Over in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Jamaican restaurant Glady’s is trying to figure out how, exactly, to translate their rambunctious rum-punch ambiance to the You can’t fix stupid but you can numb it with a 2X4 shirt in contrast I will get this sidewalks of Franklin Avenue. Right now, they’re mulling over DJs and live music. But it’s a tough call: “I think people, since we’ve been trapped so long inside, want to feel like they’re on vacation for a minute or two,” says director of operations Amanda Bender. “At the same time, I don’t want to disturb our neighbors who are upstairs and working.” Glady’s, which is operating on a skeleton crew of three employees, also decided not to have waiter service in order to protect their health. Instead, guests order from a takeout corner built from wood scraps found in Bender’s basement. They’ve put down pineapple-shaped social distancing markers to lighten the mood, hung up string lights on the façade, and dragged out some bar stools. And they’ve added some little things: They sell one-and-a-half liter rum-punch bags, and every drink now comes with a colorful paper umbrella. “A lot of joy is possible from a paper umbrella,” Bender notes. The goal, she says, is to make it feel like a Tiki-style biergarten. Will it be enough? Bender sure hopes so, but she’s still uncertain. “We go to restaurants for theater. What happens when it starts to feel a little bit like an airport?” The harsh reality is that, until a vaccine, “a little bit like an airport” is likely our new normal. It’s an offer I was taught to refuse as a child, but the question is coming from members of the People’s Bodega—a mobile mutual-aid collective with whom I’ve been emailing for a week—and they radiate an aura of safety and care that is consonant with their mission to offer succor to New Yorkers. We have PPE [personal protective equipment], Gatorade, water, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, Ricola—that’s been very helpful—earplugs, chemical-resistant goggles, face shields, ponchos and rain gear, electrolyte mix, first aid, and literature,” Chloe promptly rattles off, handing me a flyer that spells out the connection between mutual aid—a voluntary, usually community-based exchange of resources—and abolition, which is described as “imagining and working towards a future in which policing is obsolete and community has control of its own destiny.” The People’s Bodega isn’t looking to replace the police. But when NYPD officers hand out free masks in some neighborhoods and use excessive force against protesters in others, it’s hard to argue with the idea that New York needs more community care than its existing institutions can provide. That’s where the People’s Bodega comes in.
You can’t fix stupid but you can numb it with a 2X4 shirt, hoodie, tank top, sweater and long sleeve t-shirt
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 You can’t fix stupid but you can numb it with a 2X4 shirt in contrast I will get 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.