Mutual Aid + Policy Advocacy

Mutual Aid + Policy Advocacy

Food lines, PPE lines, supply lines. The lines for mutual aid and other critical services can feel endless, especially during a global pandemic. We’re in them or serving on them because we need resources or want to help our community members access them. But the question of this session, “Why Are We on the Line?” asks something more. Our panelists will ask us to think about the larger political and capitalist forces that create the need for these support lines in the first place. Without critically assessing and actively working to dismantle those systems of oppression, we risk burning out our most precious community leaders. The line is necessary, but the line shouldn’t be forever. What role does mutual aid serve? What is the role for policy change? Why do they need to work together to really get things done?

Trupti Patel is the District of Columbia’s first Indian-American woman Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. She represents the Historic Foggy Bottom District and ran for office when her elected officials ignored her voice and vote and repealed One Fair Wage. Trupti is part of the national movement seeking to end the last vestige of Jim Crow- the subminimum wage-and pay all workers the full minimum wage plus tips on top. As a member leader of ROC-DC (Restaurant Opportunities Center), she focuses on issues such as wage theft and sexual harassment that impact tipped workers in the restaurant industry.

Diana Ramírez is the Fellow in Residence (Workplace Justice) at the National Women’s Law Center. Diana is focused on the intersection between wage equity and the food industry and the need to form direct links to racial, gender, and economic justice–especially in a post-COVID world– as a path to an equitable recovery. Diana helped to lead the 2018 ballot initiative in DC for One Fair Wage and will also share reflections about how that grassroots effort was undermined by the powerful restaurant association and how we can build back stronger going forward.

Reana Kovalcik is a food and farm lover, community organizer, and founder of the Share a Seed program. Reana is a policy and communications professional dedicated to making our food and farm system more equitable and sustainable. She has worked both in the local and federal policy spheres for roughly ten years and is an expert at bridging the gap between complex policy happenings and community action.

Kya Parker is a plant-based chef and founder of Kyanite Pantry and Kyanite Kitchen. When Kya lost her job during the pandemic, she saw an opportunity to serve as part of the DC Black Lives Matter movement. For the last year, Kya has been running the mutual aid organization Kyanite Pantry and working to build her professional business, Kyanite Kitchen. Kya is a cornerstone in the DC mutual aid movement and can share key insights about building community power, acquiring and sharing resources, and how we can leverage solidarity to build a lasting movement.

Suggested Readings:

Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) by Dean Spade

How to Be an Anticapitalist in the Twenty-First Century by Erik Olin Wright

Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights
by Juno Mac and Molly Smith