She calls it “The Donald Disaster”. Melissa Asse of University Settlement in New York (a community organisation/housing for 350000 New Yorkers) has just finished speaking to the Locality Convention in Manchester.
During Hurricane (Superstorm) Sandy Melissa recognised that, although they were poorly prepared, some of the best first responders were recent migrants. Especially those who had been learning or teaching english.
They had two key things: trust and languages. [ trust grown through learning together – which is also what happened at the Stagehuis Schilderswijk in The Hague and what is happening at Co-Lab Dudley, indeed happens all over the place. ]
She says she can see that they are now facing another disaster. Trump is a storm heading for their communities… “disorienting and fever pitched and reminds us of other disasters”
These are the lessons from Hurricane Sandy that Melissa belives community organisations can apply to political hurricanes.
- Get people together. In a disaster people want to come together and they naturally do, anchor organisations can be that, can bring them together. get spaces and staff ready to open up. Be explicit about your intention to be a safe space.
- Tackle racism: Inequity and racism makes things worse in a disaster – poor and communities of colour are hit hardest but rarely part of the planning. Tackle white supremacy head on.
- Make the most of immediate relationships: Social ties might save your life – in the current storm or right wing hatred and xenophobia, the skills of community, story telling, improvisation, social capital can help us respond to attacks on immigrants, LGBQT people, mysogny
- Keep your organising skills sharp: Local activism has morphed a little into providing transactional services. It’s time to brush up on skills of community organsiation and civic engagement.
- Be careful with yourself: self care matters – find inspiration from each other. Avoid disaster porn, read the history of movement read “Hope ion the dark”
- Wire the network in many ways: In disaster there can never be enough forms of communication., Things change quickly and we have to change responses quickly, even if the decisions are imperfect. Find community, find partners.
- Exploit the disruption. In No Is Not Enough, Naomi Klein, expands on how she sees capitalist engineering shocks to create disruption they can exploit. Melissa says disasters can be opportunities for local organisations, creating new ways of working and unexpected alliances. Be ready to take advantage.
- Use it to strengthen: Intentionally build human relationships build resilience. We already do that and need to keep doing that.