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A Year of Change

Staff Perspective Shireen Malekafzali

The start of a new decade hit us with a pandemic that no one saw coming. An abrupt economic crisis followed, along with anxiety, isolation, and uncertainty. The pandemic highlighted and exacerbated the existing inequities within our county and country. To say that it’s been a challenge is an understatement. Families have lost so much – from loved ones, to jobs, financial security, and their normal family and community connections.

This year we also witnessed a painful and necessary awaking in the United States, one that helped many reckon with the immense racial injustice that Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) face daily across systems, institutions, and people. It started with video capturing police brutality and murder of unarmed Black people in numerous states, which led people to recognize the multitude of injustices faced by BIPOC. People came to the streets to protest, youth organized, people read and educated themselves, people shared stories, people fundamentally changed their understanding of their communities, policies, cities, and neighbors.

We are all different today than we were when the clock struck midnight into 2020. We are all still reeling from 2020, trying to make sense of it, trying to survive it…

We saw a beauty arise as well. A sense of how our lives are all tied together. That we can’t exist alone and we can’t ignore the plight of the injustices faced by our communities. We started to protest for justice. We started calling many service workers essential workers in recognition of their vital importance. We started to thank our healthcare providers. We started to be grateful for the little things and call our loved ones more.

We saw our community-based organizations pushing themselves to show up for whatever the community needed, regardless of what they used to do. We saw neighbors, organizations, government, and philanthropy providing funding, food and resources to those who needed it most. We saw a movement to advance justice in every realm.

I desperately hope we find ourselves on the other end of this pandemic in a new normal. One that is more equitable, grateful, and deeply connected. My favorite quote from this period is from Arundati Roy: “Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality”, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality. Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”  (