The Community Power Issue
Like many of you, I’ve experienced grief—deep personal grief, shared familial grief, collective community grief. But until the COVID-19 pandemic, I had not felt a part of an immense and widespread global grief. So often we in the United States watch from a distance as epidemics, famines, and wars plague other parts of the world. But now we’re in it too—sheltering in place, social distancing, wearing masks and gloves in public—and dying—right alongside people in Italy, Japan, South Africa, and most other countries.
In my hometown of Detroit, one of the current hot spots of the U.S. epidemic, I’m watching the number of new cases and deaths climb. I’m seeing reports that the number of deaths among Black people in the U.S. is disproportionately high. Michigan is No. 5 now in cases, and No. 3 in deaths. While African Americans are only 14% of the state’s population, we’re 33% of the COVID-19 cases and 41% of the deaths. As I write this in late April, more than 3,000 people in Michigan have died from the disease, nearly 1,000 of whom are Detroiters. Some of them I knew professionally, some personally.
None can be mourned by gathering in grief as a community. This pandemic has robbed so many of us of the traditional rituals and ceremonies for our deceased, or as we say in my community, our loved ones who have joined the ancestors. It has taken away our ability to be close to one another in a time when we need the healing of touch most.
Yet amid so much grief and renewed anger at the undeniable visibility of the inequalities and injustices related to health, housing, employment, water, we’re witnessing a rising up of our communities on a breathtaking scale as we draw on reserves of resilience and discover power within. That’s why in March, in the middle of magazine production, the YES! editorial team made the quick decision to change the focus of this issue. We wanted to capture this unprecedented moment. I’m still amazed by all we were able to accomplish in such a short period of time!
We’ve organized the stories in this issue around exactly what we saw: We have seen the power of community … to change the future … to draw on reserves of resilience … to look out for all people … to cultivate joy despite fear. From neighborhood support groups to mutual aid to the movement calling for a people’s bailout to looking forward to the light at the end of this darkness. Our team went into overdrive to produce stories for this issue that reflect the just, sustainable, compassionate world that we are capable of building.
Perhaps the phrase is overused these days, but it is true that we’re in this together! Continue to take care of yourselves and each other.
Zenobia Jeffries Warfield