A young Chicago woman is on a mission to provide her community with “necessities for a week, if they’re going through a bad week” through her initiative, “Nita’s Love Train.”
The looting in several under-resourced neighborhoods last summer gave Nita Tennyson, 23, the idea to host mutual aid pop-ups to provide baby formula, milk and diapers, clothes, hygiene kits and personal protection equipment to those without access.
Showing love “one stop at a time,” Nita’s Love Train passes out donated items to about 20 communities several times a month, even in 27℉ weather for hours at a time on the street.
“With poverty and COVID all happening in the same communities, there’s been way more. It’s bringing a lot more people together. Since people see so much mutual aid, it’s making other people decide, ‘Let me do mutual aid.’ It’s really bringing communities closer together,” said the 23-year-old.
Tennyson’s boyfriend, Jaylan McKinney, and friends, Jamaica Ponder and Rachel Murphy, collect the donations, including financial contributions, and help with the distribution. The pop-ups are promoted on Instagram and her website.
Mutual aid initiatives are not new to Chicago. Tennyson recalls growing up seeing all kinds of community service efforts such as back-to-school drives, toy drives and jail support. They seek to fill in the gaps of need.
“One thing that remains true, no matter where you live, who you are, if you are a mama, for the most part, you want to take care of your kids. And if you weren’t given the resources to do that, you are going to take advantage of them. And so we’re cleaned out every week,” said Ponder, a Northwestern University student.
Tennyson said it’s important for young people to engage in those kinds of efforts because they “have a way better chance of going out and having new ideas for being able to help people in new ways that people haven’t done yet.”
She hopes to expand the organization. She’d like a place in Englewood so she can store and distribute the resources more effectively, and help others apply for food and medical assistance.