When good friends Arya Rao and Kanav Kalucha were sent home early from Columbia University as a result of COVID-19, the computer science students knew they weren’t done putting their education to use quite yet. From their homes in Michigan and California, respectively, Rao and Kalucha noticed that many citizens in their hometowns – particularly the elderly – were already making masks to donate to frontline workers. With technology at their side, the two realized they had the skills to speed up the donation process, and just like that, the Mask Up initiative was born.
Co-founders Arya Rao and Kanav Kanucha
What started as a two-person effort has now amassed over 100 volunteers to make and deliver masks to frontline workers. “There are a lot of organizations that have PPE shortages,” explains Rao, “and while this isn’t a substitute for that, we can reduce the risk for some of the people who are fighting this pandemic.”
Becoming a volunteer is simple. Go to the Mask Up website and enter your location, and how many masks you will be able to make. You will then be matched to the nearest healthcare organization. Additionally, essential services and organizations can request donations through the website as well. Since its inception, Mask Up has been able to provide masks to the New York National Guard, the Public Transit Unit of the North-Eastern United States, and dozens of hospitals and care homes.
Some of the masks that have been made and donated by volunteers.
Initially, it was a struggle to leverage the technological aspect. While younger generations are no strangers to social media, the majority of Mask Up volunteers are the elderly, who are less familiar with the world of technology. Rao quickly realized that while Facebook, Instagram, and a website would reach a younger demographic, the best way to spread the word is through good old-fashioned newspapers, and other local media outlets. “Lots of cold-emailing and cold-calling,” Rao recalls with a chuckle.
The Mask Up initiative will continue for as long as necessary. Until then, Rao explains that their only goal is “to continue to service the needs of the nation.”
“This pandemic is really throwing all of us for a loop right now and I think the first thing we want to do is provide a little good and a little light in the world.”
One thing that Instagram has made abundantly clear to me is that everyone I know is baking delicious goods these days except for me. It seems like the whole world has acquired a passion for baking all at once, but the end product of baking has always appealed to me more than the process. It’s just so time-consuming, and my mile-a-minute brain is not suited for labors of love. However, there is something I have found time for myself to experiment with: beverages.
Like any good twenty-something, I miss being able to go to the Dunkin’ Donuts on campus (Boston really does run on Dunkin’) and pick up a large decaf soy latte with raspberry shot whenever I needed something to sip on while doing homework. Even now, with Starbucks opening up slowly but surely, I’ve been sorely missing having fancy coffee and tea drinks at my disposal. The only solution I’ve come up with was making my own (without the methodical ratios required of a real cafe to label a drink a “latte”, an overly pedantic term that I like to use to refer to all milk-and-other stuff hybrids), and that quickly transformed from a necessity to one of my favorite things to do everyday.
So, here is a quick introduction to one area of study I’ve devoted quite a bit of research and a whole lot of passion to.
The easier beverage to master would be coffee, so if you already have a taste for it, I’d recommend starting your latte journey there. There are a hundred different ways to brew a cup of coffee, but the simplest method is just… use a coffee maker. Although it’s one thing I cannot wait to purchase, I don’t have an espresso machine or even a french press, so I make do with my dad’s coffee maker. Simply take some ground coffee beans (we have owned this one grinder for about as long as I’ve been alive), pack them into the machine, and turn it on. You might have to fiddle around with the ratios, but I’ve found that just following the most basic of directions brews a pretty decent cup of joe. And, voila! Your coffee base.
[Sometimes I’ll decorate my drinks with a sprinkling of cinnamon or another spice for some flair.]
Tea, on the other hand, is a bit less forgiving. First and foremost, there are different types of teas and tisanes (the latter being herbal mixtures not from the tea leaf, Camellia sinensis1). All “tea” (white, oolong, green, etc.) come from the same plant at different levels of oxidation. While the actual process behind tea harvesting is fascinating, the most important information is more based in trial-and-error. While all tea is wonderful in different uses, more robust teas, such as green or black tea, tends to handle additions better, and that includes the necessary milk to create a latte. They also just so happen to be more convenient to find in the United States, although the other types are certainly worth seeking out if you want to sip tea in its unadulterated form! Unless you want to invest in a tea strainer (mine looks like the Loch Ness Monster sticking out of the hot water; I call her Nessie), tea bags are your best bet. Black teas and tisanes such as rooibos or chamomile are hardest to mess up; just stick one in a cup with boiling water and let it steep for four or five minutes. Green teas require a bit more finesse, with slightly cooler water, and should not steep for longer than two-ish minutes. You’ll know instantly if it is overstepped, as it will taste incredibly bitter! Matcha is a slightly different beast, being powdered green tea rather than whole leaves and requiring frothing in a small cup of water, but there are a host of videos online showing how to create matcha in the most beautiful settings that just writing it in a blog would not do the process justice. Whether you prefer the strong bergamot notes of earl grey or the delicate nuttiness of genmaicha, making a latte with a tea base is a worthy meditative process.
[Nessie the Loch Ness tea strainer in her natural habitat.]
Now that you have your caffeinated (or decaffeinated, if that’s more your style) component prepped, it’s time to pick your milk. I prefer soy milk, as I enjoy the environmentally-friendliness of non-dairy milk, but will use the skim milk the rest of my family drinks in a pinch. In all honesty, milk is entirely up to personal preference: Maybe you like the creaminess of coconut milk, the nostalgic texture of whole milk, or the trendiness of oat milk. Different milks have different strengths, and whichever you choose (or if you forgo milk and just use a creamer) is going to turn out delicious. As a slight word of caution: If you want to froth your milk (an optional step I sometimes do for the aesthetics), dairy milk is going to work a bit better. I’ve found that whereas some dairy milk whipped for a few seconds with my milk frother then microwaved for twenty seconds to stabilize it will hold an insane amount of foam for what seems like hours, soy milk just doesn’t have the same “soapy” ability, although it does make a lovely foam in and of itself. The microwave step is essential to really increase the longevity of the milk foam, but obviously I skip it entirely when making an iced latte. As well, while I use a handheld frother, anything from a devoted machine to just shaking some milk in a covered jar for a while will make a snazzy display.
Finally, we have reached the moment to finish our latte! Just take your coffee or tea and add your milk. If it’s just too hot out, add some ice before your other ingredients. If you’re a rebel, add your milk first then stir in the rest. If you want beautiful latte art, me too. I haven’t unlocked that level of barista yet.
Although most days I just make a simple drink, sometimes I like to spend more time working on my lattes. It becomes a creative outlet for me, and while not every creation is particularly successful, all give me a sense of accomplishment. I have two Torani flavored syrups at home, unsweetened vanilla and unsweetened raspberry, and I plan to purchase more when these are used up. Both go great in coffee and I’ve found some good combinations with teas. An earl grey latte with some vanilla makes a delicious London fog, one of my go-tos. Any warming spices, such as ginger or cinnamon, play very nicely with coffee and black tea (there’s a reason masala chai is so popular!). I finagled the Turkish coffee my dad is always making on the stovetop into a latte, albeit a very assertive one. I’ve stopped getting the side-eye when icing it down and throwing in a ton of soy milk, despite it being a very, very Americanized take on my Middle Eastern roots. Once I even made a tangentially-related drink, horchata, a Latin American dessert drink made from rice, milk, and some spices. I could only drink a bit at a time (it’s so sweet), but I was very proud of myself for devoting an afternoon to it! On the other hand, my attempt at bubble tea didn’t turn out nearly as tasty as what I would buy from a cafe, but learning that tapioca starch and water make a sticky non-Newtonian fluid was a fun experience. I also quickly found that the fluffiness of dalgona coffee, despite being very popular online and stunning to look at, simply cannot be mixed into milk. It sits as a pretty layer of mediocre-tasting foam atop plain milk. I also discovered that the medicinal smell of almond extract is a lot to overcome, even when I balanced it with a good squirt of honey. And mixing hibiscus tea and milk is an absolutely horrid experience. Just… learn from my mistake with that one.
[Did you know that boba pearls are naturally white? I was surprised to find out!]
The best part of making a latte for me isn’t even always drinking it. While it is, of course, nice to reap the rewards of my labor, putzing around in the kitchen thinking of new and creative ways to make a drink or finally getting around to that recipe that had been saved in my bookmarks for a while feels really good. While the sense of accomplishment when a drink turns out cafe-worthy can make my entire day leagues better, making lattes is such a low-stakes game that even when I mess up three times over I still feel like I’ve been productive. So what if the latte of the day is quasi-inedible and I’m just drinking it out of spite? I still put time and effort into something, and that’s worthy of applause in and of itself.
May 25th, 2020 is a day that will be written in the history books: the day America was awoken in a way it has never been before. The unjust killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd within three months acted as the straws that broke the camel’s back in a long history of disproportionate harm to the black community in this country. Protests in every state ensued shortly after the death of George Floyd, manifesting themselves as beautiful displays of the power of the rage and hurt that an inherently discriminatory society has birthed inside the black community for nearly 400 years. For the first time in many young peoples’ lives, they are being forced to confront their individual complicity in a deeply white-centric and racist system. It has introduced the dire need for self-reflection and contextualization of everyone’s privilege.
The product of this much needed self-reflection has reared its head in public social arenas; social media has been overwhelmed with black squares, attention-grabbing infographics, and lengthy paragraphs full of statistics and opinions. The Black Lives Matter hashtag has been used over 21.9 million times. The awareness of police brutality, racism, and white privilege is expanding, knocking on the doors of those who have been able to hide away in the comfort and familiarity of their online social circles. While there’s no doubt that opening up the opportunity for discussion is crucial to breaking down barriers and deconstructing our defective system, we must examine the genuinity of the common Instagram story. Can the occasional post truly ever be enough? In order to answer this question for yourself, you must consider the poster’s intention, past behavior, and their concerted efforts beyond the social media sphere.
Any intention other than to educate, to spread awareness, to convey hurt and anger, to present statistics to support a fully-believed argument, or to amplify Black voices, feels disingenuous. Posting to be included in a viral trend needs to be seen as an insidious act, as it seeks to feign support for a cause that desperately needs genuine involvement and commitment. It does not exist to be paraded on your feed. It exists to bring to light the injustices institutionally built into our nation that have cost real human beings their livelihoods, their lives. The poster who suddenly appears as a vocal proponent of the issue after a history of silence, complicity, or blatant racism also must be regarded as suspicious; is what we are seeing representative of personal growth and education, or is it their underhanded attempt to blend in and erase their historical lack of empathy for people of color? Are our peers hiding behind a facade of social media activism to absolve themselves of guilt? In either of these cases, a desire to be accepted by society as conscious and empathetic of the plights of Black people overshadows their need to actually act to help resolve the issue. Both of these cases are unacceptable forms of speaking out. Beyond the poster’s own personal beliefs, we must be critical of the extent to which they actually support the cause they claim to. Sharing is important, speaking up is important, but action is imperative. To feel strongly enough to post, but to forego any further use of the same technology to enact actual change–to sign petitions, to share and use resources, to call and email local officials–is a flagrant expression of laziness, privilege, and discomfort that acts to undermine any support, fabricated or not.
As a young mixed American woman of both White and Black heritage, I have felt an immense sense of duty to challenge myself to use my voice to have difficult conversations with my loved ones. To face those individuals who were responsible for my first-hand education of racism and microaggression. To scrutinize my behavior in hindsight; how I personally allowed these microaggressions to permeate while simultaneously using my comparative white privilege to duck away from uncomfortable situations while my Black brothers and sisters could not have had the luxury of avoiding this distress. For me, just a post will never be enough. Another’s post will never be enough.
However, one of the most genuinely touching things that I have personally witnessed to come from this is the massive outpouring of true allyship from around the world. Gatherings of people in every major city across the globe speaking out about injustices of their own is a profoundly important display that lets us know that America is not alone in its systemic racism and mistreatment of Black citizens. Not only are Black individuals in the UK, France, New Zealand, and beyond conveying solidarity with the struggles of many Americans, but they are using action and movement to express a deep empathy and understanding that should disturb us deeply, as well as inspire us to spark change beyond the Facebook wall and Instagram feed.
Some may think landing an internship or job in college is impossible unless you have a stellar grade point average (GPA), outside connections, or amazing experiences. However, this is not true! Very few people are extremely impressive in every quality. Think of it this way: you are not better or worse than your competitors; you simply offer different qualities. Sometimes you may not be what employers are looking for, but that does not mean you are not talented. I will be the first to admit that my GPA is not stellar and I came in with no connections or relevant experiences in my field when I started looking for my first internship at my university. Still, here are a few tips I have used that helped me land an internship in a lab my first quarter at my university, an undergraduate job in the health field, and some other opportunities!
Always be open to any and all opportunities.
This is KEY! Too many times when talking to my peers about gaining job experience, I hear someone say they are “waiting for the perfect opportunity.” Being open to many different opportunities will open doors for you. Waiting for one experience you think is “perfect” limits your potential. By choosing to wait for said experience, you may be missing out on other amazing experiences to help you grow not only in your field of interest but as a person. I am not saying that you should take absolutely any opportunity that comes your way, but when opportunities come to you, even if they seem trivial, give them a chance. Do you have an opportunity to work in a lab, but it’s not exactly what you want to study? Give it a shot! Working in one lab could be the stepping stone to get to the kind of lab you want to work in.
2. Always bring a notebook to an interview.
This is not my own idea, but I read this online somewhere and have been shocked at how rarely people actually do this. I am not joking when I tell you that at my last job interview (I got the job, by the way), I brought a notebook and the interviewers spent five whole minutes talking about how impressed they were that I actually brought a notebook and how I was the only person they interviewed for the job that did so. That may sound so minor, but trust me when I say that the small things add up! Showing a lot of interest in the job and bringing a notebook to write down questions or notes about the job will demonstrate how dedicated you are. People will notice!
(Bringing a notebook and taking notes during an interview is sure to gain you respect).
3. Always bring a book on another subject to your interview.
This one may sound a little peculiar but I have actually found that this tip is a great way to showcase your diverse interests and skills. Employers and colleges desire well-rounded individuals, but it can sometimes be difficult to discuss other interests and talents in a short interview. I am a biological sciences major and art history minor and at all my interviews, the interviewers are always interested in hearing about my strengths in both seemingly different subjects. However, this does not always come up in conversation during the interview. Because of this, I bring an art history book to the interview. By reading it while I wait and placing it next to me during the interview, it is another opportunity for employers to notice and ask about it. Try it!
4. Always write a letter of intention.
When applying for a job or internship, sometimes the company will ask you to write a letter of intention, which is essentially a small essay explaining why you want the job and what you can bring to the company. However, not everything you apply to will directly ask for this. Write one anyways! Demonstrating your desire to get this job will not hurt you. I often write about my previous applicable experiences, life goals, and how this opportunity will help me reach those goals. Be as clear as possible about why you think you are a good fit for the position and company. Employers will be impressed that you went the extra mile to show how much you want this position.
(By writing a letter of intention, you prove your interest in the position).
5. Never underestimate yourself!
In your life, you have probably heard the saying, “don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” This can be a good reminder for those who are sometimes overly optimistic; however, if you are like me, you may find it easy to doubt yourself when competing with others who may seem like a better fit for the position than you. When you catch yourself thinking negatively after an interview or when you are waiting on a response from a job, pause and remind yourself that everything will be okay. You are worth more than you think, and no one job (or loss thereof) will be the end all be all. Be confident and open-minded when applying, and do not count yourself out before anything happens. You will not be sure if you are chosen for the position unless you try.
Thank you for reading my tips and I hope you find these useful for your next job interview or application process! As always, opportunities are around you if you do some digging and never give up! You got this!
In the current times, it can be difficult to uphold friendships in ways that we have become accustomed to. We can’t share a dinner, go for drinks, and/or hang out at each other’s houses. It seems cruel that in these times when our mental health seems to be at its most fragile, we cannot even see a portion of our support system.
So what can you do? You can text, arrange Zoom calls, send letters, and send gifts. You can show your love and support by checking in every once in a while. While it is certainly a different, modernized form of friendship, it is possible. We do, after all, stay in contact with our home friends when we are at school and with our school friends when we are at home.
However, in these times when our mental health is so fragile and we are doing our best to keep our own heads above water, how much do we find ourselves with an obligation to ensure our friends are doing well? Is a weekly text enough or should it be daily? Are we bad friends if we can’t bring ourselves to do those Zoom calls?
(Zoom is a popular method of calling, and people use it when they are distanced)
We are all going through different struggles, some of us more than others. “Family therapist Catherine Lewis says communication can be fraught when friends are experiencing the pandemic differently.” (Noveck, Jocelyn) If some of us are struggling more than others, it can often be difficult to have the will to reach out or even incite feelings of jealousy if some are dealing with isolation better than others. This can make it even more difficult to keep up friendships, especially if you are in the position of the one expected to keep up contact.
Being alienated from friendships that used to be a part of daily life can create unexpected rifts because “people are now having to pick and choose what works in a friendship, and what’s maybe no longer a good fit.” (Noveck, Jocelyn) Without seeing people in person, we can easily read texts in a negative way or think that a lack of Snapchats means that a friendship is now lackluster or unimportant. A simple lack of communication can lead to rifts and the eventual fading away of a friendship. With extra time, self-reflection can help us realize that people who used to be in our lives may not have a place there anymore.
To put it bluntly, this time can make or break a friendship; so, what are some tips you can use to stay close with your friends even if you can’t communicate with them?
If you have a problem, address it.
In a time where verbal communication is one of the only tools we have, letting issues brew because it feels like there is more time to solve them is not the answer. Ignoring your friends or pretending things are normal will only amplify the issues – quarantine or not.
2. If you can check in, do it every now and then. If you can’t, let your friends know why.
Communication is key, though you are under no obligation to text your friends every day. That being said, in times when people are often struggling, texting a friend when you can will have an impact on their day. If you are unable to communicate daily, texting your friends and being honest can often avoid issues that are likely to arise by complete silence.
3. Set up Zoom events.
Though setting up Zoom meetings can sometimes feel like a burden, they can also be a beneficial way of bonding. A simple quiz as a reminder of enjoyable past moments can help bring back to life a friendship that feels largely online.
4. Set up a book trading system.
(sharing books is a great way to stay connected)
Being able to send books to one another not only lets you and your friends know what each other are thinking, but it also gives you more things to read and do. I’m not going to list out all of the benefits of reading, but it can definitely help.
5. Listen to your friends if you can.
If they are having issues, and you can take on the mental capacity to listen, do so. Talking out situations with your friends can often help strengthen a bond that might be fading because you cannot see one another face-to-face.
6. When asking friends if they have an ear to listen, ask if they are able.
Dumping issues on your friends when they are struggling themselves can create an unintended issue in a relationship. Just checking in with them to ensure they are okay can ensure that you create healthy boundaries in your relationship.
At the time I am writing this, it has been almost two weeks since the murder of George Floyd. Yet, it feels like months have quickly passed by.
(A building is graffitied with “I can’t breathe,” George Floyd’s last words before his death.)
I am half Black and half Filipino/Chinese. Because I am ambiguously brown, I’m always terrified whenever I hear of another Black person dying at the hands of the police.
It reminds me of Treyvon Martin, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, all of my other Black brothers and sisters, and those in between.
This time, though, we are fed up. At a time where most of the nation is harmed by the pandemic, we are even more sick of this racism and brutality flying under our noses and going unseen. Despite these troubled times, I have felt threads of hope seeing my friends educate and support each other.
My Black friends are teaching about racism and its systemic origins. My Asian friends are striving to empathize with my Black friends. My White friends are using their privilege to get out and protest.
I feel like I have seen more cooperation and empathy about Black lives in the last week than I have in my entire life. I’ve seen more resources for educating people about racism than in my college classes that are dedicated to these issues. It’s beyond overdue.
Many people are scared about what they see in the news, but think about how scared we are being born into a society that wouldn’t want to trade places with us for even a day. Remember that we didn’t get civil rights, LGBT rights, or even taxation without representation without rebellion.
(Protesters walk with signs saying “BLM” and “Black Lives Matter.)
We aren’t just fighting for George Floyd. We’re fighting for the millions of innocent people we have lost to systemic racism, police brutality, and the prison system. We’re fighting to make a difference and we’re in the middle of history being made. We can’t stop now.
Get up, get informed, get your mask on, and donate to the cause!
On Monday, June 1st, 2020, Christian Mbanza was momentarily locked out of his car.
The 27-year-old grade-school teacher of Regina, Saskatchewan used an app to unlock his car. He waited for his phone to work for a moment, and when it didn’t, simply got out his keys. Nothing about the incident should have implied Mbanza was breaking the law when he was simply entering his own car, so why did a video taken by a neighbouring resident, captioned “Just happened on Keller ave watched the whole thing happen lock your doors!!” end up on the Greens on Gardiner Facebook group? Well, Mbanza is Black.
“If I was somebody with a lighter skin complexion, the results would have been different. I don’t think they would have automatically assumed that I was stealing,” Mbanza said in an interview with CBC. He went on to express that “I’m lucky that it just ended up on Facebook,” noting that things could have ended badly if he had lived somewhere else.
This seems to be a common sentiment in Canada. Many are tweeting variations of a 2013 Robin Williams quote in regard to the country: “You are like a really nice apartment over a meth lab.” The implication being that Canada is innocent compared to what goes on in the States. But anyone who believes Canada to be innocent in regards to racism is sadly fooled. Yes, Canada is known as a friendly country. But the truth is we wear syrup-sweet smiles to cover up our genocidal history and violent present.
Indigenous people occupied North America for thousands of years before European settlers arrived, bringing with them venereal disease, alcoholism, and business schemes. This weakened the Indigenous way of life, as they were not accustomed to any of this. It wasn’t long before the Indian Act was put forth in 1876, which was based on the premise that it was the Crown’s responsibility to care for and protect the interests of First Nations (the Indigenous peoples of Canada), when in reality it was largely concerned with the assimilation and “civilization” of First Nations. In 1883, residential schools were put forth as a method to further assimilate Indigenous children. These children were taken from their homes and enrolled in these residential schools, where they were forced to abandon their traditional language, dress, and lifestyle. More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were placed in these schools and over 6,000 were killed, making the odds of dying in a residential school more likely than the odds of dying in World War II. Many survivors of these schools were subjected to verbal, physical and psychological abuse, which is a major cause of substance abuse and intergenerational trauma; this practice continued until the last residential school closed in 1996.
Stephanie Pierce graduated from high school in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 2018. It wasn’t until she enrolled in her school’s Native Studies course at the age of 16 that she learned of the severity of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people. She recalls being shocked about the Sixties Scoop, which was a practice in the 1960’s that involved the RCMP “scooping up” Indigenous children from their parents and putting them up for adoption, usually to middle-upper class white families.
“We actually had someone who was a survivor of the Sixties Scoop come in and talk to us,” Pierce recalls. “She said she had no clue the true background of her adoption until the earlier 2000’s, and her adoptive mom didn’t know either.”
The survivor was eventually reunited with her birth mother at the age of 40. Until that day, her birth mother had no idea what had happened to her child.
“When her biological mom gave birth to her in a hospital, people came in – I assume the RCMP – and took her away, and basically said she was too unfit to be a mother.”
Taking Native Studies was a life changing experience for Pierce. Unfortunately, the class is optional and is only offered when enough students show interest, meaning that an important education often comes far too late – or not at all.
Modern Canadian racism might not be particularly evident to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but it exists all the same. As of 2018, the federal government reported that 91 First Nations communities (excluding those in British Columbia and those without access to drinking water at all) were under long term drinking water advisories. Indigenous people make up 4.8% of Canada’s population but were one third of the victims shot by the RCMP between 2007 and 2017. The tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women has been declared a national crisis, and yet a proper number cannot be estimated because Canada did not keep a database for missing people until 2010, but since 1980 that number is estimated to be in the thousands.
As evidenced by Mbanza’s experience, racism isn’t exclusively directed at Indigenous people in Canada. The black community makes up 3.4% of Canada’s population and 9% of police fatalities. Black people in Toronto are 20 times more likely to be shot dead by the police than people who are not black.
(Above) A mural in remembrance of George Floyd, by Regina teenager Zoe Stradeski.
As peaceful protests break out across the country and #blacklivesmatter trends across multiple social media platforms, it may appear that people are making meaningful steps towards change. However, this movement is more than a trend. Black lives and other marginalized lives need to continue to be listened to and protected going forward. Calgarian Twitter user @deborahmeb expressed her lived experience in a series of tweets.
“As someone who’s spent over 80% of my life in Calgary, experienced most of the racism I’ve experienced throughout my life in Calgary, I’m not only overwhelmed by the show of support this week, but I’m actually shocked.
Part of this shock is not actually appreciation but rather an indictment…It’s a ‘Where have y’all been this whole time?’ Before this week, FAR too many of you have been far too silent. I realize that before this week, I felt extremely alone in this.
If you are truly ready to change that, my gratitude cannot be fully expressed. If you will commit to care for black lives, fight for black lives, to do the necessary learning to value black lives beyond this current moment, you will be doing a noble thing.” She then goes on to “Implore you to stand up for Indigenous lives with the same vigour.”
Donate to The Bail Project, which provides funds to pay bail for those who have been arrested during the protests. You can split your donation between the 39 bail funds (including the Philadelphia Bail Fund, the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, the Community Justice Exchange National Bail Fund Network and the Mississippi Bail Fund Collective) by clicking here.
Like many people who have seen the video of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, you might be wondering what you can do to be actively anti-racist. You might show your support by protesting on the streets, by donating money to organizations who need it, or by donating supplies such as food and toiletries to those on the frontlines who are protesting. If you are unable to protest, or don’t feel safe leaving your house during the pandemic, an easy way that you can begin becoming anti-racist is by educating yourself. This is a key component of being anti-racist, and putting yourself in the shoes of black, indigenous, and people of color. When you acknowledge that racism exists and is harmful, as well as that everyone has an implicit bias of some sort, helps to promote change in your own community. To be anti-racist means that you recognize people’s differences and you actively seek to change past beliefs–it is more than just being sympathetic. One way you can educate yourself is through reading. Reading can shine a new light on your perspective of what has been happening–not only the past week or past decade–but the past couple hundred years in the United States. Listed below are five books to consider reading to help you better understand what marginalized people have been through.
A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota,edited by Sun Yung Shin (2016), is a collection of essays that explore the infamous “Minnesota Nice” and how a culture of passive-aggressiveness can hurt black, indigenous and people of color. Even if you don’t live in Minnesota, it is worth the read, since chances are, you have experienced passive-aggressiveness at one point in your life or in your community, or have been passive-aggressive.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) is a well-known young adult book that even older adults should read. It is about a black teenager, Starr Carter, who attends a white high school, who also experiences her friend getting shot. It garners perspective as to what it is like to grow up as a person of color in the United States in the modern era. It was even made into a film in 2018 starring Amandla Stenberg as Starr Carter.
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? By Alicia Garza, Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price (2016) is another collection of essays about the history of police brutality in the United States, with its origins going back to slavery. It talks about the effect on families these killings have. It discusses the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement. It also mentions that the media is starting to focus on police violence this past decade. It questions why police exist and what their purpose is- do they just protect white people?
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo (2018), has a pretty straightforward title: why is it so hard for white people to talk about racism? Are they afraid to stand up to racist family members? How do we fix that? It dissects why racism exists through media representation, daily life, and more. It is important to have a conversation about race, and DiAngelo’s book will help with that by discussing racial justice.
The Bluest Eye by award-winning author Toni Morrison (1970) is the oldest book listed here. It’s about Pecola Breedlove who is a young black girl in the Great Depression. Pecola thinks she isn’t pretty enough because she doesn’t have blue eyes, and thinks having blue eyes will make her life better. It does not help when people make fun of her too. Morrison’s fictional book discusses white beauty standards and how hurtful they are to society as a whole, and readers (especially white readers) will be able to gain a perspective on the effects of these standards. Although this story is fifty years old, it is still relevant to readers today.
*Most of these books can also be checked out for free at your local library–or you can ask a friend to borrow their copy!
Of course, these are just a few books that can give you a different perspective. There are many more out there that you can explore. Some of my favorite black authors are Toni Morrison, who has written many books such as Sula, Beloved, and Song of Solomon, and James Baldwin, who wrote If Beale Street Could Talk and Sonny’s Blues. Reading books by black, indigenous, and people of color opens up a whole new perspective on racism and what they have gone through all these years, and by educating yourself through these pieces of literature can give you a foundation for standing up for others in your community.
In light of the recent events that have shaken the United States and the rest of the world, we at Beyond the Pandemic want to give our full support to the Black Lives Matter movement and people of color, as well as to the frontline workers who have been battling the coronavirus since the beginning. We aim to put a spotlight on what’s occurring and to pass the mic to important voices, and highlight stories and topics that should have been told and talked about a long time ago.
To practice what we preach, Beyond the Pandemic will zero in on the topics of the protests, racism, and the pandemic, and we will give writers of color another platform to write (at least until June 17th, but we will update you if plans change). Additionally, we will be sending out a newsletter shortly with petitions that you can sign so that you can participate in activism that is a force for change and for good–not solely for the sake of proving to the public that you’re “not racist” or anti-racist.
We will post content for the time being when we receive relevant content that amplifies and/or supports voices of color–especially for our black peers. We hope that you will do the same.
The burden falls squarely on each of your shoulders to make as much change as you can, however you can. You do not have to protest (or even donate or post) to make an impact, but by remaining inactive, you are siding against the prosperity of your fellow black Americans.
Below, you will find the websites of a mere few incredible organizations that are a force for change; click the links below to find out more about them (there are simply too many to list!).
When I first received news that my campus would be shutting down and classes would move to remote instruction due to COVID-19, my initial fear wasn’t directed at how I personally would adapt to the change; rather, I worried how my dad would fare. I had been living at my university in Boston, which quickly became one of the hot zones of the virus; however, once it became apparent that I would need to leave the bubble of my university housing, I only worried about the possibility of catching the virus. Though it does seem a bit shortsighted in hindsight, I truly believed I would be absolutely safe from catching the virus. At the time, the news was reporting that younger and otherwise healthy people would simply catch the equivalence of the common cold and recover without issue; therefore, I shrugged off the prospect of becoming gravely ill in the event I would become infected. However, once I realized I would need to head back home, I began to panic.
Like many others, despite not being in the at-risk group for COVID-19, I have family members who are. I’m living with my family at home, and my dad is immunocompromised. Even simply coming home from school made me nervous. Parties were thrown every night, and since I lived in a popular upperclassmen-only area of campus, these parties occurred directly outside my front door. I was at the crossroads of wanting to enjoy the final days of my college experience and not wanting to put myself, and subsequently my dad, at risk. I even considered trying to remain on campus or staying with my boyfriend’s family to avoid any chance of passing on the virus. Neither option would prove particularly feasible, and on top of that, my parents wanted me to come home so I could maintain a sense of normalcy.
My family is doing its best to act like we have the freedom to move around, but our need to be hypervigilant reigns supreme. My parents go shopping once every two weeks when the supermarkets open in the morning. We wear masks every time we leave the house to go on walks around the neighborhood. I’ve been keeping connected with friends via messages and video calls. At first, I found this to be a suitable substitute for actually living on campus close to my friends at all times, but lately, I’ve been feeling more and more antsy and fidgety. I have felt completely lost within my own thoughts for what seems like hours every day. The one time I got some reprieve when I drove to stay at my boyfriend’s house for a few days, I never left the car until I was at his house and reinstated my entire quarantine routine while there. When I returned home, I quarantined inside my bedroom for a week (with my parents placing food outside my door that I ordered by calling our home phone). My parents will crack the occasional joke about paranoia, but we understand that it’s something we all have to do in order to keep my dad safe.
[Each of us has our own personal mask in my family. I got the groutfit one.]
It’s been difficult, to say the least. When I see friends posting on social media about going grocery shopping, I feel a pang of jealousy — my parents don’t allow my siblings and me to go to the store with them. I got plenty of messages like “Oh, that’s stupid!” when I documented my in-room quarantine to my Snapchat streaks, but it wasn’t stupid in my household. Sometimes I want to hop into my car and drive to the local hiking trail or shopping center just to get out of my head for a while, but I know that I shouldn’t. Maintaining safe quarantine practices isn’t all that essential for me, but it could be literally lifesaving for my family. I still can’t help those feelings of lamenting having to be so tightly-wound from sneaking in, though, no matter how much I know they are selfish.
Whenever I get caught up in jealousy and a weird new-age type of FOMO I thought I had left behind at college, I find people in similar situations to mine. One of my best friends from childhood is severely immunocompromised and, for months, found themselves unable to leave the house just to take a walk. Many of my friends live with elderly family members and have been more worried than myself. Some people I know have even caught the virus themselves, know people who have caught it, or have come in contact with someone who caught it. I also know some people who are in the exact same boat I am with an immunocompromised member of the family.
In all honesty, it’s been a tough time for everyone. That being said, hearing how I’m not alone in my fears has made it a lot easier to handle. If I need to, I can call up a friend who understands my frustrations perfectly and just vent for an hour without feeling guilty. My support network has truly strengthened during quarantine, which was something I was not at all expecting when I said my “final” goodbyes to my friends before beginning the long drive from Boston. My friends and family have been there for me in a way I’m eternally grateful for, especially given that this has really challenged how close we are!
[My beloved Google Calendar even has some standing friendship dates!]
Whereas remote learning was, pretty objectively, absolutely terrible, remote socialization has been lovely. People who I hadn’t seen in a while and had accidentally fallen off my radar (sorry!) due to my hectic pre-COVID day-to-day life have become my close friends again. I’ve been more inspired to reach out and initiate conversations, something I have always struggled with, due to the fact that there are no longer any real ramifications. After all, who is going to be too busy to video call? We’re all stuck here with too much time on our hands! And no one has lamented me being more active on social media; in fact, I’ve started commenting on posts of people I haven’t seen since high school who have found themselves elated to reinvigorate our friendships. Navigating and mastering social media to stay happy definitely had a bit of a learning curve for me at the start, but it’s allowed me to focus my energy on the people I really care about and fully nurture those friendships.
This isn’t to say that everything has been rainbows and sparkly unicorns and I love having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay home and relax. I’ve been terrified to leave my house, but I am equally afraid of the ramifications that come with staying inside. I miss my friends dearly and wish I could say I am too busy rather than too bored. That being said, the resilience I’ve seen in everyone, including myself in a way I don’t feel uncomfortable bragging about, has been inspiring. Quarantine has had its fair share of negative side effects, but I think it has presented a feeling of “we’re all in this together” that I have never felt before. When I chat with my friends for the umpteenth time about my problems and see them listen intently, it makes everything feel just a little bit better.