Looking back one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still difficult to discern and by some accounts, it’s nowhere near close to being over. For many of us, our lives have been on hold during this time. We’ve spent more time than we’d like to admit online. We’ve postponed things that could be postponed, like weddings, vacations and family reunions. We’ve had to adapt how we can. Zoom has become an adjective and a verb that we use daily, much to our dismay. In Paris, gastronomic and traditional restaurants that never would have imagined serving food to-go have been forced to completely change their DNA. Some have gone the extra mile to only stay open if it’s been possible to do so ethically (aka, no Uber or excessive plastic to-go containers). Some will make it to the end, while others will be counted among the unfortunate pandemic casualties. Museums and cultural centers with resources have been able to transfer some of their artistic offerings online, while others closed their doors some time ago, without an inkling as to when we will be able to walk back through them and feed our souls with the art on their walls again. Medical professionals and those essential workers who never had a chance to just #stayhome still wake up each morning and take care of others, regardless of how exhausted they must be. Nonetheless, if we haven’t lost our jobs, or more importantly, someone close to us, we are considered the lucky ones.
As is usually the case, those who were already suffering have continued to get hit the hardest. People in countries where not having health insurance is still a thing (aka the USA), are faced with impossible situations as stay at home orders are lifted too early and people shouting “freedom!” ostracize other people who wear masks while buying essential goods. So many individuals and families experiencing homelessness in places like France and the UK have not received the help they need. In many countries, migrants, refugees and minorities continue to live their lives under the constant threat of domestic terrorism and racist attacks, while politicians continue to tip toe around the real issues and police continue to hide behind the facade of “serve and protect.” With no real end in sight, all we can do is keep pushing.
Reading, painting, making art, watching movies, listening to music, making music, writing… For many of us, these types of activities are what have gotten us through this past year. We’ve recently realized that in an unintentional way, the Soul Food blog serves as a COVID-19 mirror, reflecting some of the highs (Culture from Home! and examples of international solidarity efforts) and a few of the lows (over 300 unaccompanied minors – children – left on the streets of Paris to fend for themselves and French police exhibit bellicose racist conduct against migrants and refugees). One year later, how far have we come? Have we managed to successfully adapt to teleworking/confinement/curfew/quarantine life? What does that even mean? 100 years from now, what will our descendants say about us, about this time? Will the funniest memes and Instagram stories be shown as archaic evidence of the pandemic, how some of us got through it, our existence? Will the heroes, the nurses who worked countless 16+-hour shifts, the transportation workers who risked their lives so that we could get to where we needed (or sometimes just wanted) to go, and the bakers who continued to serve us amazing, fresh, warm bread, be remembered for the way they helped others and maintained a semblance of normalcy during a pandemic that ravaged the world?
We’ve done what we can to keep pushing, stay optimistic, lookout for others, and stay productive, not just for ourselves, but also for our young members and our entire Soul Food family. Art and culture have definitely been a source of light for us, and those in the community who do what they can to help, have been a cascade of inspiration. Still, this past year has been difficult and incredibly bizarre. It’s almost inexplicable. It’s forever changed the fabric of the world we live in. Yet, we remain hopeful about the future. In the end, that’s really all we can do, other than support each other, support local businesses, spread the love, stay engaged, and of course feed our souls.
In the spirt of this, here is a poem, a few last reflections about this time:
No bad energy welcome here
Filling out and mailing absentee ballots – How many elections did we win?
How many broken promises did they make?
Governments in control, or out?
Chaos all about
Weeks at home.
Netflix no chill.
Months without friends.
Marry shag kill.
Work days that turn into work evenings, nights and weekends.
All night painting, creative juices flowing… but hey, that’s maybe the best part?
Dance in the bathroom so you don’t lose your sanity.
Ask the neighbor if she needs anything.
Don’t forget the bread, banana or pita?
So tired of cooking, but grateful for the kitchen, and the food, and the books, and our jobs, and our health, and our home.
Can’t imagine what it’s like, going through this on your own, outside on the street, in the cold.
Spring blooms Dreams of summer
We look for outlets in the cracks, ways to escape, express ourselves and relax.
Listen to my friends, they’re so young, but they know.
Resilience is key though.
2020, 2021, 2022?
Restaurants can’t take much more.
No more clapping at 8, no more confinement goals, no more cultural entertainment from the lady next-door.
Read a book, flip a record and save yourself from the COVID blues.
One year in but so many are still missing the clues.