Equality for Flatbush supports community through mutual aid


Nylu Bernshtayn ‘23 delivers essential goods as part of the #BrooklynShowsLove mutual aid project.

Charles Gorrivan, Editor-in-Chief

 Nylu Bernshtayn ’23 has stepped up in her local community of Flatbush, Brooklyn. Along with her mother, a practicing nurse at SUNY downstate medical center, Bernshtayn has been delivering groceries and supplies to people who have been medically or economically disenfranchised. She works with the people of color-led group Equality for Flatbush, which normally does anti-police repression, affordable housing, and anti-gentrification organizing in the Flatbush and East Flatbush communities.

The nonprofit is applying their principles to the current crisis in a mutual aid effort called #BrooklynShowsLove. By supporting the community in ways that governments do not – providing groceries and checking in – Bernshtayn effort shows the imperative of rendering mutual aid during crises. Mutual aid provides the direct support a floundering government cannot. 

The people Bernshtayn and her mom help, often low-income minority groups, have been among the hardest hit by the virus. Many would be without essential care and supplies without the type of neighborly support provided by mutual aid. The support that the government does supply is subject to partisan battles and stalling – it took two weeks for the House to approve a relief package in March. Rather than relying on government officials to cut red tape, neighborly support and mutual aid can protect vulnerable groups in the short term.

The virus is indiscriminate in those it infects, but not in those it kills. Elderly and immunocompromised groups, for instance, are far more vulnerable. Therefore, while it is wise to follow stay at home orders, Bernshtayn believes caring for those who take a greater risk on their grocery runs is a risk worth taking. Bernshtayn said that though staying safe in grocery stores and on deliveries is a worry, she would not call the work scary: the payoff outweighs any risk. “It feels good to help people in need,” she said, “thankfully we still have money coming in, and are healthy, but other people aren’t as fortunate.” And, while the virus means that smiles must be hidden behind masks and interactions are speedy, “people have been incredibly thankful,” Bernshtayn said. 

Friends students looking to join mutual aid groups should visit websites like mutualaid.org.nyc that can redirect you to an organization in your NYC community.  For anyone in the greater Brooklyn area, Bernshtayn asks that they “check out this organization [Equality for Flatbush], because they really need help. It’s all hands on deck at this point.”  When volunteering, it is important to follow social distancing guidelines and be responsible. But, while public health officials correctly encourage distancing and personal safety measures, we mustn’t forget those most vulnerable. “Now is the time to help,” Bernshtayn said.