Community Care in the time of COVID

By Nicole Blackson | Love Now Media

For a long time, “self-care” felt like a privilege that young, working-class people couldn’t afford because it wasn’t designed for us. Whether Baby boomers, generation X, Millennials/gen Y, and GenZ/centennials, few of us were raised in a culture that has taught us what self-care is all about, hence our sense of community and communal care has been strained. Our capitalist-driven culture has promoted productivity, competition, and individual achievements as signifiers of success. We’ve been told, “if you want something done, do it yourself” and, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” We were taught that our ability to compete and achieve was where our self-worth lied. Then we realized we were dying inside. 

So, we shifted the culture. Over the past few years, the term “self-care” has been used liberally on social media platforms, in panel discussions, and in conversations with friends and loved ones. It’s a term that many of us have now grown accustomed to using while working to apply it to our personal lives. We went on quests for pleasure and upheld new values based on what we did for ourselves. #SelfCare.

Now that we have given ourselves permission to care for ourselves, how do we extend it to our community members during a pandemic? Many people have been using the pandemic’s constraints – quarantining and social distancing, as a way to get closer to themselves. But there is a growing need, more than ever, to care for one another in deliberate ways. Self-care alone will not sustain our humanity or the cultural practices that have been central to communal creativity and sustenance. 

Community care becomes the end goal. In the same way that putting on masks is about saving our own lives, and our community member’s lives, we must explore new practices to ensure that people in all generations are checked in on, and given space to grieve, unpack stressors, and simply exist while knowing they are not alone. Community care requires trust and buy-in from individuals because it exposes the vulnerabilities we have traditionally kept to ourselves. It is necessary that we not just access the privilege of self care but we bring it back to our communities, our families and infuse it into our culture so that care can become a part of everyone’s success. 

For me personally, I have chosen to extend my care to the collective. It’s about the ‘we,’ everyone that looks like me, feels like me, is like me… I’m doing this for you. I’m doing this for us. I am a gay, Black, millennial, woman healer, my ‘we’ is for those who have felt they don’t have permission to speak up or even think outside of the lines. My care is for those who dream, but who color outside of the lines and are the color in and out of the lines. Those who deserve to be authentic and respected no matter what that truth breeds. It’s never just about me.

We often have not demonstrated communal care, let alone self-care because we felt that we didn’t have the time. Time is the luxury. And when survival becomes the sole focus, self-care again appears to be indulgent. Today, we have begun to embody the consciousness that self-care is necessary for our communal survival. Our survival doesn’t just suffice as a response to trauma, but as a foundation for thriving. With access to our communal spaces being limited,  many of our ways to care for ourselves have been challenged to say the least. We have been in a perpetual state of grief as we are present in a time and a space that is all unfamiliar to us. 

For me, communal care looks like:

  1. Whatever I learn, I teach. Whether that be yoga, stocks, home ownership, food prep, or tools for being more loving.
  2. I honor those on whose shoulders I stand and the fact that I didn’t make it to where I am alone.
  3. Investing in the creativity, ideas, and goals of my community members.
  4. Calling elders, hosting family zoom meetings, and listening to people who simply need to talk.

Communal care recognizes that we are the spokes in the wheel that either is stopped or moving forward. Before COVID, communal care may have looked like a night of shooting pool, or a Saturday evening on a dance floor. Happy hour looked like inviting as many people as you wanted and rubbing elbows with a fellow patron. For me, it looked like the latter and going to the movies, taking leisure walks afterward, and stopping into a nearby cafe to just be. However, the times have changed. 

Ways to put communal care into practice are to acknowledge the inherent worth of everyone you face and to be committed to facing yourself and allowing yourself to evolve and inviting others to grow as well. It can look like shoveling your neighbor’s sidewalk, listening to a friend, starting an affirmation chain text, giving each other mani’s and pedi’s, playing a game together online or reading a book to one another. It has no limits and it doesn’t have a measurement. To actively care for one another in a way that brings them more love is an intentional act of saying to them, “You matter and I want to see you win!”  This is the type of communal care that 

can help us all survive and thrive. 

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