After posting a daily list of needs on Instagram Stories starting in early June, the South Bend Commons collected snacks, water packs, and masks for the protestors in downtown Atlanta marching and demonstrating against police brutality. The organization’s truck would pull up to a protest area, filled with donations from locals, and distribute the items to more than 2,000 people.
“The South Bend Commons was really founded for moments like these,” say Sean Wolters and Juliet Jordan, two members of the South Atlanta community-led organization. “Our collective was founded with the idea that building and fighting go hand-in-hand.”
Located in Lakewood Heights, the South Bend Commons opened in 2018 as a neighborhood resource. “[We are] dedicated to urban experiments in autonomy, resilience, and community. We mean to learn with those around us, recognizing we come from different backgrounds and demographics, and working toward a common way of life across those backgrounds,” they say.
As an organization, South bend provides a weekly grocery program, a collective dinner, a library, martial arts classes, and various cultural events (such as poetry readings) as a way to support the surrounding community. Distributing food to those who need it is a major part of their identity—and not just in times of crisis.
“Each Friday, anyone can come by and pick a box of groceries for free,” Wolters and Jordan say. “Lakewood Heights is a food desert and low-income, so it’s vital to provide fresh produce for no cost in the area.”
They say an average of 50 people come every Friday to pick up free groceries.
When COVID-19 began to spread, and Atlanta started going on lockdown in March, the South Bend Commons partnered with COVID-19 relief initiative Food4Life, as they had to suspend their in-person free grocery pick up. Food4Life works with volunteers to deliver donated bulk food to self-isolating families that may have lost their income, are sick, or live in a food desert.
“Anyone can sign up on the Food4Life site to receive a box of food, and so far, over 3,000 boxes have been delivered throughout metro Atlanta,” Wolters and Jordan explain.
You can also peruse their library catalog online and borrow books on philosophy, politics, poetry, and more, safely, thanks to new COVID-19 procedures.
When protests against police brutality and racism, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, started in Atlanta on May 30, South Bend pivoted once again to also work as a resource hub for locals involved in the protests. They started collecting water, food, first-aid supplies, PPE, umbrellas, and more items via social media. Atlanta residents from all over dropped off provisions that South Bend would deliver them downtown.
“Black people and youth of all ethnicities are taking risks to challenge the status quo,” Wolters and Jordan say. “Right now, people are putting a lot on the line when they go out to demonstrate, with curfews, hundreds of National Guardsmen, and police using all kinds of “less-lethal” weapons against crowds. Not to even mention COVID-19.”
The organization also provides yoga classes, herbal therapy, and mental health resources to those affected by current events.