The year 2020 continues to be one that is unprecedented in its upheaval and turmoil. Now, as we enter the final quarter of the year we have shifted into this new normalcy of social distance, masks, rising COVID-19 cases, record unemployment numbers and rampant hunger and deaths that have rocked our country to its core. America encompasses 4.25% of the world’s population, according to the United Nations Population Division data, and an astonishing 19% of the global COVID-19 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). America has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths of any other country. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that our country has been hit very hard by this global pandemic. Each family has a different story of the impact they’ve felt during this tumultuous year. Some families have been able to keep their jobs and health. Others have a very different story of personal and financial impact as well as loss. For people of African descent, the mortality rate is significantly higher than other groups.
As we move ahead, we must redouble our efforts to slow the spread of this deadly virus and mitigate its impact. I encourage everyone not to become weary. Continue to practice social distancing of 6 feet or more. Use a mask, either paper or cloth. Dispose of paper masks carefully by discarding them in a receptacle and then washing your hands. Cloth masks should also be removed carefully and then washed daily. The masks should cover your mouth and nose. Continue to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently during the day. Avoid large crowds, especially indoors. As we are approaching the holidays take care when making plans with family and friends. Keep the gatherings small. Remain cautious and steadfast so that we can remain safe. Redouble your efforts to increase your health by getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet and getting in daily exercise.
As a people we are not strangers to difficult times. We have weathered enslavement, war, Jim Crow, redlining and disparate treatment throughout our time on these shores. During this same time, we have created the blues, jazz, gospel, gumbo, rent parties, the Dozens, novels and poetry. We have used our creative energies to rise above our circumstances and make it through to the next day where hope awaits. I encourage us to pay heed to our mind, body and spirit. Each of these components need nurturing. It is up to each one of use to determine how to best attain that balance. During this trying time, I have increased my time spent exercising, started a garden and re-read poets who have given me joy in the past. Times such as this call for resistance and renewal.
We need not look very far to find inspiration and joy. As we navigate these challenging times, let us also re-imagine a better world. Many local poets both past and present have an incredible body of work to draw from: Mari Evans, Ethridge Knight, Wendell Parker, Adrian Matejka, Allyson Horton, Too Black, January York, Manon Voice, Chantell Massey and Ethel McCane just to name a few. Take this time to renew yourself as we prepare for the challenging days ahead. We are a strong people, we have survived much and will continue to press on toward the mark. Maya Angelou said, “My mission in life it not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”
Mari Evans in her signature poem “I am A Black Woman” from the book of the same name says, “Look on me and be renewed.”
Ethridge Knight in his poem “The Idea of Ancestry” speaks of his family by saying, “I am all of them, they are all of me, I am me, they are thee”. We are connected. In that connection find strength.
I see poetry as a means for resistance and renewal. Be well.
Nichelle M. Hayes is a native of Indianapolis. She is an information professional, genealogist, civic leader and lifelong learner.