies in each ziplock when they came in. Plainly, there was plenty here, and plenty of need. We soon filled up a big cardboard box with smaller, glittery cardboard boxes extolling the virtues of each particular toothpaste — and I carted that outside to the garbage area. The third woman in our diaper-organizer crew realized that inserting pieces of paper indicating the diaper size in all the thousands of loose diapers she was sorting into plastic bags — a god-awful task, especially for someone like me who had no idea before today that disposable diapers came in so many different sizes! — so I found her some blank paper. She and another woman remarked that they didn’t have time to sort by color (blue and pink) or patterns (trucks or butterflies), but that likely the baby boys and baby girls wouldn’t care right now — or maybe they never notice.

The point here in all this mundane description is that the people in this church — and at so many other relief sites, growing little resilient weeds around NYC, the boroughs, and NJ — no matter who they were or why they had come to help, all seemed to proudly relish doing things well, in a way that would make easy sense when people came in to get material aid, and in a way that made the space itself feel tidy, friendly, and welcoming. Each person proudly relished their own innovations and self-organization along with the doing-it-together ourselves aspect. They wanted to bring dignity to their work and dignity to those who came in for needed supplies for homes without light, heat, or water. They wanted to treat each other as equals, as all doing a good job, as all needing to be thanked and all wanting to thank each other.

This and so much more is what, I think, gets lost when we use the phrase “mutual aid.” When it appears on banners, like the one pictured at this essay’s start: “Mutual Aid Not Charity,” even when we circle our A’s. The mundane usage of mutual aid as a term is simply an anarchistic version of charity (“we’re helping those people or that community, autonomously”) or a capitalistic version (it’s merely about reciprocity or more likely exchange, or a nicer version of quantitative aid). Its marvelous usage, and the one working at cross-purposes with state and capitalism, to paraphrase Peter Kropotkin, is the mutual aid that is cognizant of and reliant on its own self-organization; that is aware of the wholly egalitarian social relations it is forging explicitly against the wholly inegalitarian ones of the current social order; that is networked, grassroots, and confederated horizontally; that is about sharing, enjoying, and using spaces and things together in ways that highlight self-determination and self-management, even as we reappropriate and expropriate those spaces and things; and that sees each and every person (and the many animals impacted by this human-created disaster) as fully worthy, fully capable, in what John Holloway has labeled “a politics of dignity.”

I ended up in a good conversation about this with someone who shares work space at Interference Archive, David; he’s working on a dissertation about mutual aid, so we talked a good long while, interrupting both our projects for that day. The crux of our discussion, and what underpinned our numerous examples of what we both consider marvelous mutual aid, was: mutual aid is, and has to be, a social relationship — a profoundly different form than what capitalism tries so hard at socializing us into for the whole of our (then-miserable) lives, and succeeds so well at doing.

Wellness that warms the heart — or how folks in post-hurricane NY are prefiguring wholly new, healthy social relations through mutual aid, thanks to Occupy Sandy Relief self-organization. Fuck FEMA, Obama “Care,” and capitalism; “we got this.”

-Cindy Milstein-
@CindyMilstein

 

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Update from Cedar Grove, Staten Island

Thursday we will be riding into Cedar Grove in Staten Island with supplies and the arriving military tents. The community at Cedar Grove is in high spirits given the circumstances, most of which I’m sure was influenced by the amazing bike club the “hollowed sons,” who have been there since the day of the hurricane. After getting to know many of them and talking to them, I came to realize heir intentions, which weren’t very different from our own. These are our brothers, our sisters, our family, and we can’t sit around and wait for government agencies like FEMA and the Red Cross to get their shit together, if we did everyone would be in an even worse position. Don’t be fooled America, while you may see FEMA and the Red Cross on the news, they are not doing a damn thing. For example, the VP of the bike club was telling me how on the 3rd day after, they showed up and went straight to where media was filming people helping move things. Two FEMA officials were quickly put in the spot light to make it look like they were doing something, the camera went off, and the two FEMA officials went back to their relief tent, which by the way was more than a mile away from where the help was needed. When asking locals about the Red Cross, all I kept hearing is how the only thing they were doing was walking around with a clipboard being extremely rude.

My own experience with the military out here… While most of us are helping unload and load supplies, doing clean up and many other things, they can be seen sitting on their asses about 50ft away doing nothing. So again please don’t be fooled by the media. I was also told about a collective of EMTs that were discussing how many people they had found dead, and how the numbers they had between them was about four times as many as what they are reporting to the public through the media. Absolutely disgusting, but not surprising. If anyone is looking to get out to Cedar Grove in New Dorp please contact me because no community should be forgotten. As for the Occupy presence in Cedar Grove specifically, there have been 5 of us. I understand that many of us are in Brooklyn and other places, but if there are 50 of us in the Rockaways and 5 in Cedar Grove that’s a problem considering the equal amount of loss among the heaviest hit of communities.

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Strong in Staten Island

New Dorp Beach, NY–Went down to crossroads church in New Dorp Staten Island with cleaning supplies. There was a sign saying to just head down to the beach and help out directly.  Since I don’t know the area at all, being from New Jersey, I just drove through the neighborhood and went door to door with supplies.  Everyone was so grateful for everything and appreciated any help they were getting.  Received many handshakes, a few hugs and a ton of “God Bless.” There is so much work to do and they still need lots more help.  They want to know they’re not being forgotten and that the occupy teams are making a difference.

-Chris-

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