"If it wasn’t for mutual aid support I don’t know where I would be."

COVID 19 pandemic has made my life seem as if I’m living on a deserted island all by myself, and it has made everything (my health, mental health, economic stability, and social interactions,) much harder than normal.

My health has gotten worse because I’m not moving as much as I could. Being quarantined has made me less active, and I find myself eating more and gaining weight. And I have had to speak to my mental health counselor at least once a week instead of twice a month. Also, my psychiatrist makes sure that he calls me more often just to check up on my mood. I have not been able to pay my rent because I need money to get around, buy food, and just to have that secure feeling that having a little money in my pockets helps to ease the anxiety. In as much as not seeing and working around my fellow advocates makes me anxious, and depressed.

I’m a Community Organizer with Bread for the City, and I have been doing this for 15 years. And COVID 19 has definitely affected my employment. I make money to compensate for my SSDI, by conducting advocacy training and speaking from time to time. And working remotely cost me money that is not really in my budget. And I don’t feel like I’m giving my audiences their money’s worth. Working remotely takes a lot of getting used to.

I don’t qualify for UI, because I’m living on a fixed income (SSDI.) And if it wasn’t for mutual aid support I don’t know where I would be.

If I can’t get a ride out of the neighborhood I have to go across the street to use the neighborhood market, and those prices are crazy high.

The owner of the market doesn’t even make an attempt to have sale items on hand since COVID 19 started. If I leave the neighborhood I have to pay someone, or an Uber, or Lyft. And I have to go out to the Giant or Safeway during their senior citizens’ hours. If I don’t there are too many people, and the lines are very long, and I cannot stand for long periods of time. So COVID 19 is costing me much more not only in money for food, but my time too. Thank God for my neighbors, and their cars.

The response to Black workers’ needs has been, "I don’t give a fuck." Black and brown people make up the majority of the so-called essential workforce, but they are being treated like enslaved people if you ask me.

They should be receiving hazard duty pay like in the military. The brothers and sisters who stock our grocery shelves, drive the buses, work in the pharmacies, at Amazon, and Walmart are risking their lives for the rest of us but are not being compensated for their sacrifices.

And I believe that after COVID, lack workers will be in the same enslaved, impoverished place before the pandemic. They should not have to pay rent for at least 90 days just to catch up on their stress levels. And they should not have to pay for public transportation either.

Leonard Edwards,'areas of expertise include organizing, advocacy, community engagement, affordable housing.