Heyao, I'm Zarah. You know, I never know where to begin with words about myself. In summary, I’m a Black queer femme born and raised in the ‘Burgh with so many ideas and so little time.
My goal in life is truly to carve a positive dent in a world full of once-in-a-lifetime events. That currently includes ongoing mutual aid coordination, supporting hospital workers’ rights, and networking with other organizations along the way.
There is so much that goes on in this community that I've wanted for a long time to give those who do the work “their flowers.” Especially doing this work in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, concurring attacks on marginalized people(s), and more. In this column, you’ll find stories and lives I want to share authentically and straight from our friends' mouths.
I want to give our neighbors, friends, comrades, and workers the shine they deserve and need in this community. Too often our neighbors have only received their accolades posthumously. Let’s change that.
Q&A with Saint
Good morning, neighbors! I want to introduce you to Saint (he/they), someone I’ve seen in action personally. When thinking of the first group of folks to include in this series, I wanted to start with someone who not only focuses on uplifting the youth, but also has proven time and time again that earning the trust of the communities you want to work with should be at the forefront of what you want to accomplish. I personally have seen Saint at events and gone with Saint to distribute food on the North Side.
Zarah Livingston: When and how did you become involved in this social change work? What inspired you?
Saint: In 2020, I went to my first protest, and ever since then, I have been embraced by Black queer organizers in the city of Pittsburgh. I eventually submerged myself into the world of mutual aid and have been doing that as the majority of work I do.
ZL: This answer brought me back to a question I ask myself quite often, when asked to describe myself and “titles” I’d like to be called. That question being, do you consider yourself an activist? Why or why not?
Saint: I would not consider myself an activist. Activism is praised due to the lack of participation from the majority of the general public. We as people should be a part of roles that make our neighborhoods the places they should be.
ZL: While holding that thought in my head, I wanted to get more into Saint’s work and why they enjoy what they do. So I ask, What do you enjoy best about your work in the community(ies) you go to?
Saint:. What I enjoy the most from the work I do is meeting people. Whenever we go into these neighborhoods and connect with individuals, we are creating a community network. This network includes plumbers, electricians, teachers, and other people with skills and connections that we can use to lean on each other when in need instead of politicians, who do not have our best interest.
ZL: What organizations or individuals do you interact with in the community? Have you started an organization yourself? How did you get started?
Saint: To start with, Food Not Bombs and the BYOC (Black Youth Organizing Coalition) are who I work with the most, yet we have solidarity with numerous other groups! I am a part of BYOC. BYOC is made up of YVAC-PA (Young Voices Action Collective PA Chapter), BACC (Black Anarchist Community Council), and BLAC (Black Liberation Autonomous Collective). I am one of the “founding” members of both BACC and BLAC. None of these groups are organizations, just groups of people that want to help our neighbors.
The group itself formed due to the lack of Black mutual aid groups within the city, plus the lack of action from Black organizations that claim to help their communities and broken promises they were supposed to fulfill. Therefore, BLAC was formed in 2021 and BACC later in the year.
ZL: Now, I do have one question left to ask you. What are ways you think that the youth can take effective action for change in the community?
Saint: Look at your community and get feedback from members of that community. We know what is best for our folks. Start where you are at and don’t be afraid to reach out to local mutual aid groups for help. There is so much love and solidarity among mutual aid groups. We might have different names but we are all one large group of common, working-class people who take the time out when we can to help folks who need it. Once people realize that no one is going to do the work for us, the sooner we can unite to bring about change.