Many people only survived the last 15 months thanks to mutual aid efforts by social justice communities and organizations. One of those groups is the United Peoples Coalition, which was created last summer by Dallas music veteran Patrick Averhart. The organization is committed to combating class and systematic oppression through protests, volunteer initiatives and mutual aid efforts. This month, Averhart, along with co-founder Coyia Malone, opened Sunny South Mutual Aid Center, a community center in South Dallas that provides food and basic essentials to Dallas residents in need.
For Averhart, mutual aid is about building a power structure in which the community strengthens and ensures its members don’t go without basic essentials.
“A lot of the times, for charity, there's information needed,” Averhart says, explaining the difference between mutual aid and charity. “It kind of has remnants of capitalism within it. With mutual aid, nothing's required. If you're in need, it's our obligation as humans that can afford to do this work to give to those that are in need, in whatever shape, form or fashion, no questions asked.”
The Sunny South Mutual Aid Center is open 24/7, providing fruits and vegetables to people at no cost. They also offer free feminine hygiene products, diapers, formula, over-the-counter medicine and harm reduction kits. Sunny South is working alongside several Dallas organizations to keep their shelves stocked, including Feed the People and Oak Cliff Veggie Project.
Since its inception, United Peoples Coalition has organized events such as hikes and trail walks to promote physical and mental health. They also organize weekly grocery deliveries in the South Dallas and Pleasant Grove communities. With the Sunny South Mutual Aid Center, people can visit as soon as they need, as opposed to making arrangements to pick up supplies.
“Over the years, I have learned I’m a great connector to people and their purpose,” says Malone. “Connecting Pat [Averhart] with his purpose also helped me find mine, which was figuring out a way to do my part, as a Black, gay woman, to speak up for our voices and figure out how I can fill a void for people who look like me.”
Averhart has been working in Dallas’ music scene since 2007, when he began doing guerilla marketing for record labels.
Over his many years in the music industry, Averhart has worn many hats. He currently works for Live Nation while also doing guerilla marketing for venues such as The Hi-Fi and House of Blues Dallas. As a manager, he has worked with artists such as Sam Lao and Lord Byron.
In tandem, he has served on Dallas County Young Democrats Precinct 1122, which he credits for inspiring his mutual aid efforts.
“My political work walked me right into what I would consider more hands-on community organizing,” Averhart says.
Over the course of the past year, with venues closed and music events on hold, Averhart used the extra time he had to focus on giving back to people who had suffered in the pandemic.
Located at 4500 Malcolm X Blvd., Sunny South Mutual Aid Center is the first of several locations Averhart and the United Peoples Coalition plan to open throughout North Texas.
As an opponent of capitalism, Averhart hopes these programs will be a significant step toward fighting class inequality and discrimination.
“Everybody who is a working-class citizen in a working-class society, your existence is revolutionary,” Averhart says. “Every day you wake up, every day you put your pants on and every day you go out and face the world. Your existence is revolutionary because there are systems of oppression put in place to suppress the middle and lower class.”