COVID-19, Grassroots Demands, and “Social Distance” Organizing

Demands of the Grassroots

Today Richmond For All joined a community of grassroots organizations in co-signing Transformative Spaces’ list of demands for local and federal government in support of community care during a pandemic of this character. Among these demands, Richmond has desperate need for the following:

A secure housing plan that freezes all evictions and provides supportive housing and sanitation care for individuals facing housing insecurity. There is urgent need to suspend all plans to take adverse action against the residents of Cathy’s Camp, where negligence on the part of the city has left residents particularly vulnerable, and where residents are currently engaged in active efforts to support their own safety during rapid spread of the virus.

Protective measures for workers, ensuring protective care for public workers who remain active during the crisis and wage support for workers who are not active during this period. These protective measures must include wage support for contract workers that serve state and local public agencies.

On-site clinic hours in all public housing courts, with targeted care for immunocompromised, disabled, or aging residents and secure relocation plans for residents dealing with mold.

Abatement of actions on behalf of the criminal justice system that increase risk of transmission, including a moratorium on ICE deportations to ensure that undocumented people are not discouraged from seeking treatment or testing, and release of all pre-trial detainees at the Richmond City Justice Center.

In addition to joining the team at Transformative Spaces, we recognize the incredible work being done by members of Richmond’s grassroots who are leading on the ground with demands on behalf of the fights they represent across the city, including the Richmond Community Bail Fund on decarceration needs; and the Legal Aid Justice Center, Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, and The Virginia Poverty Law Center on secure housing needs.

Our work during COVID-19 containment

During a period of COVID-19 preparedness and response, our organization is transitioning to digital meeting models, using a range of resources including Slack and Zoom to advance work from home. We are asking all working groups and campaign committees use Zoom for meetings and we are encouraging organizers to use zoom, Facetime, or other video conferencing methods for one-on-one meetings until such time as risk has been mitigated. In limited cases core members of our team are engaged in mutual aid efforts, delivering supplies as needed to targeted sites throughout the community. We ask all organizers, particularly those engaged in supportive efforts in housing crisis scenarios, to use best practices around sanitation to protect both themselves and residents receiving supplies: this includes simple sanitation of all supplies delivered.

Currently our organization has no all-membership meetings planned until April. We will be make adjustments to our quarterly all-member meeting schedule as needed to prioritize the health and safety our our members and our community.

Organizing during a time of “social distancing”

Richmond For All serves as a political home and organizing community. Organizing at its core is about building dignity and power through love, solidarity, and—most of all—proximity. We recognize calls for “social distancing” present particular challenges to organizing communities whose members believe in in collective labor, resources, and action. Many of us will experience more isolation during this period as we watch our community institutions like schools and churches close down. Some of us organize to fight isolation we already feel and face significant stressors at the prospect of self-isolation in the coming weeks. All of us are experiencing strain as we watch political and economic infrastructure fail to hold the best interests of our communities. The inability of our current system to meet public needs is precisely why we fight. It can be hard to hold a shared vision and a shared hope when we are asked to increase our time alone. We want to give voice to that.

To our members and our volunteer staff: we miss you and we love you. Our leadership team will be using this time at home to build out organizational infrastructure to better support the work to come. That will include fundraising planning, working group planning, campaign planning, shared governance document drafting, etc. If you need us, we are only a phone call away. If this period of containment lasts more than two weeks, we will set up a membership-wide zoom call where we can share updates, share needs, and talk about what is next.

RPS Meal Distribution and Camp Cathy support

Beginning Monday, March 16th Richmond Public Schools will be closed, but will be hosting meal distribution sites around the city. Camp Cathy is also taking donations of items to support resident needs. Visitors to Camp Cathy should carefully observe dropoff hours of 12pm-4pm daily, and sanitize donations by wiping down supplies with sanitizing fluids before delivery.