Organizing during COVID-19: A photo essay with Ad Naka
The severity of the pandemic hit both slowly and suddenly. Our Bay Area Sunrise hub had been hard at work for months gearing up for spring: planning huge art builds, gathering for a strategy retreat, and mobilizing thousands to take to the streets for Earth Day. But when the coronavirus hit the United States, we cancelled everything and sheltered in place. The chance to mourn our dreams of a historic Earth Day mobilization was lost in a sea of fear for the future of our country. It was devastating.
For weeks, I felt frozen. I knew that I wanted to respond to this moment, but I was too sad, too confused. But when I saw the headlines about the disproportionate death rates of Communities of Color as a result of the pandemic, the confusion turned into a determination to keep fighting.
The Green New Deal we’re fighting for contains a lot of what we need right now — housing, healthcare, and good, green, government-backed jobs — but we also need immediate, direct relief to the people who are being impacted most. Black and brown communities, working-class individuals, unhoused populations, and other at-risk populations are being hit hard by this crisis.
The People’s Bailout is a framework for responding to this moment with short-term economic relief and support for people and community health. The People’s Bailout highlights 5 main principles:
1. Ensure health is the top priority, for all people, with no exceptions.
2. Provide economic relief directly to the people.
3. Rescue workers and communities, not corporate executives.
4. Make a down payment on a regenerative economy, while preventing future crises.
5. Protect our democratic process while protecting each other.
It reflects the values of the Green New Deal, but rather than a broad vision for governance, it responds directly to this crisis. Massive investments to protect workers and create a resilient, equitable society and economy are exactly what we need right now. And these investments will pave the path towards continuing the fight for a Green New Deal when our country is healthy again.
Right now, we are in a pivotal moment. In the wake of the pandemic, the world will forever be changed. But the kind of change that happens as result of this tragedy is not certain. History is being written, and we want to make sure it’s written by the People, not by polluting corporations.
The current solutions proposed by Congress are a corporate bailout, not a People’s Bailout. Despite the challenges posed by social distancing, we need to make our demands clear, so that the policies and legislation that emerge from this crisis are ones that build a better future: ones that put people over corporations, ones that work for all and not just the wealthy few, ones that leave no one behind.
So, in the middle of a shockingly empty street, we filled the silence with our demands. It felt powerful to come together (six feet apart, of course) and hold the pieces of a better future in our gloved hands. We had to let go of our plans for an Earth Day Strike, but we will not give up. We will continue to fight for our country to rebuild stronger, and in doing so, we will grow stronger, too.
Ad Naka is an artist and organizer living in Oakland, CA. They are a producer, designer and creator of immersive arts, and love coordinating artists to create a collective vision that delivers political and social commentary. In their spare time, Ad attempts to manage an ever-growing collection of tiny objects that live at the intersection between cute and creepy. They have been. volunteering with Sunrise since early 2019.