Over the past few weeks, I’d watched news about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) with a healthy amount of skepticism. As cases spread across the globe, it seemed like a distant reality that was unlikely to impact my life in the United States. I was preparing for the month ahead and a dance and writing retreat in South America in April. Life was seemingly normal and uneventful, until Monday of last week.
Suddenly, diagnosed cases popped up with alarming intensity—Washington State, California, Oregon, New York. As of this writing, there are more than 2,592 confirmed cases in the country and 41 deaths. Most at risk are the elderly and people with suppressed or compromised immune systems. School districts across the country are closing for several weeks. Large-scale public events are being canceled, including major sports events. Even Disneyland is closing!
Those who are sick are being told to stay at home. People who aren’t sick are being encouraged to practice social distancing, which means avoiding public places, staying home as much as possible and keeping 6 to 10 feet away from other people. All of us are being encouraged to wash our hands with soap and water frequently and not touch our faces to avoid the possibility of coming into contact with surfaces that could be contaminated.
Between the 24-7 media coverage of this pandemic, cancellations of events and travel, the unclear information about how widespread the virus actually is, the absolute lack of leadership and gross incompetence coming from Donald Trump’s administration, things have become downright scary. We are facing a new normal that requires us to change our behaviors. If you are panicked, angry and/or confused, you are not alone.
It’s hard to know exactly where to start, but here are a few things I’d like to suggest we do to care for ourselves and other Black women and girls across the country:
Check on the other Black women in your life.
Black women are more likely to be financially impacted in times like these. Many of us are low-wage and gig workers, freelancers, and small business owners. When events are canceled, schools closed, employees laid off from struggling businesses, we lose money and are forced to stretch our dollars. Quite a few Black women I know lost months’ worth of anticipated income in just a few days because of this crisis, with no idea when they may be able to make it up.
Others are worried about the possibility of aging relatives in poor health contracting the virus.
Call, text, email, set up virtual happy hours…show up for another Black woman. Reach out, ask if she’s ok, let her know she’s not alone and lend a sympathetic ear. Though it’s tempting to self-isolate and turn inward, now is the time we need to be in community with one another.
Donate to a food bank.
Hunger is an epidemic in this country, with children being the most affected. With many schools closed and employment uncertain for a number of adults, families that rely on reduced-price and free meals for their kids will struggle to feed them. 33% of Black children (3.6 million) live in poverty. Your donation is a step toward helping Black families in need.
Please stop hoarding toilet paper.
In times of uncertainty, we reach for things that make us feel like we are doing something. But, I promise, we aren’t at risk for running out of toilet paper! The average American uses 100 rolls of toilet paper a year—which is equivalent to roughly 8 rolls a month. Additionally, the US only imports a small amount, mostly from Canada and Mexico so there’s little danger of it coming from places that have been disrupted due to the Coronavirus. When you buy a one-year supply in a panic, it only means other folks don’t have easy access to it. Officials recommend that the way to prepare for a pandemic is to stock up on a two-week supply of food and water, not hoard something that’s already in abundant supply. For more, check out this article.
Dance, practice yoga, meditate, exercise, binge watch your favorite shows—do things that tend to your mental health and self-care.
Black women stay on the go, all of the time. We run ourselves ragged caring for others, working hard and worrying about everything. This emergency forces us to slow down and take a break. That’s not to make light of the huge disruption that it is causing. But, while we are on a hiatus from our plans and daily lives, perhaps we can also find ways to rest, take care of our bodies and find a bit of joy. In my case, my retreat in Argentina has been postponed as well as my weekly dance classes. It’s incredibly disappointing, but I’ve already scheduled one virtual brunch with friends and am committed to putting on my dance shoes a few days a week to dance in my house!
What can you do to find joy and self-care during these trying times?
I know that everything seems out of control with no answers about when things will change. But just remember, this new normal is only temporary.
Stay safe, wash your hands and take good care of yourselves and each other.
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