From home-sewn masks to online extravaganzas, 2020 was replete with examples of cities stepping up to initiate and facilitate solidarity in the face of Covid-19. 2021 is no different, and although we’re no longer running the covidnews platform, there is still a lot worth sharing. Take for example Kadıköy Municipality’s Pandemic Orchestra, which brings employment to out of work musicians by organising and promoting concerts in the local Sureyya Opera House, given a boost by the participation of some world-famous Cypriot musicians and conductors. The city organises, promotes and puts the concert online, as well as ensuring that all the ticket proceeds go directly to the artists, and all under the local motto ‘Solidarity Strengthens!’
In Pesaro, meanwhile, support is finding its way to young and old. That city’s ‘Safe Schools’ project is ensuring a safe learning environment for kids with free nasal swabs to test for Covid-19. It’s requests to regional and national government having remained unheeded, the city has used its own resources and collaborated with local associations to identify dozens of asymptomatic cases that would otherwise have further spread the virus. Local government support also comes to the elderly, with 3,000 free devices to measure blood oxygen levels distributed by volunteers to families containing over 65-year-olds or severely disabled people. Through €490,000 grocery vouchers and €680,000 in housing support, the city is making sure that all vulnerable people have the blow of the pandemic softened somewhat.
In Pendik, the municipality is also caring for its economically hard-hit residents with cash assistance, food packages, daily hot meals and hygiene kits. When it came to those above 65 years old who were living alone, they were able to rely on the support of the local police to do their shopping for them. Police also carried out hygiene inspections of workplaces, and the city has worked to constantly ensure that public places, transport and amenities are disinfected at all times.
Rubi acted as facilitator, paring those in need or working on the front lines with the support of those willing to give services, equipment or finance. A new procurement team and logistics distribution team were organised among the municipal staff to coordinate these redistributive processes. From radios and nail polish being sent to nursing homes, to improvised concerts, local people and local businesses and other organisations were ready to lend support where the city was able to provide the structure. All this happened under the banner of the solidarity campaign ‘Gracies Rubi’, which augmented donations and volunteer work with the city’s own funds to ensure that pressing needs were met.
In two German cities, solidarity came with a distinctly European flavour. Munich’s ‘May of Europe’ sees the city offering locals games, videos and discussions through www.europa-mai.de. 2021’s European solidarity action included an explosion of EU flags, awards for EU-themed art and decoration, a European poetry slam, LGBTIQ Freedom Zone photo campaign and tonnes of online exhibitions and workshops. Chemnitz shows a similar spirit, launching into a week of European celebrations with the association Buntmacher*innen for actions like giving people spray chalk to paint EU stars and slogans on the streets.
Whether through celebration or tribulation, our cities continue to show themselves up as loci of solidarity, ready to initiate and facilitate creative action for change.