What We Learned about the Margins in 2020
When 2020 began, I had some pretty big plans — as I’m sure we all did. I had plans to travel to Jamaica, take better care of myself, and create an even more efficient moms program.
In essence, I was going to live my best life.
Yet, it didn’t take very long for 2020 to unveil itself as unique in some of the most dreadful ways. It was filled with political discord, racial injustice, losing friends over topics that felt essential to my being, and to top it all off, there was a once in a life-time pandemic.
2020 made me feel powerless.
My husband and I spent hours flipping between news outlets, knowing we couldn’t just listen to one side while quietly praying that God would help us all. But the worst of it wasn’t necessarily what was happening in my own home.
It was the fact that if this season was hard for me, then how much harder was it for those living on the margins. I started to imagine how I would manage virtual school and working from home as a single mother. Or how I would manage child-care while maintaining 40 hours as an essential worker. No matter what is happening in the world, it always comes down to the margins.
Those that were already working tirelessly to get by, weren’t going to see their life magically get better when the whole world suffered. Their challenges would be magnified.
There is an old saying in Black culture that states, “When white folks catch a cold, black folks get pneumonia.”
Essentially, I believe this means that things that are difficult for the mainstream culture are deadly to those that are already experiencing difficulties. If inner-city schools are struggling, how much more will the students be at a disadvantage during virtual school? If it’s challenging for a young, single mother to raise children, how much more difficult will that be when the world shuts down?
What about those who live on the margins?
Statistically, Black people account for 25 percent of those who have tested positive and 39 percent of the COVID-related deaths, while making up just 15 percent of the general population. This means Black people are dying at a 2.5 to 3 higher rate than other groups. 41% of Black-owned businesses have been closed, due to COVID-19, compared to just 17% of white-owned businesses.
Our community is primarilyBlack, which means this directly impacts our neighbors and our organization.
If I can single out one lesson I learned in 2020, it is this: It is imperative that we learn how to show up for others. In good times and bad, we have to remember those whose circumstances may be different than our own. And not solely in reference to racial disparities, but in any area which one group is challenged in ways that the majority is not. Good things can still happen, but they rarely will unless someone decides to take action.
Amidst all of the fear and all of the fighting, God continued to provide in ways that only God could. Many people lost so much in 2020, but the ways in which people showed up for their neighbors was unprecedented. Organizations turned to partnership. Neighbors shared food. Families shared finances and the year was a little more bearable.
For Blueprint 58, showing up looked like making porch visits, and dropping off activity baskets to students. It looked like surprise mother’s day gifts and making sure our moms had resources for Christmas gifts. In 2021, showing up may look like supporting parents and students through virtual learning, helping families navigate through additional resources, and a lot of acts of kindness. We must continue to find ways to give extra support and love to our neighbors on the margins in some very tangible ways.