About MichelleMichelle Brown is an author, activist & public speaker who believes in common ground for all people.
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- Living in the Shadow of COVID 3: Getting Back to Work, Because There’s SO Much Work to Do
- Living in the Shadow of COVID 2: Caring for Our Communities
- Living in the Shadow of COVID: Sowing Seeds for My New Normal
- LGBTQ POC Townhall at 110th NAACP Annual Convention July 20-24, 2019
- Reflections on Stonewall 50th Commemoration
Category Archives: lgbt
At some point, most of us will emerge from the “safety” of our government or self-imposed isolation and return to work. We will get in our cars, put on our masks and gloves with our hand sanitizers and reenter the world.
But the reality is the world we are returning to and we, the people returning to this world, are not the same. It and we have changed forever. Our world, our numbers, our families, our spirits are different whether we want to acknowledge it or not – forever changed.
For me, that is what is most disconcerting about our return to work, our reentry to this new normal.
I was never “scared” about the virus. It is. It probably was long before we recognized the first case and although we may find a way to contain it, flatten the curve even vaccinate against it. COVID-19 will forever be a part of our reality.
Yes, it can kill us, but so can the flu, cancer, HIV/AIDS, or getting hit by a truck. All we can do is be cautious, wash our hands, use hand sanitizer, self-isolate, and get tested but like my Granny always said tomorrow is promised to no-one. So, we will do our best to live our best lives.
What I have been apprehensive about are the people who don’t get it and the deep societal wounds this virus has “in effect” ripped the scab off of and the racism that continues to seep from that wound.
I worry about the people who have not felt the loss or had their communities ravaged. The ones who feel they are safe in their enclaves because it’s not visible in their back yard.
The ones who protest the loss of their liberties, their freedom to enjoy the fruits of their privilege and would use these times to deny or diminish my rights.
As I approached the office where I work in the suburbs I noticed one of the businesses nearby had installed flags all around their building and the truck parked out front had two huge flags installed in the truck bed. I felt a knot in my stomach.
They were not confederate flags or anything blatantly racist or homophobic. They were the traditional flag, the stars, and stripes. The flag representing MY country but somehow following recent events this display made me feel very unwelcome.
Don’t get me wrong working at this spot has never felt warm and fuzzy. I am the only Black person, working in an environment that is predominantly white male, and I am openly gay.
I have grown accustomed to having conversations stop when I enter the room, wearing headphones so as not to hear their conservative radio talk shows and having to clarify misguided comments about race and/or sexual orientation. We all walk around on eggshells.
But seeing those flags made me feel, as a Black Queer Woman, like I was seriously in enemy territory.
Was it the fact that members of my communities were dying in the city while others were concerned about lawn care, boating, or going up north and showing up armed and unmasked in Lansing? That although CDC guidelines for COVID-19 were posted only two of us showed up in masks while the “guys” didn’t feel it was necessary?
Was it hearing others bemoan not being able to find toilet paper and other goods at their local stores while so many Black, Brown, poor and LGBTQ folks live in areas where access to grocery stores is limited if not nonexistent?
Was it the overt and micro-aggressions captured on videos of the Karens and others assaulting/confronting Black and Brown folk seemingly emboldened by the comments of the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
It’s been a battle of politics over science and financial health over community health framed by today’s GOP and too often wrapped in the flag, old glory, the stars, and stripes.
So, having to pass this sea of American flags reminded me this was openly a different world than I had left back in March.
I can recall James Boggs telling us at A Detroit Summer gathering, despite all the atrocities that he believed in the promise of this country. Over the years I have tried to hold onto his words.
Despite the atrocities, there has been progress that has made my life as an African American, Queer woman better than my ancestors or others like me had had just a generation ago.
Seeing the throngs of Americans march in protest over the murder of George Floyd and other men and women in the Black community gives me hope.
Seeing the recognition that Black Trans Lives Matter also in marches, protests and conversations give me hope.
Having the Supreme Court’s recent 6-3 decision that federal anti-bias law covers LGBTQ workers gives me hope. (Votes by Roberts and Gorsuch had me clutching my pearls!)
As we emerge from the “safety” of our government or self-imposed isolation and return to work, we will have to face this normal where uncomfortable conversations about race ARE going to occur.
The social inequalities laid bare by COVID-19 must not only be addressed but tackled at the individual, municipal, state, and national levels. We have to do better to be better!
I’m not itching for a fight with some Karen, Becky, or good old boy but if you bring it, trust and believe it will be video recorded and I’m putting you on blast!
And if you haven’t done some research and self-education on the racist/homophobic history of this country and its oppression of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, please do not step to me for an explanation of why Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives MUST matter.
But I will be out here in my mask with my hand sanitizer, getting back to work at the job and in my community, to build a society where I can once again feel good about the stars and stripes and this country of mine.
I ended our Mother’s Day FaceTime conversation with my son telling me to be careful and stay safe. As I sat in my solitude, I thought about the irony of him telling me to be careful and stay safe as that had been my mantra to him for years.
I grew up learning that to be Black in America, especially if you were male, was tantamount to walking around with a target on your back. My parents talked to us, but especially to my brother, about Emmett Till, James Chaney, and other African Americans who had been killed just for being Black. We were warned repeatedly of the dangers just for living while Black.
From the day I had to let my son go out into the world, his safety has been paramount. We had had “the talk” several times, increasing its urgency as he grew into manhood. When he moved to Chicago to attend college, we talked about it recognizing he was as much at risk from the campus police for being Black on a predominantly white campus as he was hanging out on the southside at parties or clubs.
When he moved to New York again for school, we had the talk after unarmed Amadou Diallo was killed by four New York City police officers.
I’m supposed to tell him to be careful and stay safe but because of COVID-19 we closed our Mother’s Day conversation not at I love you but with, “Please be careful and be safe Mom!”
I understand his concern. I am an older, African American woman, living in the Metro Detroit area, which has been recognized as one of the hotspots in this pandemic. In Michigan, deaths from the virus as in many urban areas across the country have disproportionately affected the African American community. Over 40 percent of Michiganders that have died from the COVID-19 virus are African American, a racial demographic that makes up only 14 percent of the state’s population.
I get it! I’m staying indoors as much as possible. When I go out, I wear a mask and gloves and practice social distancing. That’s taking care of me, but how do I/we take care of our community?
Battling this pandemic has turned a spotlight on systemic disparities that we in the Black/Brown/LGBTQ community have known all along. Poverty, inadequate access to health care, food disparity immediately come to mind, but drilling down that there is so much more.
LGBTQ people collectively have a poverty rate of 21.6 percent, which is much higher than the rate for cisgender straight people. Among racial and ethnic groups, African Americans have the highest poverty rate, 27.4 percent, followed by Hispanics at 26.6 percent. Workers earning poverty-level wages are disproportionately female, Black, Brown or between the ages of 18 to 25 years of age.
Essential employees stocking shelves, providing care for the elderly/infirmed in facilities and homes, along with the baristas, waitstaff and others we take for granted every day, they often don’t make a living wage or have sick time. Schools are closed and many have not only to deal with childcare but homeschooling.
What about the children? A high percentage of young black children — under age 6 — live in poverty. Many of these children relied on schools for one-to-two meals a day. And although we think everyone has access to the internet, broadband is not available to many. The education gap between children from the most disadvantaged homes and their peers is now at its highest level, and it has been for more than a decade.
And while many folks complain about having to wear a mask at Kroger with its one-way aisles for social distancing, others don’t have a store to go to in their neighborhood. The Michigan Department of Agriculture has labeled 19 Detroit neighborhoods as food deserts that lack access to quality and affordable food.
While mainstream media has bombarded us with statistics, images of fools marching on Lansing or more concerned about their personal freedom than spreading the virus and those daily briefings of misinformation from the White House, there have been heroes/angels working at the grassroots level.
I’ve seen the best coming from my communities. We are delivering food to those who are house-bound and/or collecting food for distribution. We are setting up hotspots so children can have access to the internet and study from home. We are driving by in car caravans so special birthdays and other occasions are acknowledged. We are putting money — sometimes from those stimulus checks — on others’ Cash Apps. And we are sitting down together virtually, putting aside differences, to find ways to get resources to those doing the work.
I don’t know what the days ahead might bring as we come out from this pandemic, what normal will be. I do know this: I want to be careful and safe, but I want to live in a community where we are all cared for and safe. The good news is I’m not alone!
It wasn’t until the governor’s declaration that I stayed home. I had been following the progression of the pandemic but had decided with social distancing, hand-washing, and other recommended practices I would be ok.
Don’t get me wrong I love my home, but the additional hours spent in the house seemed like a recipe for decline. I’ve got a good five years before I can retire and doubt that I will even then. I thrive on being busy!!!
That first week I developed a close personal relationship with my couch, Netflix, Cool Ranch Doritos, and guacamole (go figure). I was still getting up when the alarm went off each morning but walked around in my pajamas but wondering why.
I still thrive on being busy but have used this time to reset, to think about not just how I could work smarter but how I would reevaluate the things that really mattered to me making them the engine driving my activities moving forward.
These days when the news cycle is primarily filled with angles/stories of the pandemic, I have used my weekly blog radio podcast through its guests to highlight ways communities are planting the seeds for our new reality. The conversations with the guests from across the state and country have been hopeful, inspiring, and incredible. We’ve talked about diet, connecting with others, poetry and yoga – lots of yoga!
Being on quarantine means not being with the community but has opened new doors. Like so many others my family is spread out across the country – my brother in Los Angeles, my son in New York. Thanks to FaceTime I virtually toured my brother and his girlfriend’s new home. I have been watching my son parent and granddaughter grow. It even helps keep the romance alive when I am quarantined at home while my love is quarantined at her home.
Let’s not forget “Zoom” which has allowed me to participate in board meetings in Atlanta GA, attend a social justice power hour in Princeton NJ, and share poetry with audiences in New York, New Jersey, and here in Metro Detroit. I’ve met new people in these virtual settings who shared their talents and ideas with me. There’s a lot of good going on out there in the real world – virtually.
I’m working on a new book of poetry some inspired by this time alone and the virtual conversations I have had with people across the country. I have even connected with others globally. My second children’s book is being illustrated by a talented artist in India. I have had time to participate in a collective reviewing grants that are funding grassroots organizations transforming communities and doing some consulting work.
I even adopted a cat from the Michigan Cat Rescue named “Pancake.” Watching him come out of his shell as he realizes he now has a “forever” home has been a great joy.
But best of all, in a world of social media and texting, I have rediscovered the joy of hearing the human voice by picking up the phone and calling friends. The laughter, the slight change in tone, hearing about life in more than 160 characters, a GIF or a meme, and responding with more than a thumbs up, heart, or emoji.
I am still busy but in this time of social isolation, I am finding the time and space to sow the seeds of my new normal.
On Tuesday, July 23rd at 2:30Pm – a Lesbian, a Gay, a Bisexual, a Transwoman and an Ally will walk on the stage and what happens next will be EPIC!!!!
Moderated by Keith Boykin, Jey,nce Pointdexter, Nicole Denson, Robert Marchman, Curtis Lipscomb and I will discuss the State of LGBTQ People of Color in America at Cobo Center.
Then the conversation and fellowship will continue at 5:30PM at the 10th NAACP LGBTQ Commemorative Reception at the Detroit Marriott. Won’t you join us ?