Two Pandemics: A Spotlight on Sponsored Projects

We are in the midst of two interrelated pandemics—COVID-19 and white supremacy —that are causing devastation in communities across this country and the world. 

In the South, the impacts of these two pandemics are particularly acute—especially for Black, Latinx, and Native communities; for essential workers, many of whom make poverty wages and enjoy few protections on the job; and for queer folks, rural communities, and all who are deprived of basic, affordable access to health care. 

At the same time, these pandemics are motivating a new level of resistance and struggle, the likes of which have not been seen in recent memory. 

We asked organizations that are part of the Southern Vision Alliance’s network of fiscally sponsored organizations and Frontlines Fund grantees to lay out how they’re responding to this moment and how, if at all, their work has changed. 

Their responses follow:

Comite de Accion Popular – Raleigh, NC 

SVA Fiscally Sponsored Organization

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Para CAP la pandemia a dejado mas que claro las disparidades en cuanto a acceso al servicio de salud para minorias, los indocumentados al no tener un SS no tenemos ningun beneficio de Salud ni a corto ni a largo plazo(los indocumentados somos simplemente la fuerza de trabajo casi regalada para el sistema capitalista que puede desecharte sin ningun problema en cuanto ya no produzcas lo necesario),cualquier servicio debe ser a travez del los Urgent care en los que hay que pagar por adelantado o por algunas contadas clinicas a bajo costo.

Aunado a esta crisis de salud nos encontramos con el otro virus el que talvez a matado mas gente en EU que el propio COVID19 ya que las muestras de racismo y supremacia matan de manera lenta y en otras son francas y desvergonzadas ya que se saben protegidos desde la misma Casa Blanca. La furia descarada con la que la Supremacia Blanca esta enfrentando este esfuerzo por quedarse nuevamente en la presidencia nos llama a cambiar el modo de como abordar esta clase de conversaciones con la comunidad a ser directos y sin miramientos ellos han llevado esta lucha a estos niveles y tenemos que abrir los ojos ya esto es una lucha por la vida y la dignidad.

Desafortunadamente aun hay mucho trabajo que hacer muchos temas de educacion por delante, pero de lo que si estamos seguros es que no nos quedaremos de brazos cruzados viendo como nos siguen deshumanizando para poder seguir asesinandonos. 

Movement to End Racism & Islamophobia – Triangle, NC

SVA Fiscally Sponsored Organization

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The upsurge of young BIPOC leadership in this moment and the new understandings being formed by wider/whiter society will transform our plans for political education around white supremacy. MERI has from our beginnings framed our analysis in the context of anti-Black racism and we have traditionally responded to Islamophobic acts from an abolitionist perspective. We are glad to see the call to #DefundThePolice gain more traction in public discourse.

The MERI Network has primarily been responding to this moment by working directly through our individual organizations:

Education Justice Alliance has been working to help families in our network who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. We have been able to pass financial resources to help cover rent, food, utilities and medical expenses to families. We have also been working to ensure WCPSS (Wake County Public School System)  are thinking about the challenges that some Black and Brown and working class families face that are further exacerbated due to COVID-19 to ensure solutions are in place to help students transition back to school. Our Counselors Not Cops Police Out of Schools campaign is picking up speed as we see districts around the country remove School Resource Officers out of schools by ending contracts with Police departments.

Muslims for Social Justice has provided food and gift cards to 30 Black, Brown, Muslim community members in the Triangle Area of NC who lost jobs, have reduced hours of work, and in one case, contracted COVID-19. We assisted multiple community members by helping with online unemployment applications and checking the status of stimulus checks. We are currently organizing refugees working at a poultry plant in Sanford, NC, where at least one person has died from COVID-19; the plant has refused to test the workers or release information about how many workers have been infected. Workers are forced to work in dangerous conditions or they will lose livelihood.

Jewish Voice for Peace folks have been plugging in to Black led organizing as individuals and we have been encouraging our base to act as well. 

Energy Democracy Leadership Institute of the NC Climate Justice Collective – Eastern NC

SVA Fiscally Sponsored Organization

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With the ongoing COVID-19 and racial violence pandemics, we are amidst an opportunity for bold, systemic transformation. Renowned author and activist Arundhati Roy has recently familiarized the notion of the “pandemic as a portal.” For us, one of these portals to a more transformative and just world is the launching of the Energy Democracy Leadership Institute (EDLI) in eastern North Carolina (albeit virtual for now).

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we moved to an online process, despite the original intent to be face to face. Adaptation has been an ongoing necessity for our movements to succeed. As a popular educator, it is exciting to finally launch with so many truly grassroots participants from rural eastern NC who will be teachers as well as learners in this project. They bear the brunt of the energy burden and will help shape the community organizing already happening in their organizations located in ‘sacrifice zones’. EDLI will help amplify their voices in their work for energy democracy.

Durham Beyond Policing – Durham, NC

SVA Fiscally Sponsored Coalition 

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We know that the impacts of COVID-19 and white supremacy are deeply intertwined, as evidenced by the ways in which Black, Latinx, and Indigenous peoples are systematically subjected to greater risk of exposure, poor medical care, and death. George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police was the routine police work of Black disposability, which continues no matter what else is happening. Our work remains ever the same—to fight for the Black queer feminist vision of abolition of all the systems that make the world unlivable for Black communities. 

Most recently, we’re focused on urging the city, county, and school board to approve the Community-Led Safety and Wellness Task Force and its bylaws. We fought hard last year to have this Task Force established. The Task Force will build better systems of public safety for all of our communities by developing alternatives to police and sheriff’s departments. 

On Juneteenth, Durham Beyond Policing in partnership with BYP100, SONG, Sunrise Movement, and Durham Workers Assembly, held a rally in response to the Durham City Council’s unanimous vote to expand the police budget. For the last 4 years Durham Beyond Policing has had one demand: divest from policing, invest in community alternatives. 

Community Alliance for Public Education – North Carolina

SVA Fiscally Sponsored Organization

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CAPE will engage thousands of public-school parents, students, and staff across North Carolina in building and fighting for a shared vision for public education. Confronting the dual threat of COVID-19 and deeply entrenched white supremacy that threatens Black lives, CAPE seeks to defend and transform public schools into safe spaces that value and affirm Black, Latinx, and working-class people.

CAPE’s efforts will center on digital equity for students, critical training for educators, and parent demands that schools and policymakers are committed to their children’s safety and success. By working intensively in Durham and broadly throughout North Carolina, CAPE plans to build a multiracial movement of parents, students, and educators ready to stand up to politicians and demand investments in public health and education that benefit students and working-class families across North Carolina.

Center for Participatory Change –  Asheville, NC:

Queer Mobilization Fund grant receipient

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CPC honors how these pandemics have impacted human capacity. We’ve asked staff to use some of their work hours on self-care. We want them to know 1) their health—mental, physical, and spiritual—is CPC’s first priority and 2) they will get paid without expectations of working at their pre-Covid capacity.  “…we show our love for our community through our compassion for ourselves. We need our communities to be whole, and to do that, our communities need us to be whole” (citation)

This is how we’re responding to the dual pandemics of Covid-19 and white supremacy:

  • Our Racial Equity Circle is creating healing spaces for Black community members to gather—both in-person with social distancing requirements in place and online for those who are immune-compromised—and heal from racial trauma. REC is 1) hiring Black facilitators and mental health support specialists, 2) hosting in venues that are both historically Black and bus accessible, 3) providing Black-catered food, and 4) providing Black-led youth programming. As one Black community member said, we need space “for grieving the current unrest in our country and celebrating the deep brilliance that is emerging from our local black leadership. We need space to breathe.” 
  • Our Language Justice coordinator created special practice sessions for interpreters including 1) trauma and resilience training and 2) several trainings on Zoom’s interpretation feature.
  • Our Language Justice and Popular Education Circles collaborated to create Culebritas—a space for kids 7-10 years old of Latinx/Hispanic parents to reclaim language as a part of their bicultural identity and discover the value and importance of language in their lives by building community through fun activities. Culebritas served as an alternative to summer camps, many of which were canceled due to Covid.
  • Our Popular Education Circle—in response to parents becoming teachers—will host workshops in the fall to provide training and support for community members to gain and improve teaching skills.

Angelou House (The Tribe) – Charlotte, NC

SVA Fiscally Sponsored Organization

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COVID and the current Black Insurgency have reified one of the core values of our work: relationships. We’ve been able to show up for each other and organize more smoothly because our relationships were already solid. Asking for support, personally or politically, is not very difficult here. 

The dual pandemics also illuminated the need for autonomy, self-determination, and access when it comes to the food supply line, which has meant updating and expanding places where we were already edibly gardening or supporting edible gardens. It also means that we’re continuing to offer support for those seeking to build up gardens nearby their homes or in their yards. When our communities talk about how we keep each other safe, that has to include food and it has to include relationships and that’s the nexus we’ve been and continue to work in.

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