-Rachel Siegel, PJC Executive Director
I hope wherever this post finds you, you and your loved ones are safe and well. I wanted to give you an update on what we are doing at PJC through the COVID epidemic—and how you can help.
Community Support: We continue to offer support to activists and local efforts:
- Our COVID Mutual Aid and Resources page has been viewed by over 11,000 people.
- We are participating in coalition calls with local organizations and activists, pushing our government to do more, and connecting with national and international movement building groups.
- Four new groups have applied for fiscal sponsorship.
- Our bi-weekly e-news continues to connect people and highlight work that is happening.
Programs: Some of our programming has been put on hold temporarily. However, we are or will be offering the following programs and you are invited to join us, virtually:
- Fair Trade presentations
- Toxic Whiteness
- POC Affinity groups
We also plan to host or support a teach-in on anti-Asian racism.
Action: This crisis gives us all an opportunity to mobilize around the many injustices that the pandemic has made more obvious. Now is the time to pull people into our movements. Perhaps more people will become politicized. Some areas of actions include the need to:
- Decarcerate (consider donating to Black Mama’s Bailout);
- Protect our immigrant neighbors (join Community Voices for Immigrant Rights’ organizing meetings and our honk protest at the ICE facility in Williston on Friday);
- Eliminate ICE and close detention camps, (sign this petition to release detainee at the Strafford County Detention Center);
- Provide universal healthcare (sign this petition);
- Create and/or strengthen paid sick leave policies;
- Acknowledge all grocery store workers, trash collectors, and other essential workers as valuable and deserving of better compensation; and
- Maybe even create a universal basic income!
Setting ourselves up for the future: We are doing things that we haven’t been able to prioritize previously. This will set us up to do our work better when we go back to “normal.” These things include cleaning up our database, learning new software, creating/updating educational programs, strengthening our systems for program evaluation, and starting a re-order system that will streamline store management.
Resisting capitalist mentality: Amid all this, we are remembering that it is capitalism, white supremacy culture, and patriarchy that compel us to “Get Things Done.” During this pandemic, many of us are having trauma responses. The best things we can do include developing self-compassion, being kind, and resting — the opposite of what capitalism tells us. Here is a great article that speaks to this.
Store: We have closed the store. While an online store is a good idea we have tried it in the past and it proved to be infeasible. I feel especially pained that in this moment we are not able to support the artists and cooperatives whose products we sell — especially those in the Global South. This is a time that we are striving to come together globally, not separate. It will be a relief to reconnect with those people when we’re operational again.
Finances: When we shut our doors on March 13, we had enough money to cover one payroll for our five staff. Losing the store income and the fees for services was a big deal. Since then, we have raised enough money, from individuals, to keep our lights on (metaphorically) and keep the staff employed until mid-June. We have applied for the Payroll Protection Program and expect to get eight weeks’ worth of operating expenses through that part of the Federal Stimulus bill. That brings us to the beginning of August.
We are applying for a couple new grants. Those are hard to get right now since most are focused (appropriately) on food, housing, etc. I am confident, however, that we can raise more money from our membership AND that the government will create more support. Hopefully by then we will have re-opened the center and store and resumed some of the work that brings in additional income.
Looking ahead: I am hopeful that by late summer we can re-open the store, welcome our volunteers back, re-start our contracts for racial justice workshops with institutions and organization, and get back to a new normal. I understand that this may happen with fits and starts but I’m holding September in my head as the light at the end of the tunnel. I might have to change that projection, but for now it’s helping me.
The staff are all incredibly grateful to be employed and for all the support you give.
I hope you are doing well. Stay safe!
PS If you are in a position to contribute more financially or to become a member, you can mail a check to PJC, 60 Lake St, Suite 1C, 05401 or click here. Monthly donations are especially helpful. Memberships start at $15.00/year.