We’re looking back on some bright moments in a difficult year, and asked each member of our team to name a few of their favorite stories. This is one of L. Malik Anderson’s.
Ayuda Mutua MKE plans to develop a sustainable grassroots movement on Milwaukee’s South Side in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A lot of members in our community were already feeling the effects of a system that does not look out for us and does not take care of us,” Ayuda Mutua MKE Member Sebas Daniel said.
The leaderless, community-driven grassroots movement started in early March, a few weeks after the first case appeared in Wisconsin. Member Jeanette Martin contacted six individuals who she knew on the South Side; Sebas Daniel, Jeanette Arellano, Gabriela Dorantes, Alida Cardós Whaley, Daisy Romero, and Erick Ledesma.
“We got on the call and discussed what could we do to alleviate some of the things in our community,” Sebas said.
Ayuda Mutua quickly began translating information about Milwaukee Public Schools’ breakfast and lunch distribution sites, information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the virus, and additional resources provided through the city and state on Facebook. Shortly after, the group began supporting immediate needs in their community such as food.
“Our mutual aid group focuses on solidarity and not a charity so initially we weren’t reaching out to organizations, we were just receiving donations from individuals,” Sebas said.
Ayuda Mutua MKE opened a distribution site next to St. Patricks Church. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays the members accepted donations for items such as eggs, juice, bread, antacids, hand sanitizer, laundry detergent, and disposal gloves to give to families in need. The members also offered options for pickup and delivery.
For Ayuda Mutua MKE, mutual aid is a movement of solidarity. The group exists because they felt they could not wait to have their needs met by businesses or the government. Sebas said the health crisis exposed the vulnerability of the community.
“A lot of the things that we were seeing were already a problem like lack of job security, lack of resources, lack of food security, and lack of healthcare,” he said.
Sebas explained that this global pandemic highlighted the deep racist inequities within society, especially in the economic and health care systems. Latinx, immigrant, and undocumented communities on the southside of Milwaukee, now face greater economic insecurity than before.
In addition to the pantry, Ayuda Mutua MKE is also raising money to provide support for undocumented families whose livelihoods are being affected whether it’s from a decline in business for street vendors or lay-offs in domestic and restaurant industries. The group has raised $36,000 and has a goal of $50,000.
“I think it’s very important in just showing the resistance that our community has,” Sebas said. “We definitely hope to continue efforts and it might evolve and it might change.”
Ayuda Mutua MKE will now accept donations for their pantry Mondays and Fridays from 12-3:00 p.m. on 1115 S. 7th St. The pantry is open every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 4-7:00 p.m. Daniel said the group has done drop-offs and is also recruiting drivers.
“We’re trying to work on a care package for children that include an art pack,” he said.
Those who would like to donate to the WI Solidarity Undocufund can visit bit.ly/mutuadonate and choose Ayuda Mutua MKE in the drop-down menu. https://www.facebook.com/ayudamutuamke/