Let’s take a moment to recognize the loss of two great patriots and civil rights icons: U.S. Rep. John Lewis, and Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian. Without a doubt, these two great men understood what it meant to be “all in this together.” They sacrificed more than most in their fight for justice and equality, and we all have gained something from their innumerable individual sacrifices.
Today would be a great day to honor Lewis and Vivian by arresting the cops who killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, back in March. She deserves justice. Her family deserves justice, and everyone who’s been a victim of police brutality – particularly Black folks – deserves justice.
Today, we see demonstrators sacrificing their own personal safety and stirring up what Lewis called “good trouble” – and necessary trouble – as the fight for equality and justice continues.
The backdrop to all of this are the thousands of doctors, nurses, and other health care staff and front-line workers who are being asked to put themselves in harm’s way, not from a police officer’s billy club but a deadly virus.
Now, as millions of students prepare to return to school, we are asking teachers, administrators, and the maintenance staff that keep our schools running to also put themselves in harm’s way. Just in the past few weeks, we finally hear the decision-makers engaging with teachers and school districts and allowing them some discretion to keep themselves and their students safe. In a recent Bexar Facts/KSAT/Rivard Report poll, when asked about the coronavirus pandemic, a solid majority of respondents believed the worst is yet to come, and over half (58 percent) continue to have greater concern over social distancing ending too soon than causing unnecessary damage to the economy.
more on coronavirus recovery efforts
As I sat down to write this column, memories from my own childhood came flooding back. I often wonder how my family would have navigated the economic challenges amid a pandemic. Many families are sitting down at kitchen tables faced with tough decisions about how to keep their heads above water. Too many are having to choose between paying the rent or buying groceries while also finding solutions for child care, job loss, and mental health services.
I still remember the look on my mom’s face at the end of each month knowing she had to send all 10 of her kids to bed with nothing but a couple of slices of bread to eat. I did not know how she felt back then, but as a parent today, it breaks my heart to now understand how she must have felt. The impacts of COVID-19 bring back memories of the hunger pains from those days. Although I am in a much better place to provide for my family today, I feel obligated to speak up for those families who desperately need help now.
For many families across this city, committees charged with providing insight and recommendations on long-range and complex issues give too little to depend on and are of little concern. For some people, the clock is ticking, and for others, it has entirely run out. I’m almost sure that time ran out on my mother plenty of times back then. I vaguely remember some of the conversations she would have about not having money to pay rent or even have enough gas to get to work. I can imagine these are the same conversations many folks are having today, and I’m so proud of her courage and the sacrifices she made for us.
So, what more can we do?
Although essential, the $191 million Recovery and Resiliency Plan the City Council passed in June isn’t agile enough. Families are one lost paycheck away from being homeless, and businesses are one payroll away from shutting down completely.
I’ve heard business owners say, “The workforce development plan is great, and we would love to get involved with that, BUT we can’t even keep our people employed another month,” or “Our family business is our livelihood. We can’t afford to get trained to do anything else.” There is hopelessness in these comments; there is also despair.
An immediate infusion of cash will help keep the lights on and food on the table for families and give business owners the cash flow needed to stay afloat until the economy improves. With those immediate needs met, we can be resilient and see the long-term plans through to fruition.
People cannot afford to wait for the formation of committees and task forces, and plans picked over to perfection. People do not need more platitudes and promises; they need actions and commitments.
John Lewis once said, “Sometimes you have to not just dream about what could be – you get out and push, and you pull, and you preach. And you create a climate and environment to get those in high places, to get men and women of goodwill in power to act.”
Let our actions, not just our words, say we hear you, we are with you, and we are all in this together.