Josie Hovis (she/her) ‘23 and Andrea Liu (she/her) ’23
The print version of this article fails to credit co-author Andrea Liu for her reporting.
This interview was conducted with six members of the Davidson Community Fund, Isabel Padalecki (she/they) ‘22, Margo Parker (they/them) ‘21, Emily Troutman (she/her) ‘23, Ashley Ip (she/her) ‘22, Idalina Pina (she/they) ‘22, Jaelyn Taylor (she/they) ‘22. The Davidson Community Fund is a wealth redistribution network that works in Davidson and Charlotte.
Josie Hovis: What is the Davidson Community Fund?
Community Fund: We are a group of about twelve people. Most of us are current Davidson students, but we have one alum. We are all engaged in the local area and we do wealth redistribution work in Charlotte and Davidson. While we are informed by the principles and believe in mutual aid, our actions are more directed toward wealth redistribution, especially considering the amount of wealth concentrated in the town of Davidson and the College. The decision not to define ourselves as mutual aid was important because we didn’t want to misrepresent ourselves. Most of us live here and we have been building relationships with organizations here, but we did not immediately have that. A lot of people recognize the term mutual aid faster than the term wealth redistribution, but shifting toward wealth redistribution was ultimately important in reflecting our relationship with the area. A big part of mutual aid is community. As college students, many of us come from privilege and we want to recognize that, considering we are students at a very wealthy institution. We are also in this constellation of mutual aid groups in Charlotte, and we are in community with groups that we would define as doing more traditional mutual aid, groups like Feed the Movement and Charlotte Uprising, but we are trying to attend to the specific class consciousness needs of mutual aid through our wealth redistribution work.
JH: Can you talk a little bit about the origins of the Davidson Community Fund? Who was involved with the startup, what was the catalyst, and what challenges might you have faced?
CF: The origins of this specific group (as defined by the Instagram account and this specific group of people) arose on campus with students and other Davidson community members at the end of the 2020 school year while most other students had gone home. That group of people started the initiative along with people who were at home who helped make graphics and do fundraising remotely, and who helped in evaluating changing goals and how to be in community remotely. We also want to state that we did not invent this community of people that we are in connection with and send funds to — all of the fundraising on Instagram that we do has been done by Black trans femmes in Charlotte. Our origins were from people who were around Charlotte like Margo [Parker] who were doing direct grocery deliveries, but then we started on Instagram and tried to capitalize on the moment of people wanting to redistribute their money, so it came together quickly.
JH: How has your work been received? What reactions have you gotten from Davidson students? How do you see your work received in the larger Davidson/Charlotte community?
CF: Before we became officially a fund, we were just a working collective in the Charlotte area trying to work for any emergencies that came up with our community members, and we would go to our Instagram pages and crowd fund for that specifically. Then, in the early days, just after graduation and before the DCF was fully formed, we [on the Young Democratic Socialists for America Instagram page] created a bingo for graduating Davidson students for how they could spend the refund of the Davidson deposit. The bingo got a lot of attention, and a lot of people sent Isabel money, which made us realize that there was a lot of wealth at Davidson and we wanted to capitalize on that. However, there was also a lot of backlash from Davidson students against the following 4th of July bingo (which had also been posted in the class of 2021 Facebook page). Davidson students thought we were jumping down their throats and making them send money, and people felt that we were coming for their lives. It came down to people asking us, ‘Who are we to judge and tell people what their privilege is or isn’t?’ but that wasn’t what we were doing. We didn’t name or tag anyone; we just said, ‘Evaluate yourselves: look at the bingo card and see if maybe you need to send some money.’
The anger we received highlights how privilege is not really approached at Davidson. There’s always a vigil around the flagpole, but when it comes down to doing the work, the talk is not matching the walk. A lot of students like to call out Davidson the institution as not putting in the work, and they’re right, but that’s where the point stops, and people don’t want to do any introspection. The bingo card showed how very insecure people are of their privilege here; it’s easy to call out the institution and your peers, but it’s hard to call out yourself. It also showed that people will lash out because you hit upon something they know is true. It was shocking that our Facebook post could have such a reaction. It made people aware of their privilege here and they felt guilty, which came out as people getting really, really angry about it.
However, we were still shocked by the amount of money we have been able to raise from this community; to imagine that this many people have put the trust in us to support our work and wealth redistribution is amazing, and we have had a positive reaction from the community.
JH: How do you see your work intersecting with the work of other orgs in the area, such as Charlotte Uprising?
CF: An important part of our work is intergenerational organizing and the mentorship that other people have provided to us. The QTIPOC Survival Fund[which works to directly distribute aid to queer folks in the Piedmont area] helped us to rework our system of monthly fundraising so that we could be more sustainable and avoid burnout; at one point we took two weeks off to just totally restructure and they supported us in that. We provide wealth redistribution while many other organizations do a lot of other important work in the area, and we rely on them, especially considering that they have been doing the work [of mutual aid and community support] longer than us. Despite the public niches of each individual group working in the Charlotte area, there is a lot more overlap between each group than what might seem apparent at first glance. Feed the Movement stands out because it does way more than just food justice: they have been providing hotel rooms throughout the winter, they have been putting up bail funds, and helping people get furniture; their elastic funding helps them do that. Their mutual aid is amazing and they don’t get as much attention for it. The organizers of Feed the Movement are Nada Merghani and Tati Marquez, and they have been working extremely hard. Tiz Gordiano and Sharon Holland of QTIPOC Survival Fund; glo merriweather; Ash Williams of Charlotte Uprising; and Mykah Johnson, Rahrah Taylor, Jayla Ware who work alongside Charlotte Uprising also deserve recognition and have helped our group take shape.
JH: Can you talk more about the nitty gritty of how the fund operates? What is the role of monthly supporters, how do you get funds to those who need it, and how do you manage stress in high-need times (although arguably there is always a high need)?
CF: Right now, we operate on a monthly basis, which means we distribute money every month, and we made this change from distributing on an emergency basis. We have sustainers, who commit to a certain amount of money, whom we Venmo request about every month.We distribute the second to last weekend of the month so that people have money to pay bills at the beginning of the month. When people ask how they can help we refer them to a Google form [to be a monthly sustainer] on our Instagram — it’s very easy, you just fill out your name, your Venmo, and how much you want to donate. At the end of each month, we go through the Venmo requests, collect the money and evenly divide our total funds by eight. Then, we send the money to our eight community members.We just onboarded four new folks, so we are playing around with new roles, and we are excited to have new hands on deck. We are twelve people who wear a lot of different hats, which comes with a lot of opportunities for burnout, so we check each other a lot as a group; we interfere when we feel like someone is doing too much or crossing boundaries when it comes to labor, and everybody here has definitely been checked at least once.
JH: What would you ask those reading this article to do in order to best support your work?
CF: Become a monthly sustainer! It is such a good way to consistently commit yourself to redistributing your work on a regular basis. You decide what you are capable of giving. It provides people with a boost for those big bills at the beginning of the month, and it is such a good way to get involved. It is super easy: the Google form is on our page, and we are always checking DMs on our page if anyone has any questions. If you have leadership in on-campus organizations, hit us up, we will gladly take your organization’s money and in return give a talk or an EDU event.
Be present. Re-share graphics! They reach. The greater the reach, the greater we are able to help folks meet their needs. We had to scale back from a lot of the emergency fundraising we did because it burnt us out, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t emergencies, and saturation on Instagram is a real problem.
Don’t look for our Venmo on every graphic — donate directly to Black trans women! Just donate to them! We are not some authority! Just send them your money! We aren’t the cops. You don’t have to ask us any questions. Send us your checks and keep it moving.
The link for the Google form to become a monthly sustainer can be found here.