Response to “How can I help?”

Self-reflection

Things are really overwhelming to many people right now. Whether it’s offering support to a close friend or taking part in community organizing. Here are some questions you can ask yourself first before you plug in.

  • What kinds of limitations do you have? Do you have mobility, time, mental health/physical health, or other life commitments that would affect the support you are interested in providing?
  • Are there types of support you are not willing to provide?
  • Are you really talented in a few things that you think would be useful? Have you had any relevant life experiences in the past that you think can help you show up now? What are they?
  • Are there things you are interested in doing, but don’t have the experience and would like to learn?

Reflecting on these questions is helpful not only to you, but the people and organizations you are interested in working with. Sometimes, asking “How can I help?” can be overwhelming for people in crisis, or for people who are doing lots of coordination. Making offers with simple information is a great way of empowering both you and your comrades to make informed decisions about how to move forward.

It is not a burden to ask people how you can plug in!

Collective empowerment

The Mutual Aid Network of Ypsilanti (The MANY) wants people to feel collectively empowered through our work. We encourage everyone to think about their capacities when plugging in – whether long-time activists or folks new to the movement. Mutual aid is all about creating relationships based on trust and shared power. This is a moment to build skills and knowledge.

The MANY was originally designed to build long-term community relationships among marginalized working class people in Ypsilanti. Our goal is to alleviate our conditions under oppressive systems and build popular power towards cooperation and collective liberation.

In our work, we want to build a culture defined by these terms:

  • Capacity
  • Self-Determination
  • Autonomy
  • Cooperation
  • Mutual Aid
  • Direct Democracy
  • Anti-Oppression

On “volun-tourism”

Since COVID-19, we’ve gotten a huge surge in “volun-tourism” with folks from outside of Ypsilanti wanting to “help” for a weekend or two. Placing priority on plugging in these folks drains our energy and dilutes our vision of Ypsilanti-focused working class power.

The Ring Theory of Support is a concept that helps illustrate how networks of care can help support in ways that prioritize those with the least capacity and the most trauma. It’s important for folks outside of Ypsilanti to understand that supporting our work on the ground requires a commitment to intersectionality.

For folks who don’t live in Ypsilanti but want to aid in our struggle, we certainly want to build solidarity, not reinforce charity. We’re looking for lawyers and legal advisors to help keep Ypsilanti residents out of prison. Our Pass It On program is a way for usable goods and resources – like electronics, hygiene supplies, vehicles, home goods, and office supplies – to be directed into our community. We also need grant writers, people with institutional leverage, and ongoing donations to help us fund our movement.

We also encourage people living outside of Ypsilanti to find liberatory, grassroots work nearer to you.