Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about mutual aid societies. In fact between what Black folks have been facing and growing economic uncertainties, they've been on my mind a lot.
You know, the news can be pretty depressing when you look at all the gerrymandering that the GOP is doing to prevent Black and Brown people from voting. And, it's frustrating-- and it can be downright scary-- that the more liberal progressive folks’ (let me clarify: I'm not saying they are liberal and progressive, I'm saying they're more liberal and progressive) response to it is “go vote.” Don’t get me wrong, I believe voting to be extremely important. It’s absolutely essential to living in the society in which we currently live. Nonetheless, I don't think we can it’s something upon which we should wholly depend.
So here's what I think we have to do.
I think we have to re-invest in ourselves and draw more closely to our traditions of mutual aid societies.
Right before I first moved to Albany, I was at a misa (which is like a spiritual gathering where your ancestors may come through with certain messages), and one of the messages I received was that I was going to Albany for a very specific purpose. I do believe that part of that purpose was hat I found when I first visited the yard. As I pulled up on campus, I noticed that there was a cemetery on the corner that was created long ago by the Polk Mutual Aid Society. Ever since then, mutual aid societies and the work they do has been part of my imagination. Let me admit that I've not been involved in these societies as I should, but I have felt a call of return to that way of life.
So what are mutual aid societies you may ask? Generally speaking, mutual aid societies are any society, organization, or association, --formal or informal-- of people who exist simply to protect and support one another.
I believe that we have to begin to give more attention to the strategies for community well-being and safety now more than ever.
Historically, in the United States, many of us can think about black churches (the AME Church as an example) and their birthing of other institutions like HBCUs but that were dedicated not towards lobbying other people for the things we need to exist, but in raising the capital and the resources within the community for the things we depended upon.
Today, I'm encouraging all of us, myself particularly, to either join an existing Mutual Aid Society, or consider starting one. I think the first place we begin is learning more about those that exist. I think we need to challenge what we think about some of our historical associations and look for the mutual aid work they may have been doing. For example, I'm particularly interested in the Black Panther Party's community centers that acted as schools.
How were they funded?
Who wrote the curricula?
Who evaluated teacher quality? so on and so forth.
I'm very interested in mutual aid and education in Black communities. For you, it might mean looking into other kinds of mutual aid. I won’t pretend to have all of the answers.
These are just some of my initial musings about mutual aid societies. If you have one, or know of one in Middle or SW Georgia, please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Also, please consider visiting the website www.teachingintheurbansouth.com. It’s a nonprofit interested in connecting those of us who are interested in equitable quality education for Black youth. If you're interested in those kinds of things, there may be some mutual aid opportunities to co-collaborate, build curricula, offer workshops, seminars and just to network with other Black educational professionals interested in education as liberation. Feel free to reach out.