Dear BK Readers,
If you're reading this post, obviously you made it. You made it to 2021!
Out of what will be remembered as perhaps the worst health and economic crisis of our lifetime, you made it through, God bless!
I'm sure you understand that your survival of 2020 is neither insignificant nor small: As of this month, more than 350,000 Americans unexpectedly and prematurely, lost their lives during or due to the pandemic. Millions more lost family members (I lost two grandmothers). Too many to count lost their jobs or were forced to shutter their businesses. Others lost relationships. And still others, sadly, lost their minds.
In fact, it would seem obvious to categorize 2020 as one, big "L."
However-- and I'm treading lightly when I say this, but-- what if I were to suggest that not all was lost ... and that for many of those who made it through, opportunity awaits?
It's neither prophesy nor philosophy. Really, it's 8th grade physics, because energy is never lost; it is transferred.
In other words, with every loss, there's always gain.
In 2020, BK Reader had a front-row seat to a number of these losses and gains in our local community. The stories we reported on during the pandemic were of artists, teens, retirees, the unemployed, the wealthy and the poor-- so many whose lives were devastated by the pandemic but then who figured out a way to channel their losses into wins.
Many joined a movement or began to volunteer for the first time in their lives. Others got serious about improving their health. Others learned an entirely new professional skill. While others returned to an old business idea, fundraised and were able to get the eyes and ears of people who opened their hearts (and their wallets) in a way they had not done so in the past.
Take, for example, the Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center (BMS). During the pandemic, they were providing free testing, food and Telehealth services to Brownsville residents in need. Chase Auto quietly stepped in, provided BMS a $50,000 grant and donated a Subaru Foster to help the non-profit more easily get to their community members in need.
Fort Greene designer Will Norris, during the pandemic, decided to create a new clothing line to affirm and celebrate queerness: "As a creative person [the pandemic] has put so much constraint on what I can do. I have to be hyper-precise about what I want to do and what I want to pursue," Norris said. "Basically just trimming away the fat from my practice. It's really made me think a lot more about the process of creating clothing."
Brooklyn resident and longtime accountant Ingrid Murray joined associations and took academic courses to help professionalize her husband's cleaning business. During COVID, she was able to land a major contract with the MTA for its COVID-19 response initiative, sanitizing and disinfecting train stations on the Metro-North lines.
These are examples of the "pivot"-- a term we've heard at least a dozen-hundred times by now. However, pivoting wasn't only about taking on a new job or responsibility; it was about recognizing the changing needs (and desires) of society. It was about recognizing how power structures were re-ordering and financial resources were shifting. And these smart opportunists used the moment to harness them.
These COVID shifts could be seen across the board:
In corporations, a lot of responsibility transferred from the top to the bottom, where employers suddenly had to depend on junior staff members to work independently and remotely to keep their businesses afloat.
In schools, teachers, often overworked, under-appreciated and underpaid began to share with parents, through remote learning, teaching responsibilities. Parents gained a new level of appreciation for the everyday challenges teachers experienced with their own children (Something parents would have never understood fully outside of the pandemic).
The social justice movement grew ten-fold in participants, as the pent up energy normally spent at work, in meetings, or socializing, was channeled into the fight for equality.
Non-Profits, essential workers and minority-owned small businesses-- entities that had been long-suffering and/or had been taken for granted-- were provided grants, resources and community recognition on a level never before seen.
Yes, there were losses in 2020. Devastating losses of lives, jobs, businesses and livelihoods. But to view loss as an absolute void is to miss the lessons and opportunities for recovery.
As the world continues to shift, let's make 2021 a year to harness the innumerable opportunities that did not exist for us prior to 2020.
Let's make 2021 the year we finally write a business plan and register an LLC for that project we've been dreaming about; the year we learn how to cook healthy meals at home; the year we apply for college and then travel the world while working remotely on that master's degree ...
Because energy is never lost. It is only transferred.
And right now in this very moment is the time for us to harness it.
C. Zawadi Morris, Publisher