Story by Naffie Nije
Before the novel coronavirus swept through the world and claimed the lives of millions of people, KC was a second semester freshman at Middle Tennessee State University. He was studying sociology and philosophy and learning to connect his area of study with real life.
“What I’ve come to realize is that these things that I’m interested in, socio-political philosophy and things like that, translate best to real world praxis like the fridge. ‘Cause you can study how to be compassionate all day, but what matters is actually going out and doing it,” he said.
“The fridge” refers to the Murfreesboro Community Fridge, a mutual aid project that KC is a
Mutual aid is a voluntary form of political participation where people exchange resources for everyone’s benefit. Mutual aid participants aim to differentiate their work from charity by applying anti-capitalist methods and a horizontal model of participation to their organization. Their goal is to feed as many people as possible and build community power that opposes the state. The fridge was established in early September 2020. The creators were inspired by the efforts of the New York anarchist community and the Nashville Community Fridge amongst other projects.
The pandemic has launched people into desperate situations and many people are experiencing food scarcity. In fact, 13% of Middle Tennessee residents are food insecure according to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, which means they have limited or uncertain access to enough food. At the same time, roughly 30% of our food supply in the United States is thrown away every year.
“Whenever COVID cases would spike, we’d have a proportional amount of food being taken. As things have gotten worse, people need food more and more,” he said.
Recognizing the local need for free food and support, they acquired a refrigerator and began receiving donations.
“The Facebook moms have been a huge driving force. It was mostly Facebook moms and informal restaurant leftovers at first,” he said.
The fridge is located in front of Legacy Ink, a printing shop in Murfreesboro that has supported the project. The organizers and Legacy Ink employees have been met with resistance from local right-wing groups and the Murfreesboro Police Department. KC described an instance where two white men, who had visited the fridge many times, aggressively approached the owner of Legacy Ink, Troy, who is Black, asking if there were anarchists organizing the fridge. He also feels that the rise in reactionary conservatism and neo-fascist alignment in Murfreesboro is concerning.
“If you try to feed homeless people, the police will eventually disrupt you. If you start organizing with homeless people, the police will start hurting you,” he continued, “It’s pretty shocking when you have a project like the community fridge that’s obviously a good thing – like it’s free food, how can you be mad at that? Something as clean and up front as that will have people, even just regular conservatives, attacking it. It’s sobering.” Because of this, KC has requested that his full name not be included here.
KC is a Clarksville native and was staying with his parents during spring break when the virus became serious. He left their home and was briefly homeless after MTSU’s campus closed and he was unable to find an apartment.
Many of his friends in Clarksville were infected with COVID-19. He now works in healthcare doing home visits for elderly patients. Some of these patients are COVID positive and the hospital KC works with has developed an incentive for employees to care for them at home.
“What they’ve been doing when there is a COVID positive patient, because they need care, they’re like ‘we’ll pay you an extra ten dollars an hour to work with those patients,’” he said. “I get paid ten bucks so that’s twenty bucks an hour to genuinely risk your life. Twenty bucks should already be our minimum wage, those people should get fifty bucks an hour to risk their lives. It’s nuts.”
KC has never volunteered to work with any COVID positive patients, but many that do prepare themselves by wearing multiple masks and other protective wear. Some of these workers need the extra money, and others have a relaxed attitude about the virus and are willing to take the chance.
“I find that kind of terrifying. You’d be surprised how many healthcare workers don’t believe in COVID,” he said.
Life has slowed down for KC in many ways. He is a sophomore now and went from taking a full course load to taking one course this semester. He and his colleagues have started the Murfreesboro People’s Solidarity network, a group that aims to provide space for leftist organizing in Murfreesboro. Organizing during the pandemic has proven to be difficult and it has slowed the progress of the MPS.
“We would have two or three more fridges and projects like it if it weren’t for COVID. But it just makes everything slow and dangerous. If we wanted to get together and organize with homeless people – boom you just had a super spreader event. You can’t do anything.”
But new ideas are on the horizon for the Murfreesboro Community Fridge. In addition to food, they are currently giving away clothing and hygiene products like tampons. They are looking to expand their project and establish impromptu, “pop-up style” free stores. In a time of intense economic struggle and socio-political upheaval, aiming to feed the public and reduce food waste is something we can all get behind.
To contact Lifestyles Editor Ashley Barrientos, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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