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“Community Care during COVID”: Oral Histories of Mutual Aid in the Bronx

Image courtesy of Bronx Mutual Aid Network, 2020-2021

Mutual aid is an act of solidarity and care between neighbors. It stands in opposition to charity and top-down giving, because it is planned and executed by a community, for a community to not just provide food and essential items but also to educate and organize. Together, Bronx Community College Archives and Mutual Aid NYC (MANYC) have formed a partnership to collect oral history interviews from community mutual aid organizers across the Bronx. In collaboration with BCC students, the Archives created this oral history archive to document these Bronx stories. Ultimately, our hope is that these stories collected during the COVID-19 crisis will be made available to organizers, while also preserving documentation of mutual aid work for scholars and activists.

Following in the footsteps of earlier archives initiatives that acknowledge the impact of COVID-19 on our campus and community in the Bronx, the BCC Archives has teamed up with Mutual Aid NYC to develop a digital library and archive of mutual aid organizing tools and oral histories-created for, by, and in collaboration with mutual aid organizers in NYC. The Archives is particularly interested in documenting how these efforts fit within the larger history of community organizing and how this leads to residents feeling safe and secure during these turbulent COVID times. Thanks to funding by the Equity in Action program at METRO Library Council, Prof. Cynthia Tobar trained several Bronx Community College students over the summer of 2021 to collect interviews from Bronx-based mutual aid organizers as a part of the project. 

Image courtesy of Bronx Mutual Aid Network, 2020-2021

These last few months, we’ve been collecting stories of mutual aid in the Bronx, documenting the amazing grassroots efforts and care networks that have emerged locally in response to COVID-19. The students have collected stories from South Bronx Mutual Aid, North Bronx Mutual Aid, Rap4Bronx and Friends of the Aqueduct/Devoe Park. We are now working on sharing these back with community members and the general public. 

We wish to thank Metro’s Equity in Action program for giving us the opportunity to collect and archive organizing materials and oral history interviews from mutual aid organizing members who have worked tirelessly to care for their neighbors in the Bronx during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Adriana Phillips

…is the founder of the south Bronx Mutual Aid. In this interview, we discuss her roles and some of the challenges she faced throughout the pandemic. Such as supply food for those one in need, house eviction, and some other issues that the communities faced before and during COVID19. Besides, we discuss the lack of information that is in the community as well as the roles that we should play in the community.

Link to the Full Transcript…

LoriKim Alexander

…is a founding member and organizer with the North Bronx Collective and organizes the Black Veg Fest. We talk about her roles and the challenges faced throughout the pandemic spanning from food disparity, gentrification, and some of the adversities the communities faced before COVID. We also discuss health and the lack of information in these communities as well as the roles everyone plays in having community.

Link to the Full Transcript…

Chef Geneva Wilson

…is a community chef working with schools, hospitals, clinics, and senior centers. She used this experience to help her community during COVID. She talked about some of the challenges she faced and how she and others were able to develop plans to navigate those challenges. Chef Wilson also spoke on how the government can do better in providing resources to people during difficult times.

Link to the Full Transcript…

Community Care during COVID Oral History team, including BCC student interviewers with their paired narrators

  • Cynthia Tobar, Head of Archives
  • Ariadna Phillips (South Bronx Mutual Aid), interviewed by Jorge Guzman
  • LoriKim Alexander (North Bronx Collective), interviewed by Andrew Roland
  • Chef Geneva Wilson (Friends of the Aqueduct Walk/Devoe Park), interviewed by Elizabeth Asemota

These and other interviews are now available on our Spotify channel.

For more information or questions, please reach out to Prof. Cynthia Tobar.

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