In March 2020, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, the Auntie Sewing Squad was founded by comedian Kristina Wong to provide masks to those unable to access them for financial reasons or other hardships. Unbeknownst to Wong when she started, the group would grow to a considerable size, receive media attention, and importantly, go on to sew and distribute over 350,000 masks to groups ranging from First Nations communities, migrants seeking asylum, farm workers, and a variety of other organizations, many based in California. Fronted by women of color, the organization took on the title “auntie,” as aunties across the country sewed over thousands of handmade masks to supply to underprivileged communities to help protect them from COVID-19.
Radical Care, Racial Justice
However, one doesn’t have to be an actual “aunt” to be considered an auntie and work with the Auntie Sewing Squad. Their website states, “We are mostly cisgender women, but we have some amazing Uncles and non-binary volunteers as well! All are welcome! We use the term “Aunties” because it’s a term of affection and honor for women in many cultures.” They also have recently released a book, The Auntie Sewing Squad Guide to Mask Making, Radical Care, and Racial Justice, published by UC Press in 2021, detailing more of their process and the journey to creating such a successful mutual aid network.
Lakota Coat Drive
In 2022, with mask mandates lifted in most communities, the Auntie Sewing Squad continues to be an activist organization but has generally retired their sewing and mask distribution projects. Founder Kristina Wong told Auntyland that the Auntie Sewing Squad is currently directing organizing efforts towards the 2022 Lakota Coat Drive, organized by one of the sewing squad aunties. The goal of the drive is to provide winter coats and other supplies during the colder months for the people of the Lakota Sioux reservation. They are accepting new coats for children and teens, hoodies for kids and adults, and sleeping bags for unhoused people. Those able to help can ship items to:
6690 Leisure Lane
Summerset, SD 57718
Whether it be through distribution of handmade masks to those in need or using their sizeable platform for additional mutual aid and community building, it’s clear that the Auntie Sewing Squad will continue to use the power of auntie communities across the country to organize for change. If you’re an auntie who wants to connect with the Auntie Sewing Squad, follow them on Instagram for updates, or join their Facebook group to help assist with their variety of campaigns.