This story was originally published at EatABQ, the city's food, restaurant and drinks guide. EatABQ is a publication of The Paper, ABQ's new alternative, independent weekly.
Local Mutual Aid Has No Plans For Slowing Down
The Paper. spoke with Zoey Craft, the vice president and co-founder of the youth-led organization Fight for Our Lives, about the efforts that Albuquerque Mutual Aid has been making to help those in need across Albuquerque since March. At the beginning of the pandemic, she and four other community members sat down over donuts and, out of a “deep concern for community members affected by the pandemic,” created the mutual aid organization. Just a few days later, it was up and running, with volunteers signing on to engage in direct action to battle food insecurity and meet peoples’ needs all over the city.
The Paper.: Please tell us about how Albuquerque Mutual Aid got off the ground and what the mission of the organization is.
Zoey Craft: Albuquerque Mutual Aid began in March when the pandemic was first becoming bad in Albuquerque as we saw many inequities being compounded and worsened by the effects of the pandemic. Our mission is to provide food and other critical resources to community members who need support during this difficult time—by the community, for the community.
How have you seen the pandemic changing things for those in Albuquerque already facing food security issues?
For those who were already facing food security issues in Albuquerque, we have seen the pandemic significantly worsen conditions. Whether due to job loss, auto-immune conditions, or the need to stay home from work to assist children with school work, the pandemic has absolutely worsened food security issues in Albuquerque and New Mexico as a whole.
What does a typical day at Albuquerque Mutual Aid look like as you work through these challenges?
We start things off by putting together lists of families who will receive care packages that day. Next, our team of dedicated volunteer care-packagers comes into our space to put together packages based on family size and specific needs, to ensure that every family’s needs are met. After the care packages are complete, another team of our volunteers picks them up and delivers them directly to families’ homes all across the greater Albuquerque area. By texting or calling families when their care packages arrive and leaving the packages on their doorsteps, we ensure that our volunteers and community members are protected from any additional COVID risk. A few times a week, a team of volunteers will shop for Mutual Aid in the evening, before stopping at our space to prepare it for the following day. Our volunteers are truly amazing, and they continue to step up to offer their time, resources and love for this by the community, for the community project.
What all has the group been able to accomplish?
In the weeks since March 16, Albuquerque Mutual Aid has fed and impacted over 30,300 people. We have no plans of slowing down in the future, and while we recognize that we play a small role in ensuring our communities have the resources they need, we hope that our care packages continue to assist families all across the Albuquerque area. While I and the other four original members serve in a coordination role, it has been beautiful to see volunteers and the rest of our community step up to these positions as well, taking on great responsibility and making this an effort that is truly community-based.
Do you collaborate with any other organizations in town or around New Mexico?
ABQ Mutual Aid is a coalition of the organizations Fight for Our Lives, Southwest Save the Kids from Incarceration, and Millions for Prisoners NM. While we don’t formally collaborate with other organizations at this time, we have received extremely generous gifts and donations of food from restaurants, food pantries and organizations across town, in addition to many members of other organizations giving their time to volunteer with Mutual Aid.
Can you explain the concept of communal anarchism and how it ties in to the foundations and history of mutual aid?
At Albuquerque Mutual Aid, we believe that our communities should always have access to the resources that they need, whether that is in the form of food and the essentials we provide, or other resources. By continuing this by the community, for the community effort, we can lead with love and stand in our courage to essentially say that, “We got us.” Despite the fact that these needs are not being met by our officials, we believe that everyone in our communities deserves access to safety, shelter, food and other resources.
What have local artists or others in the community done to raise funds for the mutual aid?
Artists and others in the community have engaged in a variety of extremely creative ways to assist with mutual aid! That has looked like high school students beginning GoFundMe campaigns, artists donating a percentage of their profits to our efforts, artists creating graphics, logos and visuals for Mutual Aid, and much, much more. We even had a local tattoo artist donate 100 percent of their profits from—I believe—a whole week’s worth of bookings. It’s been so amazing to see the love that this community has for one another and the ways in which so many individuals have stepped up in more ways than one.
Are there any experiences that stand out to you as representative of the power that mutual aid can provide?
Many times we receive incredibly heartfelt thank you messages from the people we deliver to. Reading these messages is one reminder to us that this work does truly matter and has a huge impact. I think another way in which mutual aid is hugely powerful is in its ability to strengthen our communities and bring us closer together as a whole.
How can people support you in all your efforts?
People can support this effort in a variety of ways. You can visit ffol.org/mutualaid to make a monetary donation; but we also are in constant need of volunteers for a variety of roles, as well as donations of food and other things people might need. The contact information to volunteer or to donate other resources can also be found at ffol.org/mutualaid. Anyone in need of a care package can fill out a request form by visiting ffol.org/mutualaid and clicking “Request a Care Package.” [ ]