BRONZEVILLE — Two Bronzeville organizations have partnered to help neighbors struggling to afford food and basic supplies, while building the neighborhood’s ability to provide for itself after the pandemic ends.
“When COVID happened, [Sacred Keepers] came to a standstill,” said founder Toni Anderson. “Then when George Floyd and the unrest that came with that impacted our communities, and we didn’t have access to food and other goods, my concern … was that the mothers and elders of our community wouldn’t have what they needed.”
The Bronzeville/Kenwood Mutual Aid network, which began organizing in response to the pandemic late in the spring, has supported the hub since August.
Upon meeting, Anderson and aid network members Justin Williams and Cosmos Ray brainstormed how to create a system for neighbors to give what they can and receive what they need.
So far, their collaboration has supported the Reciprocity Hub, which includes two Love Fridges where people can donate food for others to pick up.
The groups also hold a regular food and cleaning supply distribution, which is supported by mutual aid groups and community organizations across the city.
“There’s this connectivity that’s happening despite the distance of COVID … that’s really human and energetic,” Williams said. “Our access to resources is in abundance if we’re connecting ourselves more intentionally.”
The Sustainability Lab, an organization focused on climate and culture, teaches young Chicagoans how to look at their communities as places of “healing for the planet and healing for each other,” Anderson said.
With that mission, the organization’s partnership with the Bronzeville network was a natural one.
Focusing on truly mutual aid differentiates their community assistance model from straight charity, the organizers said.
Charity is organized “for people to show up to take things,” Anderson said. “Some expert somewhere is the source of what that should be and how they should get it.”
Reciprocity is instead “designing an opportunity for the community to give to each other,” she said.
Communities like Bronzeville “have been stripped of so much agency,” Ray said. Reciprocity also reminds locals they can band together and support the community — a lesson that won’t fade when the pandemic does.
In that spirit, the Bronzeville collaboration has received plenty of help as they work to supply their network.
Among the citywide contributors who have made the Bronzeville network’s efforts possible:
- The Grocery Run Club, an initiative that supplies fresh produce and home goods to underserved neighborhoods. The club has used donations to provide 140 boxes of produce and cleaning supplies for the Bronzeville network’s pop-up.
- The Love Fridge, which provided two refrigerators: one for general food storage, and the other for a “food pharmacy” offering healthy foods and alternative medicines like herbs, tinctures and roots.
- Nichols Farm, a Marengo-based family farm that provides any food not sold at farmers markets to mutual aid networks.
- The Humboldt Park Solidarity Network, which created a multi-neighborhood fundraiser to support mutual aid efforts in Black and Latino communities.
- Logan Square Mutual Aid, which made weekly deliveries of USDA food boxes.
- The Ravenswood/Lincoln Square, Hyde Park, Far South Side and Boxville mutual aid networks, as well as the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference and the South Side Food Distribution Network.
“It’s a tale of two cities — you see the North Side mutual aid hubs with more resources,” Ray said. “But they’re intentional about redistributing money and actual goods and resources to the South and West sides.”
The “whole Chicago mutual aid network has really mobilized” to support the effort and overcome the city’s disparities, Ray said.
He praised the “creativity and adaptability” of mutual aid volunteers and donors across the city for honoring that principle.
The pop-up distributions will run through at least October, providing free groceries, cleaning supplies and hygiene products. The distributions are 1–4 p.m. Fridays at Sacred Keepers, 4445 S. King Drive on the second floor.
The Reciprocity Hub is open noon–4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays at the same location.
You can request aid from, get involved with and donate to the Bronzeville network here. Donations to Sacred Keepers can be made through PayPal at email@example.com.
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