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RENT FOR MOMS: ART, ACTIVISM, AND MUTUAL AID W/ DONE FOR DIDI

By : Sam Potrykus

8 min read




1. Since forming the organization Done For DiDi in 2017 you have created so many platforms and opportunities for artists, what was your first project? Was it Full Set or White Labor Collective or was it something else?

Actually, I was a poet first, co-founding the Society of Urban Poetry, a spoken-word & poetry community in Cambridge, MA. It wasn’t until 2015 when I co-founded Black Lives Matter Cambridge that I put my focus into community-organizing for racial justice. I mean, my art has always been about dismantling white supremacy, but this was a fresh take.

I started to become more well-known, expanding my reach to new audiences & communities. This is when I started experimenting with direct person to person reparations. I would get requests from Black folks in need due to my connections in the community. I started sharing their paylinks on my page, requesting that folks donate and write #donefordidi in the comment once they had.

As this work grew, I created the Done for DiDi White Labor Collective (WLC), led by a team of Black women and non-men, or Marginalized Genders (MaGes). The group engages in Black liberation work through a reparations lens. We take the influx of white people on social media who want to learn about anti-racism and anti-oppression, and put their labor (9000 hours in 2021) and money to work to provide monthly micro-funding, stipends, and seed funding for projects led by Black organizers. In 2020, we raised $170,045.95 and handed it over with love, confidentiality and no strings attached to 500 Black organizers & families.

The Full Set Podcast actually began as a healing and self-care journey for me during the start of the 2020 Coronavirus quarantine. The absence of my nail technician, who also happened to be my best friend, forced me to recognize the importance of having a space to discuss issues important to folks who look like us. Not having this container during quarantine was a struggle for me and, I imagined, many others.

So, I decided to create a space for healing. I wanted to hear how everyone else was doing in the same way I would have if I were getting my full set done. An episode of The Full Set is like a long phone call between good friends or frenemies. There are a few specifics you want to touch on but mostly the conversation just goes where it needs to; there's no spin and no restrictions.

I recorded over 70 episodes in a year, and had guests including Sonya Renee Taylor (The Body is Not an Apology), Elle Hearns (The Marsha P. Johnson Institute), adrienne maree brown (Pleasure Activism), Ejeris Dixon, (Beyond Survival / Vision Change Win), Shameka Andrews (Disability Advocate/Author) and Jennifer Love Williams (The Jennifer Love Project).

2. We see Done For DiDi combining arts and activism to support mutual aid initiatives, was this a goal from the beginning or something that developed naturally in the past few years?

I am an unapologetically Black, Queer, and Cash-Poor Femme. All the work that I do, prioritizes Black movement-builders, artists, educators, visionaries, healers, and communities. We’ve been doing the work of liberation for centuries - reparations and resources are long overdue. This work of community care is spiritual and so is art. In both these modalities expression is at the root. We all get free together.


To paraphrase the Combahee River Collective Statement, when Black MaGes are free, everybody’s free, because we’re always trying to free everybody.


In regards to mutual aid, I want to make a distinction here. The work I’m doing is reparations. This distinction is important because white folks who called for Covid-19 “mutual aid” are some of the same who previously believed that the person-to-person direct reparations I had been doing were inappropriate. However, the principles in both calls are the same: because systemic oppression has kept some away from the resources they need to live, we as a community must make sure that those resources reach them.


I believe in Black feminism, not only as outlined by the Combahee River Collective Statement, but as lived, experienced, and practiced by Black MaGes like myself. That is, I believe that every time we as Black MaGes and as BIPOC people are finally given access to resources and healing, it disrupts capitalism. We will continue lifting as we climb.

3. Rent For Moms is super ambitious and a radical idea, is this your first national campaign? Did it require an expansion of the DFD Team?

In 2017 I tweeted “We should cancel ‘Toys for Tots’ and replace it with a ‘Rent for Moms’ program, cuz that’s why Black moms can’t afford to buy the toys.” That same year I also wrote an article for Shelterforce called “Just as I Suspected Paying Rent is Racist.”


The average unhoused family in the US is a single parent household headed by an African-American woman. Rent in Boston consumes about 71% of income in Black neighborhoods, but just 35% in White communities. Although more than half of Black women have attended college, Black moms are almost twice as likely to live below the poverty level in the US compared to white or Asian Americans.


A lot of giving programs are taking away dignity and autonomy from people in need, without addressing the root of the problems. To use Toys for Tots as an example - Parents don’t get to choose what they want for their kids. If some basic needs were taken care of, like rent, we could afford the toys and still get the joy of watching our kids open what we selected.


So in 2020, I decided it was time to do this for real. That’s when we launched “Rent for Moms” and, working with Simone Gordon (The Black Fairy Godmother) we raised and distributed $37,420 for over 20 single Black moms across the US.


This year’s campaign is going even bigger with a goal of raising $100,000 through grassroots fundraising and with support from some foundations. We’re working with nine Black femmes raising rent in their cities from Washington, DC to Sacramento, CA.


4. Can you tell us how you go about paying out the funds and finding Moms who need support?

We have an intake form where folks can apply for rental assistance. So far, we’ve had over 650 applications for assistance for over $770,000 of rent that needs to get paid. The application will remain open until Christmas Day, when the organizers will meet to review applications from their area, and we will select from there, regardless of how much the specific locations have raised. The recipients that are selected by the organizers will need to provide verification of their rent amount, so the full rent will be paid.

5. How can people support this effort and what is next for Done For DiDi?


The sheer number of people who need help can be overwhelming. Give what you can. Help where you can. Be generous. Budget your time and resources so you aren't over or under-extending yourself. Encourage others to care and realize the importance of wealth distribution. Keep focusing on the most marginalized. It's not your job to save everybody. It's our collective job to make sure everyone is taken care of.

We’re forging channels so that even “broke ass” white people can access our learning and contribute to Black liberation despite their cash flow. Most of all, we ask folks to show up, imperfectly, with a willingness to learn, to be corrected, & to be accountable.


Through our community approach to learning and direct giving in the White Labor Collective, we are increasing the likelihood that white folks will stay in this work for the long haul, reduce the harm they cause and more effectively disrupt institutions of oppression. Our leaders & members are guided by our set of Community Agreements to navigate uncomfortable & necessary conversations.


Whatever you do, don't get apathetic.

Join the Done for DiDi White Labor Collective

Donate to Rent for Moms : givebutter.com/RentforMoms


Follow me on FB / Insta : @TheDiDiDelgado




Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #154 January 2023

 

Check out all the art and columns of January's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass

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