There’s an unspoken rule when Black folks die: other Black folks bring fried chicken, canned drinks, paper towels and other paper goods, anything that makes hosting a house of bereaved family easier. These practical gifts aren’t only about convenience; they’re about the camaraderie that comes with the visit, collective grieving. Community resumes post-funeral service at the repast. Typically, at a community center or the fellowship hall of a church, family and friends reunite, hugging, weeping, laughing—some about the deceased, some about their own relationships. Rapid, shallow cycles of grief happen while loved ones bear witness. Fellowshipping is the genesis of so many Black folks’ dances with death’s insolence. COVID-19 robbed us of that in 2020.
Spring usually brings newness, with its blossoming flowers and trees. But spring 2020 initiated mass dying and illness, and all this suffering in isolation. The death. Woe to the death. There was and continues to be so. much. death.
We didn’t see it either. Still we know it happened. There was no memorial like a segment at an awards show, rolling images of the faces of people we’d lost, playing a medley of songs both somber and joyous. The news gave us numbers, not names. It was all so distant, though death and the journey that’s left to take for the living is an intimate one.
And the thing is, most of those people’s names we’ll never know. The essential workers who were presented a false choice—stay home or provide for themselves and their families. Those who were incarcerated and infected by guards who broke coronavirus protocol. Our houseless neighbors who had already been ignored by society. The elderly being cared for by nurses and aids, not families or friends, in convalescent homes. The people who’d already been navigating their lives alone. We, at The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects, acknowledge all of these individuals’ lives and deaths, though we cannot not know their names. We celebrate them. We pause for them. We mourn for them.
To purchase “Another Mourning,” our COVID-19 Memorial print ($50), click here. All proceeds from the prints go to the Walker Fund, which provides up to $500 in individual microgrants for Black women (most especially) who find themselves in financially tough times. This fund was created in response to COVID-19 to encourage women to avoid predatory lenders.