This post was written by Ani Gavino, part of the 2020 Cohort of the Painted Bride’s Building Bridges: On the Rise project.
( FIG. This picture was taken during my walk. I found this ribbon in a south Philly public park )
For twenty one days and counting, the sun and I have been waving at each other from afar. Good ol’ sun. We go a long way, closely connected since my birth in that tropical zone where she lays her rays the closest. Now, we are barred by structures and walls, and a window that keeps me safe. COVID-19 is everywhere plaguing the streets like the swarms of flies, gnats, frogs of the Bible. Anxiety is all over the news and I have spent more time indoors and in front of a screen than I have ever before. Now I ask, what next?
Here in a corner of a South Philadelphia townhome, I stay afloat like everyone else. I wake up to birds chirping and the good ol’ sun beaming. However, I can no longer feel her kiss my skin. The long cold days and months of winter are long enough, and I have waited so long, only to be teased by her touch. Today, I had a glimpse of her from my window and during a short walk to the grocery store. With my partner, Jasmine Lynea, we stopped on a stoop, dropped our groceries and enjoyed the sun. It was great!
I imagined banana trees swaying next to me and sounds of chicken calls. I opened my eyes and looked around, the image was gone. In front of me laid Point Breeze Philadelphia–the new home I fought so hard for–the american dream I wanted, greeting me with sarcasm. “You happy now?” Empty newly built apartment structures rise every moment I look outside, plaguing the streets like swarms of flies, gnats, frogs of the Bible. Anxiety is all over a community that has not seen an open wide greenery. People are spending more time indoors and in front of a screen way before Covid-19 arrived. Then I asked, what next?
Back home, my daddy is diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer yet he continues to talk about his worries. “The coronavirus has infected many, leaving city workers without a job!” Native people who fled the farmlands to work the massive shopping malls and rich upper class households –their own version of the idealized dream, have returned to the earth and the sun. At least they are receiving healing. Mother Earth is making her demands.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be Julie Andrews right now… cheerfully skipping outdoors to the sound of music? Yet here lies the punchline in the joke—- that Capitalism is at its finest. It was so carefully branded to be that thing we all should want, only to be the very plague that will kill us all. Mortgage and rent plague us like the swarming flies, gnats, frogs of the Bible. With no opportunities to make the rent—no shows, no crowds, no dance projects, no money. Health workers are the most at risk. In the United States alone, numbers of death arise and the country’s president stresses a whole lotta nonsense. And I say, what the fuck is next?
Building Bridges is supported by Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers.