Aaliyah Quinn, left, and Zakariyah Hill, right.
Writer: Rachel Vogel Quinn
Photographer: Duane Tinkey
They started with an Instagram post and a few sandwiches. From there, two young Black women built a mutual aid organization and 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Supply Hive, that raised more than $50,000 in its first nine months.
Zakariyah Hill and Aaliyah Quinn of Des Moines, both 23, have been friends since middle school (they met at Cornerstone Family Church). Hill, the Supply Hive’s co-founder and executive director, graduated in May from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in management information systems.
“I grew up around strong, independent women,” Hill says. “It’s made me into a CEO, a boss, a self-starter, someone with an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Co-founder Quinn, on the other hand, is a nurturer, according to Hill. The mother of a 1-year-old son, Quinn graduated from Drake University in December with a degree in elementary education and an endorsement in English as a second language. The daughter of a day care provider, Quinn says she has always been happiest when caring for others.
Although both women have participated in social justice activism for years, they were energized by the protests following George Floyd’s death last summer. But they wanted to do more than hold cardboard signs. After seeing protesters standing and marching in the hot sun for hours, the duo created what they describe as a “janky” flyer with QR codes to Venmo and Cash App accounts. Soon, donations to buy food, water and first-aid supplies for protesters came pouring in.
Hill, however, saw there was a limit to what the protests could accomplish. “It’s time for change,” she remembers thinking. “It’s time to buckle up and be in it for the long run.”
The Supply Hive evolved from there. Hill says the name is a metaphor for bees working together in a non-hierarchical system toward a common goal—nourishing the entire hive. “Nourishment is this broad word,” she says. “It started with food, but now it encompasses physical nourishment, mental nourishment, spiritual nourishment and financial nourishment.”
At Supply Hive events, six board members and a rotating team of volunteers distribute food, water, clothing, school supplies, personal protective equipment, diapers and more. Their supply drives are meant for students, teachers, mothers, homeless individuals, those facing deportation, and anyone in the community who wants to come “shop” for what they need, no questions asked. This is the crux of what it means to be a mutual aid organization, rather than a charity, Hill says.
In addition to providing rent relief and free therapy, Supply Hive also broke ground on a community garden last fall at Edna Griffin Park in the Riverbend neighborhood. In February, they launched the Hill-Quinn Legacy Grant, giving away $7,000 to young Black individuals engaged in community work.
As the organization grows, the co-founders would like to build a physical mutual aid center. The larger goal, however, is long-term community change.
“We have to start little by little, because it’s a big system and it’s hard to break,” Quinn says. “What we’re doing now is slowly leading to more and more change in Des Moines for people of color.”