Transformative Mutual Aid Practices

This was a morning when I didn’t seem to be led to write anything. Then, as I was searching using the keywords prefigurative and mutual aid I found references to Transformative Mutual Aid Practices.

I’ve just recently become aware of traumas I hadn’t known I was suffering from. My Des Moines Mutual Aid community practices many of the things listed below. This awareness of healing comes from experiencing our care for each other, including those who come for the food.

I’ve heard Indigenous friends speak of the intergeneration traumas in their communities.

My Quaker meeting has recently discussed healing.

So, I was interested to see this zine, A Call for Prefigurative Mental Health Support and Communal Care Within Radical Groups and Organizations. Creative Commons licensing allows sharing material from this zine.

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This zine has a lengthy list of things related to mental health and communal care. Here are a few.

  • Many of us experienced childhood and adolescent traumas and continue to experience traumas based on our individual intersectionalities
  • We understand the mechanics of the harms and traumas inflicted by the prevailing social order’s oppressive and exploitative systems
  • We must recondition ourselves towards caring for each other; communal care is ongoing radical action
  • Alone we are vulnerable, but together we are strong; therefore, genuine community is paramount
  • We acknowledge that the architecture of capitalist society is colonizing white supremacy culture; it is an architecture of domination, abuse and exclusion
  • We focus intensely on the concept and practice of mutual aid
  • We endeavor to decolonize our thinking, group interactions, and architecture of group processes
  • We center acting in solidarity across groups in ways that build unity through diversity
  • We emphasize prefiguration within our organizations as necessary to counteract the abuses of prevailing society and manifest community and liberatory ways of being and living
  • When we do not prefigure communal care into our group structures and routines, we unconsciously recreate the alienation, racism, homophobia and transphobia, hierarchical ableisms, and neuro-homogeneities of capitalist society, along with their negative effects
  • If we don’t practice solidarity with our own comrades, we cannot expect to practice solidarity with others
  • Knowing what we know about how prevailing society operates to oppress, exploit, and traumatize vulnerable people, a group or org that does not actively engage and support the mental and emotional wellbeing of its members is not revolutionary
  • Many folx who show up to our groups do not stay because they sense the group is non-supportive or unsafe for their being

A Call for Prefigurative Mental Health Support and Communal Care Within Radical Groups and Organizations


What can prefigurative community care that supports the mental health and wellbeing of all members look like?

1. Create space for an in-depth group discussion focused on the concept of your collective as an organism with a life of its own. Talk about your group as an organism that can flourish with everyone’s nurturance or get sick and die from everyone’s lack of care. The objective is to create group consciousness and ownership, and to arrive at and agree to incorporating new features that will consistently support the mental and emotional health of members.

    2. In addition to your regular monthly meeting, commit to a regular monthly restorative gathering for wellbeing. This is for members only. It could potentially serve as a welcoming way for prospective members to dip their toe in, as opposed to their first engagement being a meeting or an action. In organizing circles, more often than not the more powerful, demonstrative, or vocal members guide their groups, narrowing opportunities for other modes of expression, communication, and consciousness to emerge. Monthly nurturance counterbalances that tendency. The focus here is on creating a predictable format for restorative connection, communal care, and wellbeing among comrades.

    Based on years of creating group cohesion and deep trust among vulnerable students from disparate backgrounds, the author recommends a specific format: a regular relaxed gathering where individuals enjoy solo projects alongside each other (when two or more people work on one project, it tends to disrupt the group dynamic). Each member brings a relatively quiet activity that they will work on, such as creative writing, drawing, crafting, reading, planning or visioning, designing, etc. At the start, folx will want to greet each other and it’s interesting to get to know each other through hearing what everyone else is going to work on. Once y’all get started, talking will become secondary to the texture or feel of the group-as-relaxed, meaning that talk should not be allowed to take over the ability of everyone to generally stay focused on their activity. This container fosters individual and collective nervous system soothing, group nurturance, authentic group communication, divergent group thinking, and organic group relations. Relaxing, restoring, and recreating together is very powerful medicine.

    Many of us only experience each other in supercharged situations like intense meetings, protests, street outreach, and community work. Our groups attempt to balance those experiences out by having social gatherings such as potlucks, bar karaoke, and game nights, which have their own place. However, social containers do not foster egalitarian ommunity-building or the types of experiences required to build the trust comrades need in order to open up and be vulnerable with each other. In addition, social gatherings often reenact the ableisms and other -isms present in dominant society. This monthly gathering allows members to relax and encourages other parts of their beings to emerge within the safety of the calm group in ways that round out both the individual and the group experience. It fosters care of the self via meaningful recreation; it cultivates group consciousness and group heart via the commitment to be more patient, open, and authentic with each other; it provides an antidote to alienation and isolation, restoring the communal bonds that dominant capitalist society strips away.

    A Call for Prefigurative Mental Health Support and Communal Care Within Radical Groups and Organizations

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