We asked our Oakland Voices alumni community members and correspondents: How has pandemic life changed your habits and your outlook? How have you navigated public spaces and health risks now that we are in a different stage of pandemic life? Below, Amelah El-Amin, who is the co-founder of MU’EED and program director of their Eating Rights project, has been combating food scarcity for over 25 years. This March 2020 graduate of Oakland Voices shares her perspective.
I gratefully say my family has only been mildly struck by COVID. Although several members of our family contracted COVID, me not being one of them, praise GOD, no one has died, needed to be hospitalized, or have noticeably had any lasting symptoms. My youngest child is 20, but I do believe going back to school played a part in five of my grandchildren and their parents contracting COVID.
My family has maintained monthly family days for years. Since COVID, we have only had one in-person family day. I have seven grandchildren and frequent visits from them was also a major part of my family routine which has drastically changed. Not being able to commune with my family, in person, creates this sense of loneliness but also an awareness of how much I took our family gatherings for granted.
I don’t frequent the mosque as I used to, which is where I would receive my spiritual fuel, so maintaining my spiritual health has also become a challenge: wanting to be around fellow community members but realizing that opening our circles puts myself and my family at risk. Virtual services, workshops, classes, and gatherings have been a great blessing for they allow me to get the spiritual food my soul needs while maintaining healthy boundaries.
One of the most baffling things is how resources seemed to magically appear to help those struggling financially. From stimulus funds to shelter for the homeless, individuals and families gained access to resources that were said to be available two years ago. The pandemic has also facilitated a closeness for families and community members due to communal hardships created by the effects of COVID. Being sheltered-in-place facilitated space for families to become more connected. Not only did families transition into working and schooling from home, but entertainment also became an activity that was limited to household circles. Families were forced to learn to be more tolerable of each other.
I am still being very cautious. I continue to wear a N95 mask in public and keep hand sanitizer close by. In my humble opinion, opening up is how the CDC will know how well the vaccination is working.
Honestly, COVID has helped me to slow down and focus on things that really matter to me. It has also afforded me the permission to say “NO” to many engagements I otherwise would attend out of some sense of obligation. Now saying, “No, I don’t want to go” is an acceptable response with no explanation required.
I believe the opening up and the mask mandate lifting is a means to further the research on the vaccine and its effectiveness.
One thing that really concerns me is because Omicron renders milder symptoms, the mass thought seems to be, “it’s not so bad to catch it!” The reality is, the other more harmful variants still pose high risk and letting our guard down increases those risks for ourselves and our loved ones.
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Black Voices in the Town’ is funded by The African American Response Circle Fund. In 2020, the Brotherhood of Elders Network in partnership with the East Bay Community Foundation established the fund in response to the impact of COVID-19 as a public health crisis for African Americans who live, work, and worship in Alameda County.