COVID-19 has been difficult in my 2SQT and BIPOC communities here in the Indigenous lands known as Tkaronto, Gichi Kiiwenging, and Toronto. 2SQT and BIPOC artists create the city’s most important artwork, yet face hardships with little help. Seeking help can feel burdensome and frightening.
This is where care teams come in.
In this post, I describe how care teams work to meet people’s needs. Rosina Kazi and artist-organizers of Unit 2 and Bricks & Glitter also offer critical insights from their care work experiences. My hope is to inspire care teamwork across creative communities and urge institutional action.
What is a care team?
A care team is a small group of people working together to support another person. Care teams can be temporary and dissolve when the individual’s needs are met — as in finding housing and resources to survive. Other care teams give individuals ongoing support, which is necessary through chronic illness and systemic oppression.
Care teams can also support a group or a project. Bricks & Glitter’s Care Team, for example, guides event accessibility and conflict mediation. Care teams may even support entire families or provide all members mutual care.
Care teams recognize that those seeking care are experts of their own needs. As Rosina Kazi learned from years of community organizing, “Make sure you take the lead from the person in need. Listening is key.”
How care teams work
Care teams work like pods. Pods, according to Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC) organizer Mia Mingus, are “made up of the people that you would call on if violence, harm or abuse happened to you.” Pods rely on trust. The convener asks for help leveraging resources to meet concrete goals. BATJC’s pod model informs, in part, Unit 2 and Bricks & Glitter’s care teamwork.
Care has always been a collective effort. Born of struggle, showing up for each other is in our bones. An unnamed Unit 2 organizer observes care teams’ deep roots: “Folks in our communities are artists, working poor and were already experiencing precarity before the start of COVID-19, so in many ways all the care systems were already in place and ready to go.”
This is what care looks like
COVID-19 reminds us that mainstream institutions — like governments, corporations and nonprofits — are not equipped for care.
Rosina Kazi rapidly mobilized Unit 2’s care teams in COVID-19’s early days, reflecting: “It was very important to support local needs at that moment because so many institutions were not able to respond as fast as we did. This showed us how we can self-organize and do very important support, without any bureaucracy or fighting.”
As institutions adopt words like care, pods and mutual aid to make up for lost faith, we are wise to root care work in the ethic of mutuality and trust. We practice this ethic by showing up for friends and community. “This is first and foremost about mutual aid,” offers a Unit 2 organizer, “we build these supports because we know that one day we will probably need them and maybe that day is today.”
Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective
Featured image designed by Marisa Fulper-Estrada