Approved at All Hands on June 27, 2020
This is a living document. We are committed to learning and updating as we grow.
Crown Heights Mutual Aid was formed in March 2020 during the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. We are a network of neighbors supporting one another and the most vulnerable in our community. We are mobilizing not only against the COVID-19 health crisis, but the ongoing crises of state violence, food injustice, and housing inequality. CHMA is also a tool for building connections and reciprocal relationships: we all have something to offer and we all have something we need as we struggle towards justice.
We center solidarity and collective care
- We are working towards a mutual aid practice grounded in solidarity, not charity, and we operate in the spirit of collective care and responsibility.
- Our work is inherently political. For CHMA members who are not native to Crown Heights, we commit to centering the neighborhood’s history, culture, and legacy of resistance. The land where we make our homes was stolen from the Lenni Lenape to enrich settlers. We understand that we are responsible for our decision to make our home on stolen land. We understand that as gentrifiers we are choosing to become settlers in an area of Brooklyn that has been home to Black and West Indian resistance, joy, and life for generations. We recognize that we are responsible for our individual and collective effort to grow into right relationship with these communities. As part of that work, we commit to resisting and upending white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, settler colonialism, and capitalism.
- We follow MAMAS’ principle of mutual aid: “You may be able to offer help one day and need something the next. We encourage people to both give when they can and be supported to ask for help when they need it.” We are working to reduce the barriers between those giving and receiving aid, to build reciprocal relationships. Mutual aid can take many forms and we value people for more than the labor they can contribute.
- We respect what folks in our communities need, know, and value. We value self-determination and recognize the agency of individuals to make decisions about their own lives.
Our work is flexible and responsive
- We acknowledge that while many were motivated to get involved specifically as a result of COVID, our work furthering solidarity, justice, and equity in Crown Heights will extend past the immediate pandemic. We support both materially-focused mutual aid and mobilization for justice.
- We do what we can for as many people as we can, while taking care to prioritize safety and responsibility. We understand the nature and scope of our work to be defined in response to shifting community needs.
- We prioritize collective action and trust-based relationships over an “efficiency” mindset. While we value quality and accountability, we resist capitalist white supremacy culture’s fixation on perfectionism.
- Growth is a long-term project, and we are committed to building processes and finding solutions that are sustainable.
We are accountable to one another
- We believe that mutual aid that is accountable builds power with and not power over. We are willing to engage with conflict honestly and with integrity, and we agree to participation in accountability and reconciliation processes. We encourage individuals to take responsibility for the consequences of their action and inaction.
- We care for ourselves and each other by asking for what we need to remain healthy and dedicated to long-term collective action.
- We build organizational resilience by rotating roles and leadership duties. We welcome newcomers and seek to empower each other through ongoing training and a culture of learning together.
- Our work is transparent and open to feedback. We keep open records of meeting notes for any member to view at any time. We are also committed to transparency regarding fundraising efforts, and use of/regranting of money.
- We do not tolerate racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, oppression, or bigotry of any kind. Members of the community who are found to have caused harm will be asked to address and repair the harm they have caused by participating in a process to account for their actions and transform their behavior.
We center racial justice in our work and our organizational culture
- We are committed to learning and honoring BIPOC traditions of mutual aid so as not to participate in the erasure or co-option of long-standing practices by communities of color.
- We recognize America’s policing and prison institutions as inherently oppressive to BIPOC and poor communities. We refuse to collaborate with law enforcement in our aid work; much of what we do is necessitated by the violence and oppression carried out by the police and America’s carceral apparatus.
- We pursue political and anti-racist education as an ongoing and active practice for CHMA members to expand their awareness and understanding of experiences outside their own.
- We prioritize partnerships with BIPOC community organizations that are run by and for those most affected by the pandemic and systemic oppression and are committed to justice. We prioritize purchasing from BIPOC small businesses.