Day 91 of the pandacedemic year was not exactly a day in the park. The night prior the Facilitators decided to call off in-person meet ups for the rest of the week. There was just too much going on for us to seriously entertain the idea of bringing people together with multiple Abrome families having no power and heat, or frozen water pipes. On top of that, the roads were iced over across much of the county, and the weather forecasts suggested that they would ice over each night meaning that even if we did not have families struggling with the blackouts that it would still be unsafe to come together. This is on top of the trauma of knowing that scores of thousands of people in Austin were at serious risk of losing their homes or their lives.

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That evening I sent an email letting families know we would definitely be remote for the rest of the week, along with some advice for how to survive the cold if they had no power, and some potential ways they could support mutual aid efforts on the ground.

On Wednesday morning the roads were indeed iced over. I took the Cuddle Buddies out for a walk and they confirmed that it would indeed be extremely foolish for Abrome to encourage anyone to take to the roads to meet up in a park.

It was depressing getting reports on all of the suffering that folks were facing in Austin and throughout the state. The suffering people were facing went well beyond discomfort. It was also disappointing and sad to see so many people across the country mocking the suffering in Texas merely because of who the elected politicians are. I get mocking the politicians or political parties, but to mock the suffering was disgusting.

And while I am never surprised at conventional schools’ focus on “achievement” at the expense of child welfare, and in this pandacademic year in particular their disregard for the mental health of their students, I was greatly disheartened to read about what the superintendent in Houston had to say about the Texas freeze that has paralyzed the state. She said, “Our students have now lost an additional three, and it could be five, days of learning. And we were already behind.” Instead of empathizing with the suffering that her students are dealing with, or concerning herself with how to support them, her focus was on the mythical notion of learning loss. Unfortunately, in a system that is predicated on creating losers to anoint the winners, a lack of regard for the suffering of children may be necessary to rise the ranks.

Morning meeting

Morning meeting

Once again I was not able to support the morning meeting due to internet issues, and Facilitator Lauren needed to focus on supporting older family members suffering through the Texas freeze, so Facilitator Ariel led morning meeting. It was pretty wonderful to see five Learners showing up, to include one who had been without power since the early morning hours of Monday! She told us that her dad was able to hook up the wifi to generator for 15 minutes. Being mindful of the time, Facilitator Ariel dove in, reviewed the Community Awareness Board, updated the calendar (lots of cancelled offerings and check-ins), and then said we’d use pass the ball to respond to the prompts.

First we shared what was one thing we each could do with our family to share joy, today: cuddle with puppy, check in on chosen family, watch movie, hang out, share Nintendo Switch with brother, watch a movie and spend time with my mom, read stories by the fire place. Next we let each other know how we were doing, if we had power, and if we felt safe. Everyone was feeling pretty good, although one Learner said they had no power and her feet were cold.

Being unable to connect due to a lack of internet, I had lots of time to read and think. I was able to get news on my phone and the news was not particularly nourishing. For example, I found out that Richard Elmore died. When I was at Harvard I was able to meet with him and discuss an idea I had to help millions of young people escape conventional schooling. Elmore was an exception in the world of higher ed in that he ultimately recognized that the problem with education was not barriers to fixing schooling, but that schooling was part of the problem. In the attached video he said, “I do not believe in the institutional structure of public schooling, anymore. I view the work I continue to do with schools, and i take it seriously, as palliative care for a dying institution.” And that resonates with me. I do not spend my time attacking teachers as too many in the alternative education world do. Many teachers and others who support schools are not trying to fix the schools or make them more efficient, they are merely trying to minimize the pain on students.

I also got to thinking about how the horrible situation playing out in Texas may have a silver lining. On the tail end of this, Covid-19 infections will have hopefully dropped off substantially because so many people will have finally chosen to stay at home, or more likely they will have been forced to. Instead of going out and catching and spreading the disease, a large proportion of the population will have effectively quarantined for ten days, allowing the disease to die off in many people. And considering that any single person who gets infected can seed a future superspreader event or even host the next mutation of the virus, the tragedy that is this deep freeze may end up saving more lives in the long run.

Facilitator Lauren, meanwhile, spent much of the day trying to connect with Abrome families. She found out that one Learner’s garage was flooded in addition to frequent power outages, while another family was concerned about the welfare of family members. One family was without power but were able to stay warm and had food, while another family was running low on water. While a couple of families were struggling, everyone was safe, and that should certainly be considered a blessing given what so many others were dealing with.

Facilitator Ariel spent his day engaged in mutual aid

Facilitator Ariel spent his day engaged in mutual aid

While it would be foolish for most people to be on the road, Facilitator Ariel’s vehicle has four-wheel drive, and he responded to a call from Austin Mutual Aid to help deliver much needed supplies to people in need. While most people were locked down in their home or just trying to get by, Facilitator Ariel was very carefully navigating the roads of Austin to help those most in need. Thank you, Facilitator Ariel!

By the time the afternoon roundup came around I had internet and was able to host the afternoon roundup. Facilitator Lauren’s power was back up so she was able to join, while Facilitator Ariel was still delivering supplies with Austin Mutual Aid. Wonderfully, five Learners showed up, as well. Remarkably, the two Learners who had been without power since Monday morning showed up, while most of the Learners who were not out of power did not. I do not know what to make of that … perhaps those who were having the worst of the current situation had the most desire to find a sense of normalcy in the day?

Afternoon roundup

Afternoon roundup

I started the meeting, reviewed the Community Awareness Board practices, opened up the meeting to announcements, and then for a belated grounding practice I had everyone count off from one to seven, with each person only being able to take one number. If anyone repeated a number, or if two people spoke at once, we would start over. We got through it fairly quickly, and then I used the numbers people claimed to determine the order in which we would respond to the prompts.

For the first prompt we each identified one challenging thing in our life right now: being disconnected and apart from others, coronavirus, being worried about other people and how they’re doing while being unable to help, growing up in general, this weather and coronavirus, Covid-19 and the weather, not having power right now.

For the second prompt we each identified one good thing in our life right now: knowing that people are in the streets helping others through mutual aid, being able to sled (for the first time in my life), power is now stable which means having wifi and being able to connect with others, my boyfriend and being in a good stable place in life, the snow is very beautiful, I have my dogs, I have heat (temporarily).

We then adjourned the meeting and said we would stick around for anyone who wanted to chat. At that time another Learner logged in, having missed the meeting but being able to connect. Most Learners dropped off but a couple stuck around and chatted. We asked the Learner who had been without power since 1:00 a.m. on Monday, and was still without power, how she was doing and talking about the various hacks they were using to stay warm. Facilitator Lauren also filled us in on the good news about the family members she was concerned about—they now had food and firewood thanks to a neighbor.

While we anticipated more bad news to break that night and the next morning, we felt good in that moment that we were able to hold space for Learners, to connect with the Learners and their families, and that everyone in the community was safe. And even though we live in a failed state, we had deep appreciation for all of the people who self-organized to go into the worst of conditions to try to save lives.