Dear BK Readers,
It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you… without a dope beat to step to… (Step to, Step to, Step to…)
Yes, it’s been a long time– months– since I’ve penned a letter. And I apologize. The pandemic and all that has happened since March 2020 have made writing about anything aside from the virus and vaccination personally challenging. The topic had become so polarizing– and the information constantly evolving– I’ve shied away from speaking about it in public.
But I’m back. And I opened this column with Aaliyah because– aside from my excitement that all of her music finally is now streaming– her tunes take me back to my young adulthood. Aaaaah, the late 90s: What an exciting time! I was still a “hot girl” (now I’m just hot flashing); cell phones and “the information highway” were just becoming a “thing;” and there wasn’t a person alive who didn’t believe life was about to speed off into some wondrous new place!
And then… Everything changed.
The summer of 2001, Aaliyah died tragically in a plane crash. One month later, on September 11, the Twin Towers crashed. Then, the Dot.com Bubble burst, and nearly 20 percent of the city suddenly was out of a job. Following that was a U.S. mortgage crisis which, in less than 2 years, led to a global financial crisis, followed by news of a pending climate crisis (which is now here). Then, the excitement around the election of President Barack Obama in 2008 was upended by the rise of a new “Tea Party,” the rebirth of American racism, a surge in gun sales and a spike in domestic terrorism.
By 2012, an unarmed teen in a hoodie holding Skittles was murdered for being Black, and his shooter was acquitted. Then 26-year-old Sandra Bland was found mysteriously hung in her jail cell after being arrested for a traffic violation. What came next were the murders of hundreds of innocent and/or unarmed Black U.S. citizens at the hands of police, such as Tamir Rice, Rashard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, the list goes on and on…
AND… as if that wasn’t enough, we are now in the midst of a global pandemic.
It’s 2021, twenty years after 9/11 and, apparently, it’s still not over: We’re staring down the barrel of deadlier virus variants, while the Voting Rights Act has been ripped into shreds; and in Texas, a group of white men have made it illegal for women in the state to make certain decisions concerning their own bodies!
Last night, after an exhausting conversation-turned-argument with a good friend around the COVID-19 vaccines, I fell asleep on the couch. My husband woke me up at around midnight to send me to bed. In a sleepy haze, I sauntered to my bedroom, fumbled through my dresser for some night clothes; sloppily changed into whatever I could find, put on my stocking cap, and then turned to go to bed when…
My husband, sitting up in the bed, was squinting at me: “Why did you just put on a mask to go to bed?” he asked, with a mix of curiosity and genuine concern.
Slowly, I became aware that my entire face, apart from my eyes, was covered and for no apparent reason. Immediately I got defensive: “Because… because… It’s my body!” I muffled to my husband ridiculously through the mask. (My response to everything as of late)
But, obviously, I wasn’t about to sleep with a mask on. So I gently pulled the mask from around my ears, folded it up and put it back into the drawer… and then stuck my tongue out at my husband to “leave me alone!”
I swear, he must have laughed for about ten minutes in the bed before finally falling asleep and then again in the morning when he woke up. This time, I joined him in laughing.
Am I going COVID crazy? Has the weight of our spiraling world become so heavy that I’m losing a grip on reality? What is the real reality, anyway, if it’s constantly changing? Friends and colleagues say they have been experiencing something similar– that is, when they’re awake, they feel like they’re sleepwalking; and when they’re asleep, their brains won’t turn off! They live in constant worry and fear about the present and the future, while their once more secure and comfortable past remains tucked neatly away.
No, I am not going crazy. Clearly with me and millions more, our fears are now ruling our hearts, our minds and influencing our choices. I’ve heard it referred to as “monkey brain.” And so, likewise, what does any animal do when it feels backed into any corner and believes it has few choices? It lashes out.
The problem is, we’re racking our brains, seeking answers around how to fix this broken world when the real solution is to first fix ourselves.
In the words of a colleague of mine, YK Hong, who does social justice work around the world: “In all of our small choices, we are also making mountainous impacts… Every single thing we do can create or destroy. Every single moment, we can liberate or oppress. The decisions we make now are for the rest of our lives.’
Pay attention to the big and small choices you make every day. Everything you do, every word you utter, every smile you choose to give or not give is an intention. It occupies your psyche and shapes your reality.
As we attempt to make sense of these confusing times– particularly knowing it may get harder– it’s okay to go back to the basics. Default to what you know about being a healthy, decent human being– make choices that are agnostic and claim no political affiliation, such as… deep breathing. Or walking in nature. Or laughing. Or working out. Or listening to the old music you love!
All of those things are small acts of resistance against stress, fear. Even disease.
Most importantly, do not carry these fears with you to your resting space, like your bed! When chaos and uncertainty are as present as they are now, resist by being even more present. Show up for yourself by being hyper-attentive to the choices you make, big and small.
(And if at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again!)
Remember that every single thing we do can create or destroy. Every single moment of our lives, we can liberate or oppress.
The morning after the mask incident and with a clearer head, I let down my defenses and chose to join my husband in laughing about it all. That small turn allowed me to look into my subconscious; evaluate what was truly concerning me; make some internal adjustments.
And then, finally… write this letter.
C. Zawadi Morris, Publisher, BK Reader
P.S. If you are finding it extremely challenging to make good choices for yourself or impossible to make decisions at all, you may be suffering from depression, and there’s help: Please visit the NYC Well website for information on how you can receive free mental health counseling. You can talk, text or chat, whatever is most comfortable for you.