It’s been quite a few months since we last updated everyone on the work we’re doing here at Syracuse DSA – Mutual Aid Committee! We’ve been quite busy with several different projects, so here’s a look into just what’s been going on, what’s on the horizon, and how you can get involved!
Sonny’s Free Store
We’ve now successfully hosted our free store (lovingly named in honor of founding member and former chair, Sonny Fantacone) at several local events. At its core, a free store demonstrates the basics of what we as democratic socialists believe people and communities can do to provide for one another. If we are more willing to give of ourselves and our excess to our fellow humans instead of to landfills, then our society as a whole will prosper. To that end, we accept donations of food, clothing, and other goods and, when we have enough and the opportunity presents itself, we set up a “Free Store”!
At our past free stores, we’ve primarily offered clothing, but at our recent CNY Pride Free Store, we noticed that the few books we brought flew off the shelves immediately! In order to better respond to this apparent community need, we sourced more reading material for our booth at the Westcott Cultural Street Fair. With the assistance of our newest co-chair, Amelia, we’ve also been able to work in tandem with Onondaga Food Rescue Network through the Syracuse-Onondaga Food Systems Alliance (SOFSA), which allowed us to introduce both non-perishable items and fresh, local produce to our offerings. We got a lot of questions about where our storefront was located during the Westcott Street Fair, so our members are now looking into the possibility of doing pop-up store fronts all across the city, in the hopes of making our free stores more accessible to those in need.
Additionally, we will be fundraising at this year’s Plowshares event for both future iterations of Sonny’s Free Store, as well as for another project we have on deck for next year, thanks to some help from Philly DSA and a couple of enterprising scientists in California (more to come on this project later!).
If you’d like more information about our future projects, want to donate funds (and maybe buy some DSA swag?), or would like to come check out some of the amazing artists and activists from the surrounding area, come visit us at Plowshares!
And if you’re interested in donating to our free store, have questions about when/where our next one will be, would like to have us at your event, or anything else about working with Syracuse DSA Mutual Aid, please feel free to contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mutual Aid Bags
Something else we’ve been working on over the past several months are our first round of Mutual Aid (MA) Bags. MA bags are reusable grocery bags that we fill with things like bottled water, single serving cereals, non-perishable snacks, first aid supplies, feminine & general hygiene products , combs for hair, and other staple items. We also try to include at least one “non-essential” in each bag as well—things like re-usable water bottles, sunglasses, perfume, tea, and coffee. For our first round, we successfully collected enough materials to create 22 MA bags and determined that the best way to distribute these bags would be for members to store a handful in their cars, handing them out as they come across folks in need.
We’re looking to expand this project by working with other local organizations doing similar community outreach, thereby enabling us to create further rounds of MA bags that fit the specific needs of diverse groups of Syracuse residents. At the same time, we’re hoping to pull together enough donations to do a round of bags to provide “Thanksgiving Dinner”-style MA bags to around a dozen needy families, as well as a possible pop-up store front for families or individuals that may be struggling during the holiday season.
If you would like to donate non-perishable items for traditional holiday dinners, inexpensive toys, children’s books, inexpensive gifts for adults, or any other items that might go into these holiday MA bags/free store, please contact us at: email@example.com
Check out a comprehensive list of items we’re looking for at the bottom of this post!
Care, Not Cops
In the wake of multiple deadly police encounters in Syracuse this past year, our chapter decided that we need a space within our local organization to organize around issues of policing and police accountability. We firmly believe that most emergency calls do not require an armed police response, and we should instead pursue non-violent alternatives for addressing things like mental health crises or domestic disturbances. We also need to better hold cops accountable for their misdeeds, and doing that starts with engaging the community in dialogue to determine how we can build these better alternatives to police response, together.
We focused on the idea that “we keep us safe” and came up with the name Care Not Cops. The goal is to create resource lists of individuals, organizations, and programs that a person in crisis can call for assistance in place of calling the cops.
As many of us know, having several officers respond with guns drawn often escalates many of these already tense situations, often leading to tragic consequences. In the past year alone, there have been multiple instances of officer-involved shootings, all of which must be investigated by the Attorney General’s office as per a law that was established on April 1st, 2021. At the time, advocates argued that this would improve police accountability. However, since its inception, the law has often served as a stall tactic rather than as a legitimate means of holding out of control officers truly accountable for overstepping the bounds of their legal responsibilities. Over the past 6 months alone there have been at least two notable cases where body-worn camera footage was either withheld from the public (even after internal investigations were concluded) or cameras were never activated prior to (or during) the incident. Shockingly, investigations carried out by the AG’s office found no wrongdoing in either case.
Unavailable camera footage is just one of the worrisome details in these cases and going into all of the gritty details would require a long update in and of itself. For now, we’ll say that due to Syracuse’s history of policing, as well as its history of racial & social inequity, many of our members feel it is necessary to begin working on expanding the space for abolitionist organizing, starting with promoting better alternatives to call during an emergency than cops.
To that end, we have an available resource called the 911 Alternative Sheet that we are always updating and expanding. If you have any suggestions for resources that you think should be listed, please reach out to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Items needed for Holiday Mutual Aid bags/Pop-up Store Front
- Inexpensive children’s toys
- Children’s books/coloring books
- Crayons, markers, colored pencils, watercolor paints and brushes
- Inexpensive gifts for adults
- Hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, socks, balaclavas, etc. for kids and adults
- Small blankets
- Small craft kits
- Craft paper, construction paper, plain writing paper, etc.
- Tape, glue sticks, white glue
- Yarns, threads, crochet hooks, knitting needles and other common crafting items that can be used by folks to make their own holiday gifts.
- Common holiday decorations
- Holiday greeting cards & envelopes
- Stamps for mailing cards
- Non-perishable items for holiday dinners
- Stuffing mix
- Canned vegetables
- Quick bread/Cake mix
- Gravy mix
- Canned berries/other canned fruit
- Instant mashed potatoes
- Powdered milk