25 March 2020, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA.
In my day job as faculty member in a university near Boston, I began an email to my students the other day, addressing the changes we are making to move instruction online for the remainder of the term: “Well, this is certainly a message I never expected nor wanted to write to my students.” I feel similarly writing this message to you, our community of readers and contributors at AiW.
Every day–every hour?–brings another realization of an additional way this pandemic will affect all of our lives and ways of being with each other. The changes are large: losing loved ones, losing jobs. They are also on a smaller scale: evenings out with friends in our neighborhood local are now dangerous, browsing our favorite bookshops now impossible.
I continually re-realize that the precise things that we often seek in crises are the things we aren’t able to do right now: be in community with others who are also struggling, scared, and trying to find their balance. A significant part of our coverage at AiW involves events, and like everyone we are heartbroken watching cancellation after cancellation roll in. And even after this acute crisis passes, arts and literature organizations will be affected for the long term. Structures will change, funding schemes will change, and our ways of being together will change. Yet it’s precisely at moments like these when we most need the poets and painters and musicians to remind us of our humanity and the importance of solidarity.
One heartening thing I am observing is the move into virtual spaces and the creativity so many are using to reach out in unconventional ways to make connections and keep the work of deep thinking and aesthetic production happening. Creatives are nothing if not agile. AiW, as a blog, is digital-born and our team is 100% remote, voluntary and close-knit; I didn’t realize we were practicing for a global crisis all this time. In our emails and conference calls in recent weeks in particular, I found myself feeling grateful for this virtual space that already provides community and connection in the ways that we are craving right now. At the same time, as I struggle to connect with my students now scattered across my state and region without the support systems they normally have on our home campus, I also worry about who is missing from these conversations.
Teju Cole asked in a Facebook post in March, “What’s Helping?” Cole’s position is particular, and his call out with a simple question like this reaches far and wide. The quantity and variety of responses both calmed and overwhelmed me: there is so much happening–a lot of it frightening–but there is also so much connection, and so many new creative outlets. As we move deeper into this scary and unstable time, we hope that AiW will continue to be one of those spaces where you turn to find content, community, and connection around our common interests in African letters.
Thank you for reading, commenting, and just being here.
Wishing you health and peace,
With our thanks, too, and a PS from all of the AiW team:
While we may need to slow our content down a little to catch breath and reflect on the speed of now, we’re still here – on the site and across our social media.
Yesterday, we extended, with our solidarity for our communities, our welcome for ideas and proposals, from you and yours, as to how we might best support, reconnect and reimagine our spaces. Do be in touch – we’d love to hear from you and all are welcome – and let us know what we can do to help uplift and to share…
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