After much soldering up and preparations (three sheets of hand sanitizers in the right pocket and an additional two folded paper towels in left pocket with hand gel, masks on faces, and a set of plastic gloves in the breast pocket) my partner and I headed out grocery shopping. We navigated the maze of people on the street – some with masks, some actively practicing social distancing, many moving through the sidewalks carefree and caviler – as we and fellow social distance-ers strategically dodge through performances of ignorance and/or arrogance. At the grocery store (located in the basement of a prestigious building) the shoppers we encountered were for the most part more aware, doing their best at social distancing while maneuvering through narrow aisles.
At the cash register, the mask-less late twenties/early-thirties-something African Diaspora female cashier smiled gently as she informed us that she could not pack the bag we had brought with us (Somewhere in our minds we knew this but forgotten and brought our own) because of the virus; all the time she maintained her distance from us and we from her. We thanked her, smiled, and likely passed a joke between us as she packed our groceries in the store’s bags and carefully passed them to us. Suddenly, apparently out nowhere an equally mask- less co-worker, a white colleague, appeared within kissing distance of her face and less than four feet from our own, laughing in animated expressiveness; yet with no apparent reason for her presences. Our cashier looked quizzically. A bit jarred by the encounter, my partner and I, our masks still in place, thanked the cashier and hurried out. On our arrival home we followed the recommendation on bringing groceries into the home, sanitizing everything including ourselves.
In this time of the coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic it is more crucial than ever that African Americans and African Diaspora people in western spaces design and codify strategies for health and wellbeing and staying live. With lifelines above ground measured in six-feet distance, I have mapped six-feet into my acts of love and respect. It is with six-feet that I show love to friends and family members who have been a part of my life for more years than I can remember; and, it is with six-feet that I respect the lives of strangers whom I pass on the road while out on errands or my regular run. On paper it seems so simple, just stay six-feet away at all times; but in practice, this mandate is much more complicated. In recent weeks I have gained a profound understanding of the privilege of six-feet; it is a privilege many cannot access in any consistent and relevant way to positively impact health, well-being, and life. For those who are privileged enough to be able to regularly and consistently engage in rituals of six-feet distancing, we have learned that this six-feet ritual requires deliberate mindfulness and the ability to predict with relative accuracy the movement of others and respond accordingly. In the field of traffic safety, the ability to predict the movement of others, anticipate, and respond to risk in the environment is referred to as ‘hazard perception’ (see Frank Mckenna 2014), Hazard perception is beyond the concept of situational awareness – awareness of ones surroundings (a term used in the related field of human factor). Hazard perception is the ability to predict potential hazards. So important is this ability that in some western countries, such as the United Kingdom, one must pass a hazard perceptions test in order to qualify for a drivers license.
My Spring 2020 errands through the urban center where I reside and through the aisles of the grocery stores, test my ability to perceive and respond to potentially hazardous encounters – these are grueling tests that literally impact life and death. As coronavirus (COVID 19) takes away whatever illusions one might entertain of dignified death, missteps are not evident immediately but instead carry additional anxiety an up to fourteen days of wait – a crash in which the full impact unfold in a fourteen-day slow motion montage.
My journeys out of the apartment are well planned – an internal map of the streets likely to be less traveled, at times the grocery store will has less customers. This strategizing takes a great deal of psychic and emotional work – like most level-headed persons negotiating this unprecedented time, caution is essential. Still, using a technical term from human factors and traffic safety, crashes happen. A crash is an unplanned encounter with a moving object that results in impact.
The scenario that begins this essay is an example of a crash. My partner and I, and the African Diaspora cashier, understood that a particular way of being-in-the-world at this moment in time is necessary for health and well being, and survival. Metaphorically you could say we were, in that moment, in the same car. We chose to proactively engaged in following the guidelines set forth by the experts on how to be safe in a coronavirus (COVID 19) world, off how to be safe on the road. But, the cashier’s white colleague had other concerns/understandings of health and well-being in the age of coronavirus (COVID 19); or she may have had an alternate understandings of what constitute health and well-being. In my metaphor, this colleague could be said to be in another, more reckless, car. Pointless to speculate as to why someone would put themselves (and others) in harms in the age of coronavirus (COVID 19), though I am reminded that (especially of working-class and poor whites) the exercise of whiteness regularly involves much of what I term nonsensical behavior in high risk situations.
Driving metaphors have been useful to me in thinking about and thinking through my mobility in the world coronavirus (COVID 19). I view encounters such as the one described at the beginning of this piece as slow crashes. It will take fourteen days before we completely apprehend the severity of the encounter beyond the immediate (in-the-moment) psychological and emotional disturbance. Most drivers on the road are road allies, accepting and following the rules of the road so that each with high degree of regularity travel to and from their destination without harms. Yet not all drivers are road allies and so too not all persons moving about the sidewalks, grocery stores, and running paths in my neighborhood are allies. Hazard perception is an essential skill for all in these times, especially for African Americans and African Diaspora in western spaces.
NanaEfua B. Afoh-Manin (BAM) MD, MPH, NanaEfua B. Afoh-Manin (BAM) MD, MPH, and Briana DeCuir, MD, (founders) are launching a free telehealth app and online portal called myCOVIDMD that safely connects individuals to resources in real-time, by real people.
I have stated elsewhere that this is the time for an Underground Railroad of Health Care Professional working to save lives in African American throughout the United States and African Diaspora communities throughout the western world. These three female ER Doctors apparently had a similar idea. They have started the process of a movement I believe is needed globally. I will tentatively call it The Underground Railroad of Health Professions for Us (URHPU).
As the rain falls,Poverty thickens& certain communities are forgotten & countless bodies are dying. Self-contained,Fibrotic lungs short of breath& Fever ridden exacerbated muscles aching, crying out for testing that will never comecrying out for portable hospitals that will never be constructed. One or ten.Grieving hearts are silenced by unmourned, cremated and unburied loved ones. The plot thickens. Medical personnel cross contaminate.
As the rain falls,It’s exposing the pre-existing racismthe pre-existing neglectthe pre-existing corruptionand the consequence. Countless covid-infested bodies are dying.
The World As We Know it Has Stopped!
By: Halifu Osumare (March 22, 2020)
The world as we know it has stopped! We are told to social distance, but that we are all in it together
We’re supposed to stand six feet apart, while supporting each other
The contradictions are a part of the empty streets and closed restaurants
Online dance classes, instead of sweating together in the studio
Spiritual webinars instead of Sunday church
We were looking at our phones
now we’re looking at each other and asking why?
We are quarantined, isolated in these uncertain times
“But how do we quarantine a tear?”*
We are helping each other to get through this with phone calls, not texts
With a real smile as we pass each other in the streets,
But still a smile emoji on an encouraging Facebook post
or a reassuring zoom business conference
Is the world ending?
maybe, as we know it
Giving us a new start?
Bishop T.D. Jakes says,
The Coronavirus is waking us up
about Tribalism, Politics, Race, and even Age
The virus could bring about new Unity
A resurgence to Re-Examine our Values
A focus on the Continuity of Love, not Extremism
The world as we know it has stopped!
Now we have a chance to take a deep breath in and out!
and listen to the wisdom of the Ancestors in the Wind that still blows
One of the biggest ideas that came from the Cuban Revolution was that everyone, as a human right, should have access to healthcare and should have access to education. So Cuba has prided itself in making sure that these are very much pillars of its revolution, and that their people would always have access to that.
“In the South Bronx, Dr. Melissa Barber is putting into practice lessons she learned more than a decade ago from her training as a medical student in Cuba at the Latin American School of Medicine, or ELAM as it’s known by its Spanish initials. For Barber, healthcare doesn’t start with an ambulance ride to the hospital but with community organizing and a deep familiarity with the needs of one’s neighbors. Barber is also the coordinator for the U.S.-Cuba scholarship program that provides free medical school training in Cuba for aspiring doctors who commit to return and serve in their communities.”
It is the beginning of our future, but not the end of our present or past. We are participating in the making of a new humanity; even as the incompleteness of the humanity some of us can claim to belong is fatally unfinished and flawed. Six feet to confidently feel the sun, engage face to face; six feet to bury our beloved. Six feet of deference between the living and the dead; life or death in six feet, a mask, and sanitizers.
This is the age of Coronavirus/COVID 19. The privilege of breathing is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. The air is cleaners because a force so small it is imperceptible to the human eye has literally put the world on pause, caught between breaths, waiting to exhale.
At this moment I find all language inadequate. Its inadequacy is both irreverent and irrelevant, for use, however crude and imperfect, must be made of it. At least this is where I have now landed.
For weeks (more precisely months) I have fumbled and foiled in my attempts to convert thoughts, feelings, a way of being in this new world of ours into language. Failure after failure, bumps after bumps, I have been wholly discouraged, disappointed, disheartened, and dispirited by language’s inability and impotency. I have been terrorized with brutal imaginings, fear that ultimately I could write nothing – at least nothing worthy of that which I seek to describe, reflect on, analyze, and deconstruct in order to find a way forward. NO!!! ways forward/backwards/sideways/upside-down ways to transform this present moment through language (written, oral, and embodied) that speaks into healing, health, resistants, joy!! I seek language that disentangles from rhetoric of disease, denial, destruction and breaths life into this and the next moment. And yet…
Today I start here:
Eric Garner’s “I can’t breathe”echoes through corridors and waiting rooms of hospitals, care centers and homes around the world: And in a multitude of languages, across times zones, and age-range, the reverberation of ‘I can’t breathe’ hangs in the air, haunting the contemporary moment. This is the age of Coronavirus/COVID 19. The privilege of breathing is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. The air is cleaners because a force so small it is imperceptible to the human eye has literally put the world on pause, caught between breaths, waiting to exhale. And Garner’s cosmic reckoning is upon us, bring the world’s economy to its knees as everyone fears that next inhalation will be an ill-fated journey to that final gasp “I can’t breathe.” The weight of the virus is on our necks, we are in the preverbal chokehold, and even atheists are praying that the last time they saw their loved ones will not be the last time of having seen their loved ones; and if loss must be had, if Garner must die as he did, let it be someone else’s breath that is aborted, let someone else be sacrificed to the ritual fight that ends in a whole bodied “I can’t breathe”.
Who will we be after millions across the globe (including our own near and far) have succumbed, when we are all madmen from grief, catastrophic loss, and survival guilt? How will we protect innocence (our own and others) when we have already perverted innocence and turned it on itself? What type of global community will we build from this fear of breathing and from the enormous threat of unchecked hatred and biases embodied in the micro and macro? What dances will be create to immunize us against external harm and from internal afflictions?
In this year’s training ground, as I climbed further toward destiny, I realized that ALL of the users, deceivers, and life drainers have also been dead weight dragging me down and preventing me from feeling and getting that oxygen supply I needed to climb. The people in my life who only called me or appeared when they wanted or needed something kindly got told that they no longer had access or got completely cut off or blocked.
Letting Go of Old things (Embracing the New Season Ahead)
Author: Melissa Barber
Happy Thirtieth (and Final) Day of Thanks
“To be blessed by everything you hate, to shift from suffering to ecstasy of ache. This is your year to no longer be who you were, to rise from the embers, to be guided by Her. This is your year to be carried by grace, out of the matrix and away from the race. This is your year to be the clear-visioned goddess, to bear the heaviness of a crown, a sacred promise. This is your year to live the life of your dreams, to heal, to witness, to be the one who queens. This is your year to forever change the rest, to un-tame, to shift, to lead, and to live blessed. Woman, This is Your Year.” –Tanya Markul (2019).
Today, I give thanks for the ability to let go in all of the necessary areas of my life to embrace the God given destiny that lies ahead. This year has been one of the toughest years of my life. I literally cried in this 2019 New Year. As I sat at midnight, crying, feeling like I had been completely forgotten about and passed over, denied some of my truest heart’s desires, delayed in so many blessings, was financially spent and not feeling like God was anywhere to be found, I hoped that the moment wasn’t symbolically representing my year ahead.
I wish the crying and the depth of my heartache was only for that moment, but it lasted for days and weaved throughout the year such that it has seemed like an eternity. I lost significant people in my support system. Four days into the New Year, I almost lost my best friend. Thirty days into the New Year, I lost my mom, Nehanda. A few days after that, I caught a flu that had me down for at least two weeks. And overwhelming life situations just kept coming. Everywhere I turned, there was something new to address.
However, in the midst of the chaos and pain, I kept pressing and fighting to take one step at a time and live each day in the present. (And if most of you would also tell the truth, sometimes it’s all about getting through the day and not worrying about a tomorrow.) As I got through another day and another experience, climbing the mountain to my destiny, I’d hear the whispers of my soul telling me that there was something or someone else to let go. For those of you who climb heights, you know that the higher you go, the lower the air pressure, which makes it feel like there is less oxygen. If it feels like there is less oxygen, it’s more difficult to breathe, and thus, there is no room for dead weight and unnecessary excess. As I was climbing toward the top of my destiny mountain, I was starting to feel all of the dead and excess weight that I was carrying and suddenly it became too hard for me to breathe.
I wrestled with myself (and God) about keeping those dead weights because I’ve always had such a hard time letting go of people and things. But, the cutting off of my air supply meant I had to take drastic measures and do what I dreaded to do. I had to fight for me and my survival. So, this year was my training ground to get rid of all the dead weight and let go of the things, ideas, and people in my life that couldn’t be brought into my new season. This was the year that I stopped caring about what other people thought (about me or the decisions I made) and stood boldly, telling my truth, ideas and thoughts, whether other people liked them or wanted to hear them. This was the year that I couldn’t be convinced to stay in a friendship or situations that did not have my best in mind too. This was also the year that I listened to my soul as it gently reminded me that there was another closure needed in another area of my life.
Although this year’s journey has been filled with so much pain, heartache,tears, much prayer and restless nights, I have never known a freedom like this before. It’s the strangest thing to say that in the midst of so much pain, I feel freer. But, it’s true. Putting myself first, doing the things that I love and have always wanted to do, setting necessary boundaries, gave me my air supply back. I went to the ocean (Day 28) and got my second confirmation that I had to let go of my current job and finalized letting go of someone I really loved. My third confirmation about my job came on the last day of an orientation retreat I was hosting. (It’s always amazing how God will use an unsuspecting person to speak to your heart in the rarest of moments). It was about 3 am in the morning when my friend’s nephew starting speaking to me. He said, “You are such a hard worker and do some really amazing work with these students. It’s evident that you really love and care about them. But, you remind me so much of my mother.”
I asked him to explain why and how I was like his mother. He said, “You both are so passionate about the things you do and you take care of and sacrifice everything for other people. But, you both never take the time to sacrifice for your own selves and your own happiness.” I interjected (proud that I had spent much of the earlier part of the year doing the work to be intentional about solidifying my happiness and sacrificing for me) and said that I was making sure that I was taking care of myself too. He said, “If you were really taking care of yourself and sacrificing for yourself, then you would do and have done what you know you were supposed to do concerning this job. I can’t and won’t tell you what to do because only you can make that decision for yourself. But, there is no reason that you should be stuck here, making this ridiculously low salary when you have a family to support and talents way beyond what this has to offer you.” (Talk about an ouch moment that was all God speaking through this 22 year old man child!)
Everything he was saying was completely right. Earlier in the year, I had to set hard boundaries about my work hours because I needed to hustle to find ways to complete other projects to make money. When I signed on to my current job years ago, I agreed to do thirty hours per week. The thirty hours easily became fifty to sixty (or more) hour weeks; the extra twenty to thirty hours of which I never got financially compensated. I worked for seven years without ever getting a raise or a financial bonus, even though my work significantly increased and I suddenly took on the work responsibilities of the many people who left. I had been doing the work of two to three people for a long time and saw no relief or help in sight. On my salary alone, I could not support my family and survived off of my credit card to make ends meet. (I’m in a ridiculous amount of debt now because I didn’t make the choice to leave much sooner.)
Each time I thought to leave my job, I thought of all the students and how my leaving would impact them. Most everyone who is familiar with my program convinced me that I needed to stay because I was doing great work. Or, I had negotiated something for the program and didn’t want anything in the new negotiations to fall apart because there would be no one to pick it up. In essence, I thought of myself as too important or essential and let others convince me that my role was such as well. Ultimately, the truth is that regardless of how difficult a transition would be for my job if I left, I am, in fact, replaceable and there is always someone else who can learn to do the job. And this job should have been paying me accordingly as the work and demands increased but it had not and was not thinking about compensating me for all of my work.
As you could imagine, after that 3 am conversation, I had a great deal of thinking and decision making to do. God had spoken loud and clear through this vessel he had chosen. Here was yet another area in my life of which I needed to let go of something to embrace new opportunities for my own business growth and development as well as financial wealth.
In this year’s training ground, as I climbed further toward destiny, I realized that ALL of the users, deceivers, and life drainers have also been dead weight dragging me down and preventing me from feeling and getting that oxygen supply I needed to climb. The people in my life who only called me or appeared when they wanted or needed something kindly got told that they no longer had access or got completely cut off or blocked. The bitter people, like my mom, who couldn’t get completely cut off but who only had negativity to spread got placed in a location that was at longer than arms distance away and loved from there. Tiny feats I conquered gave me a little more of my lung capacity back.
I discovered that I was being completely deceived and undervalued by someone who I thought loved and claimed to love me. He had a secret life with a wife and child in it and, I guess, imagined that my love for him would allow him to play games and have me take second place and receive his sloppy seconds. While Love can make people entertain and contemplate dumb and crazy things, I was way past the stage of being that kind of stupid for a man. And as much as my actions shocked the heck out of us and the people around us, I let him go too. I ignored his “I love you” and “you mean everything to me” messages. I stopped entertaining his suggestions of meeting to discuss things. I had to tell a member of his family that I did not need or want updates on his life or for him to be a middle man to filter me information. I was really done. (Can you imagine me co-signing to get someone’s sloppy seconds? Puhlease! That V-8-dose of mental clarity-couldn’t come quick enough!) That move gave me so much more of my lung capacity back to climb further up my destiny mountain. I took all the time I needed to purge myself and my heart of that situation, continued to work on decluttering my life, and have become more open and intentional about meeting and dating people. (I’m taking it slow but it’s been going really well in that department so far.)
One of the hardest things I’ve had to remember (and learn) during this season of training is to look for resources and blessings to come in the most unexpected ways and from the most unexpected people. I found myself depending on specific people who committed to do certain things for me but all too often found them MIA when they needed to produce. Some of these were great people, who were totally reliable and dependable before, which allowed me to trust in them. But, I’m sure you can image my heartbreak when they didn’t come through and didn’t even give an explanation of what happened and why they didn’t come through. I prayed about these situations so that my heart was full of forgiveness and that God would provide a ram in the bush. God did it every time and whispered another valuable lesson to my soul. Instead of counting on/depending on specific people to be my source, I had to remember that God is. (He will always be my ultimate source for everything in my life!) That is going to be a nugget that I will have to keep near and dear to me as I charter into the new, unchartered territory of this coming season. My spiritual ears and sight will have to be so fine-tuned to not miss even the smallest of crumbs from God’s mouth and hands.
So this new season I’m expecting and embracing involves the reaping of the fruit from the decades of years that I have sown seeds and watered them with my sweat and tears. A new job(s) is/are coming that will increase my finances three fold (and get me out of this debt!); I’m working on doing some things that I have always wanted to do and am passionate about. (Yay!) I have about $1100 more to give the publisher so that my book will be printed and released. (And I don’t think I’ll have to resort to dancing on a pole or being a lady of the night! I have faith that the book is going to be released much sooner than later because I know and believe that the resources are coming even as I write.) When my book is released, please support it and find your way to my book signing/release party. Start saving your money now for bus, plane, or train tickets to NY because I want you all here to celebrate that moment of destiny with me. Be prepared for a real party too!
(What if it’s a best seller that jump-starts our thanks movement onto a national and international platform? Hey! ya never know! Eyes have not seen, ears have not heard nor can minds comprehend the great things God has for those who love Him.)
I’m willing and expecting for God to blow my mind.
Ms. Diva, Delilah Christina, has had some challenges this year but God has been so faithful. Her mama remains the fiercest advocate for her that she will ever know. She remains completely successful on her keto diet (when maintained by the other caretakers in her life). Her seizures have been kept to a minimum; she is finally on prescribed Epidiolex (which now saves me $300 out of pocket every 3 weeks. Hallelujah! because that financial burden was drowning me). She is working on job training skills in school, still loves fashion and modeling and will officially become an adult in about ten more months. We’ll have to start the guardianship process soon. (Please pray that there will be no hiccups or hindrances but a smooth process.) I’m still expecting God to blow my mind with her complete healing and fluency of speech. I know that the dream I saw of her on the platform of that packed out stadium singing and declaring some things that shook the earth completely awaits her and I can’t wait to see it with my own eyes.
Today as I give thanks for letting go of old things and embracing a new season, I ask that you highlight your own organization to give. (Sure, it can be one previously mentioned on the journey that you haven’t given to yet.) I also encourage you with the words of one of my favorite Toni Braxton songs: “Let it go, let it flow, let it flow, let it flow. Everything’s gonna work out right, ya know.” I’ll keep you posted and can’t wait to see you all at the book signing party.
Knowing that I was completely overwhelmed, over-stressed and under-helped, but pressing to achieve excellence, my Mama and sisterhood sponsored me to attend the annual Soul Sister’s Retreat in Los Angeles, California. They knew that this Sister’s Retreat would rejuvenate me, give me clarity, and send me back into the belly of the beast with reminders of how loved, cherished, and supported I am. Because I had no idea what to expect going to this retreat, before arriving to LAX, I vowed to be open to see/hear/feel everything within the experience. There was not one activity, workshop, presentation or experience that did not make my heart sing.
I love music and to sing from the depths of my soul; it has been something that has gotten me through my entire life. So, the fact that I was immersed in music during the entire retreat (as I learned more about sisterhood, as I was given tools to continue conquering life, as I got free, as I let go of some big weights and as I forgave a little more), I allowed the “Spirit of the Lord to be upon me” and I basked in that glory the entire weekend.
One of the greatest moments of the retreat took place at 5am. (Crazy right?) Each day, there were droves of carpoolers that crammed in cars just to get to our morning activity. After a 10 minutes drive, we made it to the endpoint of our journey. Moments later, we were engulfed in sand, feeling the cool wind hitting our faces and hearing the sound of the crashing waves hit the shore. Our morning activity involved music (again), several stretching exercises, and emotionally liberating activities with a partner. After the activities, most people stripped and ran into the ocean. (That was not happening for me because I was cold!) I kept all of my clothes and layers on. One of my soul sisters commented that I should get rid of some of my layers because I looked like I was stifled and carrying too much weight.But, what she didn’t know was that as I stood flat footed before the ocean with my arms wide open and my ankles and feet buried in the sand, I let the sun kiss my face; I had a talk with God and I let the ocean purify my soul. The ebb and flow of those waves were so calming to me; they soothed my aching heart.
For the first time in a long time, I partook in the ritual of going to the water and laying all my burdens down. In those remaining minutes, I had a conversation with God and told Him about each of my troubles. I even asked for the healing of my broken heart. As I cried tears for all of those burdens, I decided that it would be my last time crying over them. As I was cleansed, I finally found the courage and the strength to let go of those troubles and threw each into the water. Symbolically, I let the ocean carry them away.
That trip to the ocean was such a pivotal moment; it defined a shift in my life and declared a new season. I was released from my old season and everything that was attached to it. (That old season consisted of many dark nights of sowing in tears, sacrifice, deceptions, heart brakes, denials and more delays.) This new season was the joy that comes in the morning and I needed to make room for it.
I not only left the ocean freer that day, I moved one step closer to divine destiny.
Today as I give thanks for the ocean and its ability to purify, I highlight the organization Charity: Water https://www.charitywater.org the spring) whose mission is to get clean drinking water to people in developing countries. They’ve funded 38,113 water projects for 9.6 million people in 24 countries around the world. In the last nine years, the organization dug more than 16,000 water projects, raised more than $200 million from donors, and set new standards for donor engagement and public communication. 100% of all the money given by donors goes directly to the water projects. Please give as much as you can to this wonderful organization.