by PETER DORFMAN
COVID-19 is frightening enough for people with prominence and a voice in the community. For marginalized people—the unemployed, minorities, and the poor—it can be terrifying. With a new organization called Monroe County Mutual Aid, their voices can now be heard.
Started in March 2020 by Bloomington activist Abby Ang, 27, the organization was modeled after a similar entity in Somerville, Massachusetts. There is no national Mutual Aid network, Ang explains—essentially local groups around the country share the name.
Before founding the Bloomington chapter of Mutual Aid, Ang started No Space for Hate, the organization that led the boycott and protest against members of a white supremacist group who are vendors at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market.
Ang doesn’t see the pandemic and the upsurge in protests against racially biased policing as separate phenomena. “They’re both really part of the same mess,” she says. “People of color don’t have the access to the resources needed to deal with COVID-19 that white people do.”
In response, one of Mutual Aid’s principal products is “COVID-19 Community Mutual Aid Resources for Monroe County,” a list published as a Google Docs document, labeled as “compiled by No Space for Hate.” The 14-page document lists referral resources for food, low-cost health care, financial assistance, and other essentials, mainly geared toward the needs of marginalized people.
A link takes the reader to “An Anarchist’s Guide to Surviving Coronavirus COVID-19,” which, despite its provocative title, offers pragmatic, no-nonsense advice on avoiding coronavirus or seeking testing and treatment.
Far from being anarchists, many of the people Mutual Aid serves are politically conservative and some support President Donald Trump. Both Ang and fellow organizer Jessy Tang have experienced the anti-Chinese bias promoted by the Trump administration in connection with COVID-19.
Ang came to Bloomington in 2013 as an Indiana University graduate student in English literature and joined Bloomington’s chapter of Indivisible, a nationwide progressive organization, after the 2016 election. “I became aware how vibrant and multifaceted the activist culture in Bloomington is,” she recalls.
Learn more at facebook.com/groups/ mutualaidmoco.