As an organization, much of LiKEN’s work centers around community engagement, bringing people together for a common purpose. As you can imagine, COVID-19 hit our projects hard, but we have been able to keep all of them going. Pre-COVID, community forums supported by traveling LiKENeers, were the vibrant heart of our work. We now have to fundamentally change our methods for community engagement, to hold much smaller face-to-face meetings in safe settings. The economic devastation and medical risks caused by COVID are hitting our communities very hard. We are humbled and inspired by the extraordinary creativity and resilience we see daily in those with whom we work.
We feel as if we are split in two. On one hand, we have been in full out crisis mode, struggling to respond to urgent immediate needs in the already vulnerable communities we serve (e.g., Mutual Aid work, see below). Many LiKENeers are parents carrying the triple burden of new labors, uncertainties, and stressors at home. On the other hand, the heart of LiKEN’s mission is to nurture livelihoods and well-being through system change. It is in crises like this pandemic that the structural inequities around us are highlighted. Struggles are brought to light that have been ignored or hidden. An extraordinary gift of the “Black Lives Matter” movement to our country has been the ways it has opened new public spaces for collective action about old (and continued) structures of exploitation and violence.
Over the past four months, we have struggled to heal this split, to get the right balance between crisis response and structural transformation. If we are truly a link-tank, are we adequately linking work on both slow and fast violences? Should we do more mutual aid and crisis response? Land inequality is a key issue in most of our projects. Are we showing the links between redlining in residential real estate (that is a primary cause of the racial wealth gap) and other land grabs (such as corporate control of land in fossil fuel extraction zones), and the colonial settler mentality and histories that viciously suppress Indigenous rights and histories?