Two of its volunteers—Alex and Benham—drive and navigate up front, with Chloe and fellow volunteer Margaret sorting through supplies and plotting out a route in back as the Save the planet earth day shirt and I love this van weaves through Brooklyn protest traffic and into Manhattan. Mutual aid has a long and complex history that dates back to the civil-rights movement, Chloe reminds me as we circle DUMBO. After all, one of the Black Panthers’ main initiatives was providing schoolchildren with free breakfast in a program that started in Oakland, California, and spread around the United States. Now, as America undergoes a long-overdue racial reckoning during a pandemic, more people are beginning to reimagine what it means to be part of a community truly. Do your friends define your community? Do your coworkers? Your neighbors? People you’ve never met? To the People’s Bodega, community is all of that and more. They’re offering what supplies they can to make the ongoing labor of protest easier but also to address New York’s staggering hunger gap. The New York branch of the People’s Bodega has roots in Astoria Mutual Aid and was inspired by a similar initiative in Los Angeles. L.A. organizer Alexandra—a florist by trade who raised more than a thousand dollars for supplies overnight after putting a call out on Instagram—let the New York volunteers borrow the name. “I want people to take the concept for free and use it however is most helpful for their community,” Alexandra said via phone on Monday. Those who haven’t attended protests before might imagine them as chaotic maelstroms of human activity, but in fact they often function as sites of remarkable community care. At the Juneteenth march where I spontaneously joined the People’s Bodega, Dyke March volunteers had wheelchairs at the ready for protesters with limited mobility. As at every protest I’ve covered over the past month, nearly everyone I saw was masked, with Good Samaritans handing out hand sanitizer. (Perhaps not coincidentally, there has been no evidence of a spike in COVID-19 cases associated with protests.) While masks and goggles serve an obvious purpose in minimizing the risk of COVID-19 and police violence at protests, the smaller items that the People’s Bodega volunteers hand out—from bags of Cheez-Its to Chewy bars and ever-present bottles of Gatorade—play their own significant role in helping people feel cared for on a more personal scale. “When people ask ‘How much is this?’ about one of our snacks or PPE items and we respond, ‘No, it’s free, it’s funded by the people,’ it’s incredibly heartwarming,” said Alexandra.
Save the planet earth day shirt, hoodie, tank top, sweater and long sleeve t-shirt
The People’s Bodega’s seven or eight regular New York volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds—they are artists, film-production workers, restaurant employees, art handlers—but they’re insistent on being thought of as a collective. “We want to promote the Save the planet earth day shirt and I love this idea that anyone can do this,” said Chloe. They’re cryptic about how they find events to attend—“we have our ways”—but they’re a regular presence at protests around the city. Most volunteers attend several within a week and source supplies between donations (which make up 90% of their haul) and regular trips to the Costco in Astoria. The People’s Bodega volunteers are jokey and cheerful as they move through the city, comparing the virtues of Kind bars versus Fruit Roll-Ups and debating new haircuts. But the work they’re doing is undeniably challenging. In addition to the risk of COVID-19 and police intervention, they’re on their feet for hours, attempting to turn crowds of unfamiliar faces into community—using only Costco supplies and goodwill. Ultimately, the People’s Bodega volunteers are aware that their job is to amplify the unheard through physical means of sustenance. I want to give marginalized voices a Ricola and a water and help them yell something that needs to be said,” explained Margaret as the van neared the financial district. As I hopped out and waved my goodbyes, I could hear the group behind me, plotting their next move. Night was falling over New York, but as long as people were still showing up to protest, the People’s Bodega would meet them with supplies and a smile. This year’s Pride month has looked, to put it simply, unlike almost any other. Even a pandemic couldn’t stop LGBTQ+ people and allies for fighting for Black liberation, whether at a massive rally for Black trans lives outside the Brooklyn Museum or a Juneteenth march toward the Manhattan Bridge. (It’s worth noting that there has been no reported spike in COVID-19 cases in cities associated with these protests, possibly in part because much the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t have the luxury of taking good health for granted: nearly every march and rally in New York was a cornucopia of masks and hand sanitizer.) Now the final weekend of Pride month is upon us, with no shortage of socially distanced events planned in New York and around the country. Of course, many revelers will be donating to Black LGBTQ+ fundraisers and organizationsf from home, which is a great way to keep carrying the spirit of this year’s more intersectional Pride celebrations past June. Below, find a roundup of what’s going on this Pride weekend, both in person and virtually.