ACCESS & DISTRIBUTION ACROSS INEQUALITIES
Providence Mutual Aid Mobililizations
This oral history project is a collaboration between Rhode Island's Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance and Brown University's Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in the Americas. It was the recipient of a 2021 Humanities Lab Grant funded by the Mellon Foundation and CSREA. The project received additional training and support from Brown's Center for Digital Scholarship
AN ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE
COVID-19’s arrival and the associated federal and state responses have magnified inequalities that currently exist in labor markets, healthcare, and housing. As a result, responses to the pandemic intersected with how states and communities provide services that are meant to improve health outcomes in the United States. Co-morbidity is shaped by a set of risks including:
(1) increased risk of disease transmission by working in “essential”, low wage service sector jobs;
(2) lack of access to flexible resources, like information about social distancing and personal protective equipment; and
(3) historic and structural exclusion from financial institutions, which disqualify marginalized communities from being able to access unemployment and government stimulus checks.
In response to this shrinking social safety net, mutual aid efforts emerged in Rhode Island to fill some of these gaps created by a lagging governmental response. Yet, by definition, these efforts emerged with relatively little infrastructural support.
This oral history of mutual aid in Rhode Island aims to capture and digitally archive the spontaneous moment of collective action, while drawing future lessons for how social welfare policy can reduce and eradicate inequality.
Why did mutual aid emerge as a response to novel coronavirus in Rhode Island? How did these organizers build their mutual aid efforts?
How have historically under-resourced and underserved communities in Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls–communities that the RI Department of Health has identified as the hardest hit cities–experienced local mutual aid resources? How have these networks of aid supplanted or supplemented local state and federal awareness and relief efforts?
How do these forms of emergency mutual aid point to future possibilities in redistributive welfare policies?
Unfortunately this country that we live in sees immigrants, working immigrants as disposable, so there have been so many cases where I get calls and get asked for any sort of support, any sort of help, because they were diagnosed with COVID, they got really sick, or maybe they didn’t get that sick, like I mean they’re like asymptomatic but had to stay home, and then finally when they’re able to get back home they’re like, oh your job. You’ve been replaced without like telling them until they are ready to go back.
MEET THE RESEARCH TEAM
prabhdeep singh kehal
Clara Gutman Argemi
Ashley Aye Aye Dun
PhD Candidate, Sociology
Assistant Professor of American and Ethnic Studies
Undergraduate Student, Philosophy '22
Undergraduate Student, Psychology & Ethnic Studies '21
PhD Candidate, American Studies
PhD Candidate, English
Undergraduate Student, Public Affairs and Latin American and Caribbean Studies '22
Undergraduate Student, Ethnic Studies '20