COVID-19 or not, Black folks are building virtual spaces of joy, intimacy and tenderness
May this slowness be our new normal.
The impacts of capitalism and society’s never ending romanticization of working hard, being productive and making money (lest we be labeled lazy) have done a disservice to our relationships. We usually don’t have time to check in because even when we are off of work, we’re too exhausted to be present enough to support vulnerable, creative and consistent connections.
Now, however, those of us who have the time and desire are opting into re-calibrating and/or getting clearer in our connections. We’re mapping newer, more sustainable ways to be in friendship, love and care with one another. We’re gathering what is possible and opening ourselves, because we don’t have the luxury of reading each others’ bodies anymore, we have to say what we mean. We have to ask and answer the hard and softer questions now.
All across the globe, folks are approaching the lockdowns and shelter in place orders as an opportunity to reset, focus and get reprieve from the constant demands that capitalism places on us. Through the use of technology, we’re practicing a new form of online intimacy that centers joy, creativity and support.
Last weekend, DJ D-Nice launched Club Quarantine, an Instagram Live set where he spun records for nine hours straight. Folks from all over joined, including Rihanna, Michelle Obama, Oprah and Missy Elliot. I felt alive watching the sets, moving my body from side to side as he played Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina”.
But it wasn’t until some friends invited me into an imagined car to ride to the party together that I felt this blanket of healing and connection. I ended up asking for a different ride because I wasn’t dressed yet, and still needed to put on some lipstick. Another friend hopped on the call, that was really a facebook status and offered me a ride because the other person was ready to go.
For some, none of it was “real”, but for me, the level of connection, creativity and confidence we shaped in creating a space for ourselves is something I’m sure not to forget. I saw my friend in her red lipstick, head wrap and leather skirt cutting up on that dance floor. I felt her come up to me and ask squarely, “Did you come to this party to dance or to merge in with the wall paper?”
Sure enough, when D-Nice mixed Mr. Telephone Man with Soul For Real and Bad Girl, my body screamed with glee, sliding over next to her and rolling our backs against each other. We were there for hours, drinks in hand, reminding D-Nice to take restroom and water breaks.
The collective physical and emotional isolation that we’re experiencing in this moment has forced us to get real creative (and diligent) about how we can build opportunities for connection that feel good. We’re able to make assessments and shifts on what we may want to shed as well as where we want our focuses to lie.
Friends are hosting watch parties, online skill shares, makeup tutorials and cooking lessons. There are virtual yoga, pilates, meditation, and twerk sessions happening at any hour of the day. Virtual smoke sessions, karaoke and trivia nights, dance parties, Marco polos, group chats and self pleasure parties are happening everywhere.
Guides to support parents during quarantine are popping up all over the internet. Today, one of my best friends offered her services in assisting parents who are experiencing challenges after having to homeschool their children due to school closures for the first time. Folks are offering storytelling while parents and caretakers are on conference calls and in meetings at home.
Community organizations, meditation centers and instructors are moving online to protect folks from more exposure to COVID-19. Even small businesses are offering online services to support folks during this time. And some are offering their resources for free, to keep their services accessible and folks connected, engaged and alive.
Lately I’ve been struggling with not being able to be around my family, but I’ve also been able to practice boundary setting in a way that I’m not confident would happen if shelter in place hadn’t been instituted in California and I was physically around them. This isolation has helped me reassess what my commitments are versus which familial, relational and professional obligations I’ve assumed because of socialization.
I get to practice how I emerge while getting real clear about what kind of relationships I want to have with myself and others. Participating in virtual spaces has given me the opportunity to witness the ways we practice and approach tenderness, conflict, nuance, hope, isolation and excitement.
I think this extension of intimacy that we are building together will survive far beyond this epidemic, reminding us that we have the capacity to model and actualize sustainable systems of care. But these systems will not last if we don’t always honor the ways that our folks have built them even before these technologies were introduced.
May this slowness be our new normal. May we write letters and send them in the mail. May we never forget the folks who come before us and are here now trying to figure it out. May we never forget that for some of our elders, everything is different now, and sometimes they are alone in remembering what once was. In the midst of all these virtual possibilities, may we always include them.