In May, Woodbine hosted a regional gathering on “Autonomy and Survival” alongside Symbiosis, a network of grassroots organizations building a democratic and ecological society. Participants agreed to wear masks and take COVID-19 tests prior to attending to minimize the risk of transmitting the coronavirus. The gathering provided organizers with space for reflecting, sharing and strategizing together to strengthen their projects locally and regionally.
“I think there was a real need for people to finally be able to gather in person to meet new people that they didn’t know or weren’t working with for the last few years to hear about different people’s experiences doing mutual aid work,” said Matt Peterson, a cofounder of Woodbine. “Political organizing, or transformation, is going to occur with real people in a real space. People that know each other have trust. They can talk to each other. They can learn.”
More than 200 people from across the country shuffled in and out of the gathering for a weekend of panels, discussions and parties. A mutual aid panel featured organizers from groups born out of the pandemic or uprisings, including the Atlanta Survival Program and Bushwick Ayuda Mutua (BAM), Washington Square Park Mutual Aid, and others that had already been established, like Woodbine, Mutual Aid Disaster Relief and Distribute Aid, a grassroots organization specializing in providing logistical support for aid shipments around the world. Attendees learned about groups’ varying organizational styles, historical contexts, and about how the pandemic altered the trajectory of their work.