Scenes From a Pandemic: 26

28 09 2020

by a New Orleans Plague Pod

A continuing series of dispatches from Kopkind participants, advisers, guests and friends on life in coronavirus time as they observe and experience it.

Something’s Happening Here

New Orleans

We have stepped into the gap of the state, because the state would kill us. There is no benevolent daddy! Although Benevolent Daddy would be an excellent drag name.

Aesha RasheedNew Orleans / Bulbancha

In March, just after Mayor Latoya Cantrell issued a stay-at-home order, Aesha Rasheed convened the first Zoom call among members of eight households who have formed a mutual-aid pod. In part, this is modeled on hurricane evacuation resource share groups that have existed here for years. The group does not meet in physical space. We live in multigenerational, blended family households, work in essential services, have deep friendships outside this configuration, own small businesses, are immuno-compromised, etc. What follows are extracts drawn from Zoom check-in calls on the new and full moon, interviews, and a WhatsApp group thread.

The place we begin is constantly shifting land, shifting waterlines, change, cyclical upheavals. We come from people who have moved and/or been moved. The lies of permanence that colonialism tried to feed us we choke on, spit out. The pod was born in songs, storms, newsrooms, prayers, dyke bars, DIY Mardi Gras krewes, and dark moon rituals. We are many streams converging. We are queers migrating to be in community. We are a community formed in relationship to shifting ecologies. There is no model; we are able to meet our own needs.

Aesha Rasheed: One of the threads of the origin of this pod is an awareness that change will come. We draw upon a hurricane disaster plan that acknowledges that historic forces of change would wash over our lives—into what is unknown. This is an avenue for putting into practice the ethos that nobody will be left behind.

Naima: Family potluck dinners on Wednesdays, introspective pod calls once a month, backyard hangs with our breasts out, telling stories of our queer youths, of our families, of our dreams…. With all of the uncertainty around time and space, and forward progress, our abundance house, our pod, held me together when I was stuck in my head, when I missed friends in Brooklyn or family in California. They were there to share their soaps, salads, breads, laughter, and stories, and it made everything feel a little less lonely.

Does anyone have a tall ladder and a way to transport it?
Our AC is acting up and I’m going to try to change the filter
and see if that helps.

(posted by Cherry)

Kris has a ladder

(posted by Steeby)

Akua: Reciprocity as daily ritual has held me together. Practicing exchange rather than transaction, trade rather than extraction, all with the ease of breathing. Oxygen in, carbon out: a need, an offering.

Steeby: We are an affiliated network of care. A channel that we can always tune into… It is organic, drawing from a default trust that comes from the particular configuration of our affiliations and a deep queer kinship.

Aesha: New Orleans is a broke city; everybody has a job and two hustles. People are figuring out how to get around the reality of capitalism because it’s not working for them. What lineage do we call in? The legacy of making it up, doing it for ourselves. We are building upon muscle memory of collective leadership and interdependence.

Costco call in. Holler by 9pm tonight if you want
anything from tomorrow’s Costco run. Also I am up for
splitting some fruits and veggies and other stuff,
hit me up!

(posted by Shana)

AH: It’s been helpful to have a structure for food resources and navigating this scary time. And I would like it to be more explicitly a political resource. I would be interested in how this will translate politically.

RC: This is a practice and possibility. Yes, sure, we can talk about the fall of capitalism and new emergences in broad terms. But then there is the human reality of what we do in the moment. This is the fluid, psychic, and literal connection with y’all. Praxis meets flesh on the other side of the screen.

Shana: On a personal level the pod has offset natural tendencies of self-isolation both logistically and emotionally. Our Zoom calls have been a mix of: collective prayer/ritual, fun silly games, check-ins, and logistics. In this way we speak of what we want to use our force for together…

Roses and watermelon, an offering at the tomb of the unnamed slave at St. Augustine Church in Treme

Hi friends! I’m excited about our virtual gathering
this week for full moon in Scorpio!
Shall we gather Wednesday evening at our usual 9pm time?
As a reminder, we are gonna discuss the question Akua
posed on the new moon: What are a few values you hope
we will practice together this summer?
N
**Read “this summer” as a summer of Global Pandemic plus
Hurricane Evacuation 1.0
aka Visions for Collective Navigation of “the Waters”

(reposted by Ron)

Ron: The pod experience is a window into envisioning what we need without police, without the system. At the root: dreaming; make ‘the system’ obsolete; a network of care and support. I have felt supported in the midst of collapse. I haven’t had to go to the grocery store. Our conversations have been thoughtful and explicit. I’m not usually a “hope person”—I can see what is possible!

Hurricane Prep June 4 ACTIONS:
Gas up cars, go bags, cash stacked, people checked on!
By Friday night: Drop addresses and info
for gathering places—evac and safety spots. phone numbers.
emergency contacts.
Print this out on Saturday!
Altar work tomorrow night with
full moon and a lunar eclipse.
Harness energy for visions we want.

(posted by Aesha, as Tropical Storm Cristobal was heading to New Orleans)

Kris: The structure of the pod radiates out. It has been a grounding space and a spiritual resource.

Kara: Alongside the pod, these texts have sustained me: Development Drowned and Reborn: The Blues and Bourbon Restorations in Post-Katrina New Orleans, by Clyde Woods; The Yellow House, by Sarah Broom; Marking Time Making Place: An Essential Chronology of Blacks in New Orleans since 1718, by James B. Borders IV, ed.; Roadside Geology of Louisiana, by Darwin Spearing; Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor.

Selma: A spell for this moment—or my invitation for dreaming together—draws from an Islamic prayer. Any time I’m washing my hands my intention is to cleanse all irritations and invite them to go down the drain. I’ve done that while washing my hands for 20 seconds—y’know, to get off the physical germs; and understanding that the virus of corona is fear, I would like to cleanse those vibrations off as well. So I speak into a drain—may this water be a healing water. Speak what you want into the water. You have to build trust with the water.

Sarah: I have gratitude for being woven into something that already existed before my participation. Friendships and relationships have been fragmented and disjointed through Covid. It’s a community of abundance and visioning.

Aesha: What is survival? Something about the surrender. The Hopi prayer says: Let go of the shore, flow to center, and then look to see who is around you. You can’t rely on the same things. Release attachment to outcome, and center joy.

Hey
C’mon
Come out
Wherever you are
We need to have this here meeting
At this tree
Ain’ even been
Planted
Yet
—June Jordan

(posted by Steeby)

This word collage by a New Orleans Plague Pod was initiated by kara lynch, a media artist, educator, and collective practitioner who participated in Kopkind’s camp on democratizing the economy in 2019. The other main writers/editors are Rosana/RC Cruz, Abram Himelstein, Aesha Rasheed, and Elizabeth Steeby.

Scenes From a Pandemic is a Kopkind/Nation magazine collaboration. This piece originally appeared on thenation.com on September 23, 2020. We thank Katrina vanden Heuvel, D.D. Guttenplan and The Nation crew.


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