Organizer Mariame Kaba: We Need a People’s Bailout to Confront Coronavirus

Organizer Mariame Kaba discusses the realities facing some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Photo Illustration: Elise Swain/The Intercept; Photo: Getty Images

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Many people across the United States are finally facing the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. On the latest Intercepted: After weeks of downplaying the seriousness of the virus and at times implying it was a hoax, the Trump administration has announced a series of government responses to the crisis. While some actions, such as expanded testing, emergency aid to states and production of medical supplies, are aimed directly at protecting public health, serious questions abound about the economic survival of millions of people. Organizer Mariame Kaba discusses the realities facing some of the most vulnerable people in our society, from poor and working families to prisoners and immigration detainees and beyond. While the virus does not discriminate in who it infects, it will have a disproportionately devastating impact on communities that already faced dire crises before coronavirus. Kaba discusses “mutual aid” actions taking place across the country where ordinary people are pooling resources and offering direct responses to those in the most need.

Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.

[Music interlude.]

JS: I’m Jeremy Scahill coming to you from my basement in New York City and this is Episode 122 of Intercepted.

Steven Mnuchin: The payroll tax holiday would get people money over the next six to eight months. We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately. And what we’ve heard from hard-working Americans, many companies have now shut down whether it’s bars or restaurants. Americans need cash now and the president wants to get cash now, and I mean now in the next two weeks.

Reporter: How much?

SM: I will be previewing that with the Republicans. There’s some numbers out there. They may be a little bit bigger than what’s in the press.

JS: As more and more people in this country wake up to the grave reality that we are facing in the United States and across the world, there is a lot of discussion right now about what the federal government should be doing to address the urgent needs of so many people. Yes, we need more tests and test sites. Yes, we need more ICU beds, and hospitals, and respirators. Yes, we need to do everything possible to create the conditions to survive this pandemic safely in the face of the coronavirus and its spread. But the reality is that the coronavirus situation does discriminate, not in who it infects, but in how it impacts the lives of those who are most vulnerable. We all, I hope, know the grave risks to older people in our society or people with pre-existing respiratory conditions. But what about people stuck in prisons? What about people in ICE detention centers right now? What about older people who live alone? Workers who lost their jobs? What about people who live in poverty? This virus is going to hit them hard.

There are people right now living in this country who are scared and alone, and they literally can’t go to the grocery store. It is the responsibility of all of us, as human beings, to simply not just retreat to defend our nuclear families. Across this country and the world, there are people who are not waiting for governments to take action, or to work out a response that’s acceptable to horrible people like Mitch McConnell. I’m talking about people organizing mutual aid projects inspired by anarchist thinkers and activists throughout history. People who believe in identifying a problem and then using whatever resources they have at their disposal to try to address it, to try to help those who are suffering.

One such organizer is Mariame Kaba. You may know her on Twitter as “prisonculture.” Mariame is an organizer and educator, a curator who is active in movements for racial, gender and transformative justice. She’s also the founder and director of Project NIA, which is a grassroots organization with a vision to ending youth incarceration completely. Mariame is right now coordinating a mutual aid redistribution fund with the aim to give urgently needed aid to vulnerable communities and people by placing it in the hands of individuals or groups who are doing the work on the frontlines of this virus. Mariame, welcome back to Intercepted.

Mariame Kaba: Thanks for having me.

JS: So I want to begin by asking you to sort of layout the bigger picture of your understanding of the issues that are arising from the coronavirus pandemic, specifically for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, people in prisons, people in low-income communities, people who are facing domestic abuse, people who are old, people who are poor, just give an overview of how you see this crisis impacting those communities and what you’re doing about it.

MK: For me, capitalism is the crisis. It always has been. And I think what we’re being exposed to in this moment is all of the contradictions and the violences of capitalism, bringing things to light in stark relief. For example, the fact that we’ve had a few years now of a conversation in the country around the need for improved Medicare for All. Every single person is impacted where you can have conversations across differences, where seemingly we could all agree that it would be good to be able to be healthy. And I think we’ve seen just in the current presidential election, a very stark difference in what people are offering as a response to the needs of the community as it relates to health care.

So enter this pandemic, which I think has caught so many people off guard though years and years of the study of epidemiologists and other people suggest that we should not have been surprised about this. The fact that we had Ebola and that we’ve had SARS and we’ve had these other scares that I think Americans or U.S.-ians, in particular, found themselves very disconnected from, that we were in this position of thinking this happens to people elsewhere. It doesn’t affect “us” here in the U.S. And I think that made people very complacent in asking the questions of, you know, are we prepared? What does preparation mean? Who would be most at risk? How would we handle that in a country where some people aren’t seen as having lives that really matter? How are we going to navigate that when we were all hit in this kind of way?

So for me, I think a lot obviously, because my work has been rooted in anti-criminalization work for a long time, people who are incarcerated are at incredible risk for so many reasons. The first is that prisons and jails make you sick. The frailties that are created by the very nature of you being locked up. That makes you even more at risk for things like this. In a closed confined area, these are unsanitary conditions that breed all kinds of illnesses in a situation of a pandemic where you’re supposed to have social distance. I mean, you’re literally on top of each other.

We’re in a country where we have a bunch of old people locked up in prisons, a lot of elderly people over the age of 50. And yet here we are in a position where we’re in New York State, we’ve got a governor who is up on television every day giving big pronouncements and saying that, you know, he is caring for people. He’s yelling at the feds about their response. And people are applauding that, while at the same time, he’s not using his complete discretion, enormous power, incontrovertible power to issue clemencies in this moment, to release at least the most vulnerable people from prison.

So many commutation applications on his desk right now, well over 7,000. He could just go to all those would be like, I’m just gonna open up the doors right now, all folks who are over the age of 50 and who are sick, you get to come home. So people are really motivated, action-oriented. People are doing incarcerated mutual aid drives and sending soap because people can’t have hand sanitizer within prisons because of the alcohol level within those products and so sending soap in so at least people could wash their hands. Because it’s expensive in the commissary, because they’ve run out in commissary, because people have no money in prisons.

I just want people to understand the importance of this moment is to not be paralyzed by it. It’s so, so important not to just succumb to: We have to wait to see what the government is going to do. Is everybody paying attention? The federal government is completely derelict in its duties right now. We have somebody at the head of government who, I’m not kidding, eight days ago was suggesting this whole entire thing is a hoax. Literally, we’re gonna put our survival in the hands of people like this? No, I refuse.

JS: The nation of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran is being hit incredibly hard by coronavirus. And what is making it even more of a nightmare for the Iranian population is that the United States has imposed murderous sanctions on Iran that are absolutely, scientifically exacerbating the crisis. And even in the face of this, with everything that both Democrats and Republicans say about the nature of the Iranian regime, Iran has released at last count 85,000 prisoners because of the risks to them for coronavirus.

MK: Yes, absolutely. And what are we told about Iran? We are told that these authoritarian regimes supposedly are the enemies of the U.S. and are terrorists. But that suggests that these are immoral people, right? It’s not the people who run the countries even that are the targets. It’s the entire country, the people, the civilians. And I think what we’re seeing is that in the countries that have been called the shithole countries, the countries that have been called the authoritarian, non-human rights supporting countries are actually addressing the rights of their people, the human rights of their people in ways that the United States can’t even think about doing in this moment.

We’re told here in this country, we are the freest, we have the best, we’re exceptional, and we cannot produce test kits to test the population for a pandemic. And yet, in the country where my mother was born, in Senegal, the scientists over there have made kits available to the public that allows folks to be tested and four hours later to receive their responses. And now they’ve improved that, according to news I’m reading to potentially getting results within 10 minutes, shithole country, right?

Maybe this is going to prompt U.S.-ians to start thinking differently about their government, what it does around the world, how inept it is here, how much it has disinvested from the material needs of its own people, and how much it’s siphoned off to wage wars, immoral, and illegal wars all around the world, harming other people. Maybe people will be asking questions about how it is that we can find trillions of dollars on a dime, turn around, when people are begging for Medicare for All for generations in this country, for universal health care, not health insurance.

I’m hopeful that what this moment is going to do is shape a lot of people, radicalize a lot of people, ask people to connect dots that maybe they haven’t been connecting between their existence in this country and the world. And should we not be learning from other countries in this moment? Should we not be asking the South Koreans how they did what they did? You know, we’ve got China, which has been dealing with its own issues over a period of time. What are they doing? Sending kids to all parts of the world, sending their own doctors to Iran. Cuba, sending doctors all over the world. All these countries that are being fear mongered and they’re doing moral things in the midst of their own struggles.

JS: Also, in the case of Cuba, we’ve seen in this election cycle, Democrats, so-called liberal media demonizing Cuba for political purposes to try to attack Bernie Sanders. Even though what Bernie Sanders stated about Cuba and literacy was 100% accurate, and in fact, Sanders has been criticized by people on the left in the United States for being too strong in his condemnation of Cuba. But set that aside for a moment and recognize that all throughout history since the Cuban Revolution 1959, 1960, Cuba has sent its doctors and scientists to the most dangerous situations around the world to provide some of the highest quality scientific and health care available. And Cuba even under the punishing U.S. blockade, the economic embargo, even while being called evil by Democrats and Republicans alike have emerged as one of the greatest humanitarian forces in the world right now. We’re talking about an island of 11 million people. It is doing more internationally to try to address the epicenters of the coronavirus than the most powerful nation on earth the United States.

MK: We are living these contradictions, aren’t we? We’re seeing them play out in full view. I know people are scared. Like I talk to people who are scared all the time in my own family, my comrades, my friends. I see it on social media. And sometimes right, what ends up happening when you’re afraid is that you’re easily demagogued. I want all of us to you know, sit with our fear, understand it, but kind of start looking outside ourselves for a minute right now too to say, what are we being told about other people? What are we being told about the responses that are going on? What’s really happening?

You know, ferret out our own information, make up our own minds, and not just kind of sip the kool-aid of the propaganda that’s been said to people in this country for generations now about, “the communists and the socialists” and all these other people. People are people. People are trying to live. And I think when you look at yourself and you think like, I’m just trying to live, so are people everywhere on this planet trying to do the same. This is an opportunity for global solidarity in a way that we’ve never really practiced. If people think that the United States is going to be able to get out of this by itself, they’re sorely, sorely mistaken. It’s not going to be possible.

JS: I think that we will look back in the not too distant future on what has happened during this era of Trump and realize that we could have listened to the social movements. We could have listened to the climate movements. We could have listened to the racial justice movements. We could have listened to the movements to end the carceral state in this country, which you’ve been so central, and we could have listened to all of the millions of people in this country who were voting for Bernie Sanders, not because they love Bernie Sanders but because the emergency was here before any of us had heard the term coronavirus. And there were people in this country who saw it and begged others to listen, and what the Democratic Party did just in the micro-situation of this past week’s primary I’ll say it openly: They are going to be responsible for deaths. What they did, by openly telling particularly older people, go out and vote if you’re not exhibiting symptoms, or if you’re “not at risk.” We are all at risk.

But what they did, in their short-sighted effort to try to put a crown on Joe Biden’s head to own the progressives or own the social movements, we are going to look back in shame and horror at what we did in this moment when we had a movement, many movements saying if we don’t address this now, we are all going to die. And so it’s not about Joe Biden versus Bernie Sanders. It’s that we had millions of people in this country, begging everyone to listen to what we are saying. And they didn’t, and they didn’t listen. And I think that a prophet is not someone who can see the future. A prophet is someone who understands the present. And what we have done is we have scorned, shunned, shamed, made fun of the prophets of our time and we are going to pay a heavy, heavy price for not listening when we actually could have done something.

MK: I do hear you Jeremy. This moment for me, I’m questioning electoral-ism as an energy suck and as a vehicle for transformation. I understand that voting was a tactic of harm reduction. I don’t know. I think the energy that goes into these presidential campaigns, everybody’s focused on them, actually might be to the detriment of the work that needs to be getting done for our survival on a bigger scale. I know what the Democratic Party is for me. They don’t represent me. Like, I’m not their constituency in the least. And like, as the years have gone on, I’m less and less and less that for them. They don’t need to listen to me. I’m not their audience. And they definitely don’t cater to my politics and my politic. And as that’s becoming clearer and clearer to me, I’m just wondering, what else is there for us to be doing? If we’re going to engage in electoral organizing, what does it mean to do that work? What should we be focusing on and pushing? Can we be using the resources that are devoted to this in different kinds of ways?

What’s clear to me in this cycle and in the cycles that have come before is that most people aren’t paying attention to policy. They’re just not. And I don’t know that political education over the course of just a year shifts that markedly enough. For me, it makes no sense. Honestly, I’ve just been thinking about it more and more. We’ve got a pandemic right now. And that everybody hasn’t turned on a dime and said, approve Medicare for All, free at the point of use. I mean, look, I don’t understand how that’s possible, right? But it’s clear that something, there’s a disconnect somewhere. I think this question of normalcy is so strong, maybe we don’t quite grapple with that enough. Maybe we haven’t actually understood like, what that does, the seduction of saying that people yeah, 10 years ago was the norm and normal for you. And that means that you’re now wanting to go right back to that moment as things are more chaotic for you in the world, just conversations I’ve had with people who I love, and they’re just unwilling to move from: “We just got to get back to the Obama years. I hear you, you know, we just have to get back to that, I don’t care.” You know,  we have to contend with that if we want to do the work that I think both of you and myself are committed to in the world.

JS: I think that one of the things that has been remarkable to watch is that so many people whose work exists outside of the horse race, Democrat, Republican primary every four years, every two-year election is that regardless of the outcome, people like yourself, and so many social movements, they’re going to continue doing their work. The Sanders’s campaign represented an attempt to engage these issues and demand these agendas be taken seriously through the state’s lens of how power is wielded.

I think that what this, unfortunately, has shown us is that if the choice is between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, this system is rotten to the core, and many people already knew that, and they hoped against hope that maybe, maybe, just maybe they could convince enough people in this country of the dire emergency that they witness in their at-risk communities every day that we could actually win at the state’s game. But the state is fierce in protecting its own interest, and the amount of money that is spent just to get a couple of votes. I mean, the per-vote dollar amount is a crime against humanity, how much money is spent just to win one vote in this country through ads, and robocalls and all of that. It’s just a colossal waste of money that could be immediately used to address human need.

MK: I agree with you on so much about what you just said around the fact that so many folks who joined the Sanders’s campaign weren’t necessarily even joining it to push Bernie Sanders, but have a vision, are already embedded in movements. There’s something here about this moment where the campaign actually can pivot to using all of the resources that it has marshaled, which are human resources, which are ideas, which are people, the networks that have been built could be transformed in this moment towards supporting the work that’s happening to help people and to address people’s material needs in this moment of this pandemic. And knowing some of the folks who are affiliated with that campaign, I have no doubt that that’s being thought of right now.

And so all I say is that oftentimes we can feel despondent in the moment, obviously with good reason the money, organized money is definitely against us, all we have is organized people and right now we’re not very organized as people. It’s tempting to be seduced into a sense of not just frustration and anger, that’s normal and right, you know, rage all fine, but a sense of despondency that I worry about. And I’m thinking a lot about how this campaign can actually help people to feel less despondent by providing new avenues for people to channel their energy in this moment.

So there’s stuff that we can’t even imagine, you know, they say what was at the Henry Adams quote, a teacher affects eternity. They never know where their influence ends. I think that’s really true about movement work. And that’s really true about even electoral organizing campaigns. We don’t know where the influence is going to end. And all these young folks and other people who have been mobilized over the last couple of years of that campaign to do all this work have skills. They have skills they have like concrete things that they can use and turn around and actually put to good use in this moment.

JS: Explain the organizing principle of mutual aid, what it is, but also how you and others are utilizing it during this pandemic.

MK: Basically, its cooperation for the sake of the common good, is what people have used as a large frame around this. Over 100 years ago, a Russian kind of zoologists/philosopher named Kropotkin [wrote] a book called “Mutual Aid” that was really focused on the fact that as the human race and the species, we have to cooperate with each other in order to survive that, you know, and it was kind of a push back to Darwinism which was taking over in terms of the scientific and philosophical fields of life. We are interdependent. That’s the only way human beings have been able to survive. And so we have to take that seriously in order to be able to preserve our survival. So that has gotten taken, that concept, that idea as characterized in that specific way, by him by anarchists for generations. [A] lot of the way that I came to mutual aid work was through friends of mine who were anarchists who were doing things like writing to incarcerated people, Food Not Bombs. So these are things that people may know of and hear of and think, oh, OK, yeah, that makes sense.

The second aspect of mutual aid has always been tied to organizing for systemic and structural change. If we could get people together to address their own needs, we ask the question of how can people be in power to meet their own needs. Through those relationships that get built, we’re creating new social relations that we’re going to need into the future to disrupt the structural violences and oppression in the systems. Particularly in this moment when the presidential election can feel so oppressive and passive at the same time, it’s out of our hands, all we can really do at this point is to obsess actively consume news about every last detail, every last thing that’s going on. But meanwhile, people are feeling more and more passive, less and less engaged, more and more depressed.

So what mutual aid says is no, we can make the most difference locally, which is where we live, you know, we live locally, even though we’re within a global space in a global world, right? And so we can actually coordinate to provide survival needs for each other. And that coordination actually mobilizes us also to then be able to respond to how our landlords and our employers and how the people at the local level or our politicians how they’re operating and allows us to build power so that we can actually be in a position to directly respond to them who have the most immediate impact on our lives on a daily basis. So right now, with this pandemic, I think people are just kind of watching things go sideways, and getting further and further anxious and worried and demobilized as a result of it.

So mutual aid says actually plug yourself in, however, you can. Find out whether you can coordinate some fundraising for people who are out of work. How can you be advocating for what I talked about at the beginning for the release of prisoners and incarcerated people, figuring out who is isolated just in your community, in the house next door? Are there elderly people who need support, who need somebody to go grocery shopping for them, who needs somebody to take them to the hospital, not because they’re, you know, infected with the coronavirus, but because they desperately need to go and get their heart tests or something else that’s going on. How do we make sure that people have enough to eat in terms of their groceries? And how do we — all that stuff is mutual aid work.

If people don’t know what that looks like, in actual reality, I want them to think of Occupy Sandy. If people remember what happened here with Hurricane Sandy in 2012, specifically, where, you know, the local government, the state government left people on their own. It ended up being other people who stepped up to literally remove debris from people’s backyards to ensure that people could get food and supplies and needed things. And what that showed us, right, was, think about where that came from the networks that were built to respond to the disaster of Hurricane Sandy, those came out of the networks that were built to occupy wall street, that movement. Those folks came right back together when needed to actually come up with a people’s response to this disaster that had occurred for people in their lives. So there have been just a history of that, of people who share resources, who figure out who’s vulnerable in the community, and then go and support that.

So in a pandemic, that’s harder because we have to practice these social distancing measures. We have to figure out, make sure we do all of this in a safe manner to not put ourselves at risk, and therefore put our own families at risk as well. But there really are effective measures that we can take to actually do that.

And right now, some of the effective measures that people are taking is creating things like neighborhood pods — PODS — creating neighborhood networks on Slack channels, to make sure they can check on each other and figure out who needs help the most vulnerable people. Folks are doing all sorts of really creative things to try to figure out how to make sure that their communities are safe and they’re safe in those communities. We just have a lot of opportunity right now, I think, to help ourselves and help each other along the way if we don’t succumb to the fear, if we don’t succumb to the despondency that comes from looking at how things are operating and not operating at the federal level, we’re really all we’ve got.

JS: Explain the idea behind your redistribution fund and the kinds of efforts that you set it up to support.

MK: Yes, thank you for asking about it. You know, I’m that kind of person, as you can imagine, where I try to think about where is it that I can uniquely help? What can I be doing? And not just what can I be doing, but what can I ask other people to join in to do with me so we can do it together. How do we engage together? How do we get a sense of solidarity going? I also always think about who’s already doing work that we ought to be supporting, for God’s sake? So many people doing such incredible work that need resources that aren’t tied to any billionaires that aren’t even nonprofit organizations, but are collectives and groups that are unaffiliated with anybody, but are just in their neighborhoods trying to do the best they can for each other. Those are groups that almost never get resourced to do the work they’re doing. They are just cobbling it together through the skin of their teeth and their own sweat and their hands and all the stuff that it takes to be able to do that.

And you know, for a group like that, an infusion of $1,000 is the difference between being able to pay somebody to put the gas in their car, so they don’t have to do it themselves, giving somebody a Metro Card so that they can go around, being able to go to the grocery store right away and just buy stuff for people who need it. Friend of mine was saying, putting on Facebook, that a young person that we’re working with needed $25 to go and get the prescription for her grandmother, could anybody support that? You know, these kinds of things that make a difference in the immediate needs — relief that people need in the moment. So I wanted to find a way like what’s a fast way? And frankly, for me, because I’ve been plugged into work for a long time, I know a lot of folks around the country. I hear about what’s going on, friends of mine reach out and are like, hey, we’re doing this thing right now. We need support. I hear a lot of those stories.

Also being on social media, I get so much information. So what I will do, what I said I would do with the redistribution fund would be if people are having a hard time figuring out where to put that money right now and frankly don’t have the time to be thinking about that as they’re just trying to meet their needs or taking care of their elderly parents or you know, homeschooling their children, that if they wanted to put the money into this PayPal pool, I would take the money and I would redistribute it out and I would be super transparent about where the money’s going, what’s come in, you can see it in the pool. And then what’s going out, I put in all the receipts of the money that’s gone to which places and I link to the actual projects. So that if people want to give on their own and didn’t trust, you know, for whatever reason which is totally fair, don’t trust that I’m [not] gonna take the money and abscond somewhere. I don’t know where I’ll go [laughs] but whatever, that they can give the money directly to the project themselves, as well.

I’ve been sharing that in the last two and a half days or three days, we’ve given away $20,000 to about 22 different mutual aid projects around the country. And we’ve given to like tons of states right now. So in the Midwest, in the South, on the East Coast, on the West Coast. I’m trying to make sure that we get regional diversity in terms of being able to support things, that we get diversity of vulnerable populations that are being helped. So we’ve given to projects that are giving money to queer writers of color, artists of color, but also groups that are supporting undocumented people, groups that are supporting, specifically African American and black folks around the country, groups that are supporting the elderly and people who have compromised immune systems, just every kind of different space that can use $1,000 or $1,500 and can do a lot with that money on a short notice without having to do a whole big application.

That’s what I’m trying to do with that redistribution fund. I did say that when it gets to $50,000, I think we’re about $10,000 away now, that I would have to close it down and figure out some other way of doing it because as you know, the government does not allow for people to be getting money without them taxing it in some way, and I think my accountant was like, if you get past $50,000 then you’re going to probably be on the hook for a bunch of taxes. So that’s where we’re at.

JS: I hesitate to ask this because of that situation, but I think it is vital, where can people, if people do want to contribute to this redistribution effort and mutual aid, is there a central place that they can look for information on this?

MK: You know, right now, I’m just really holding it down on my Twitter account, which is @prisonculture. But if people go to my page, then they can hook up and see it. And it’s been retweeted in different places as well. And also if people want to give, they can email, my email at And let me know and I can send them the link to the PayPal directly. That’s another option.

JS: So that’s

MK: Yes, exactly.

JS: In particular, I want to ask you about something that Chuck Schumer, who is the top Democrat in the Senate, said, and I’m just gonna read you his tweets, he said, “What we’re proposing if you’re disabled or chronically ill, we would provide health care and support services in homes and communities, nutrition assistance, access to medications, caregiver support and a large increase in Medicaid funding. What we’re proposing if you’re a small business owner suddenly facing cash flow problems, we would allow you to apply for low-interest loans and other forms of financial assistance that can offer relief quickly.” Now, I grew up in a Catholic household being raised by liberation theology parents, and I knew from a very early age what usury is. This is the most despicable form of usury that I can imagine at a time of a pandemic, hey, we’re going to help you but you’re going to have to pay us to help you in interest.

MK: Can I just say, this is, I don’t want,  you know, it’s so easy to beat up on the Democratic Party, particularly the centrist kind of establishment of that party. I’ll use the term establishment because right now a bunch of dis-ingenuousness is happening about that when people are saying the establishment, they mean the leadership, of course. When I saw that, and I saw that trending hashtag which was related to that, like yesterday or the day before, I just thought to myself, it’s just a complete lack of imagination that’s tied to craven attachment to neoliberal policy. Everything has to be means-tested. If we can’t just cut checks to people in this moment, when are we going to do it? When is the right time ever going to be for just cutting checks to people? I see people saying things like, I don’t need the thousand dollars, give it to someone else. Well, no, everybody should get the money and then we should tax the rich people to actually get the money for the commons, right? We should up the taxes on the people who can afford to pay the taxes. And make sure that other people have what they need in terms of material relief.

If you don’t need it, then give it away once you get it. I don’t want to have the government right now in the business of rationing. Give people money, #givepeoplemoney. That’s all. That is not hard. The government, the Fed is literally doing quantitative easing every other day right now. First, it’s $1.5 trillion, then it’s $500 billion, then it’s another $500 billion. No questions asked. Nowhere are we going to pay for this? How’s the money? You know what, maybe that’s even the correct thing to be doing right now. I don’t know, right? At the very least we ought to be doing on the other end, double that amount. If it is going to actually help individual people to survive, there should be no questions asked right now. I want a party that goes out there and just says give people money, cut the checks.

Can we get to that? How about the people’s bailout? Like, what can we all get on the same page? I was thinking about this the other day. What Bernie Sanders went out and said, every single American should get $2,000 a month until this thing is supposedly over, right? At least a year guarantee, $2,000 a month. What is that? What does that come to? $24,000? Who can live off of $24,000? Right, but that would be $24,000 more than a lot of people are going to have. This is a sensible thing. It’s a sensible thing. We should be doing that right now. And my question that I think we can leave with is, why aren’t we all pushing for people to just get the checks cut right now? Like can we all just agree on that? Can’t that be a demand? Like we could just on Friday, we could just decide this week, we’re going to do a #givepeoplemoney, people’s bailout. And we’re going to ask everybody around the country to take themselves or write something, or whatever saying what $2,000 a month would do for themselves and their family.

And just have, oh, like, what all of the social media possibilities Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, just telling those stories over and over again, tagging each member of Congress, calling them, writing to them, emailing to them, just that, can we do that for a week sustained, right? Like that’s something that actually can get done right now. Let’s get around a demand. Let’s get around a demand that is going to actually provide material relief for our people, that will allow them to breathe for enough time so that we can make them move for the future things that are going to come that need to happen. So that we can get towards the organizing for the larger systemic and structural change.

But people need money right now. People need things. People need food. People need shelter. Houseless people need opportunities to get out of the elements so that they don’t get sick. They’ve always needed that we’ve always needed these things. But now more than ever. So I want all of us to like, move in a direction together on at least one thing so we can see how we do and get encouragement from that for the next fight, to the next fight, to the next fight. And we can do it. I am not despondent. I remain hopeful, not optimistic, but hopeful, a different thing altogether, which is a discipline. You gotta keep doing it daily. It’s a practice.

JS: Well, you are extremely disciplined, Mariame Kaba, and I want to thank you for being you and for doing the work that you’re doing, and I hope a lot of people, check out the modeling that you’re doing for how they can replicate it in their communities with a keen eye to the people who are suffering the most and are the most vulnerable. Mariame Kaba, thanks so much for being with us.

MK: Thank you for having me.

JS: Mariame Kaba is an organizer and educator, a curator who is active in movements for racial, gender and transformative justice. Mariame is coordinating a mutual aid redistribution fund to get urgently needed aid to vulnerable communities and people. You can find more information and links on her Twitter feed. It’s simply @prisonculture.

[Music interlude.]

JS: And that does it for this show. You can follow us on Twitter @Intercepted and @interceptedpodcast on Instagram. I want to urge everybody to stay as safe as possible and please, please consider what you can do to help your friends, your neighbors, and especially those who are most vulnerable right now at this urgent and dire moment.

Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our lead producer is Jack D’Isidoro. Our producer is Laura Flynn. Elise Swain is our associate producer and graphic designer. Betsy Reed is editor in chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Transcription for this program is done by Nuria Marquez Martinez. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky. Until next time, I’m Jeremy Scahill.

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