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I remember what it was like to go hungry. I remember what it was like to memorize my mom's food stamps info and check for the balance on the first of each month. And I still remember what it was like to wait in line at a food pantry feeling ashamed of the quality of food and apathetic treatment we'd receive. These memories have not hardened me. Instead, they continuously drive my love and passion for helping others and doing it in an empathetic, informed way.

I'm glad to know that incredible community-based orgs like Bronx Mutual Network exist. I was chatting with Thahitun, BMAN's wonderful organizer/my new friend, and gushing over their dignified, humane, and culturally responsive approach to feeding food insecure New Yorkers (e.g., taking religious dietary restrictions, cultural preferences, and the undocumented status of families into consideration). Oh, and they've only been operating for over a month!

I'm thankful to be in community with them. And I'm thankful to have a partner (with a car) who, even after a long day of being an essential worker, enthusiastically supports me and his community.

At this point I'm pretty certain I have the virus. Despite social distancing for nearly two weeks, I live with two people who cannot work from home. Last week, around Wednesday, my partner and I both fell ill. He woke up in the middle of the night in chills. It was a fever. Over the next couple of days we both experienced headaches, sore throats, body aches, etc. The fever left after the first 3 days but other symptoms remained. I haven't had my sense of smell for the last 2 days (literally cannot smell a thing but I can breathe perfectly fine). Every morning since getting sick we've called the NY State Coronavirus hotline requesting a test. Each time we were told that all we can do is wait for a call back. We figure since we're "asymptomatic" and young it'll take a minute to hear back. Right now, I just don't know which exhausts me more: the failed system, being sick, or the gaslighting from friends/distant-family/folks who think I'm experiencing a "cold" or "allergies" during a damn pandemic. If someone tells you they aren't feeling well, please believe them.

Updated April 1:

On Monday our results came back and we both tested positive for COVID19. Initially, I was relieved at the results. I mean, I was right! (See previous post.) But then anxiety crept up and I found myself grieving the trauma, bias, fear, and violence this virus has unleashed and revealed around the world and at home.

Fortunately for me, the hardest part isn't being sick with COVID19. No, the hardest part is silencing the shame, trusting my gut, and believing in my truth, especially when others do not. See, I know how to be strong. I know how to hold back tears and disguise or downplay discomfort even when the pain is too much. But during the last 10 days I refused to do that. I advocated hard for that test and I asked others to believe and advocate for me too. I did that for myself and my partner. I did that because it's the responsible and selfless thing to do for everyone, not just me and my family.

We are both doing fine; our symptoms have been very mild but we're in quarantine for another two weeks. Yesterday we played charades, took lengthy naps, ate homemade pizza, and watched a ton of (terrible) TV.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

Hold your government and capitalism accountable.

Stay home if you can.

Be mindful of those who cannot.

Protect the most vulnerable.


And fight for a just, humane, and loving future beyond this virus.

A few weeks ago, one of my students dramatically threatened to drop out of my Junior Scholars Program if I did not submit my grad school application this year. She and I had grown close after I received concerned calls from her dad about her anxiety and depression. So, every morning for a month, I texted her a random meme to remind her (and myself) that we are capable of dealing with hard things and laughing at the same time. The night before I submitted my application she texted me one of my favorite memes and wrote, "we're capable of doing the hard things and loving ourselves at the same time."

While the photos above represent some of the proudest moment in my life and career, they do not show the homeless teen who wanted to go to college but couldn't afford to physically get there; the undergrad who would fall asleep in her college's computer lab and rush out before dawn because she couldn't afford a personal laptop; or the 28-year-old educator who moved her homeless mother and brother in her Bronx apartment so that they would not have to sleep in a shelter.

In each of these challenging moments, I managed to feel love, joy, and compassion while simultaneously experiencing grief, loss, and shame. It's a skill I work on sharpening every single day. It shapes my connection to my community and the world and informs my teaching practices and values. I look forward to seeing how it holds up during my next challenge: Columbia University Teachers College.

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