Erica Lewis

Q: What was your initial concern during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: “As a relatively healthy young person, my first concern was my family. I have three parents in the medical field that are constantly in high risk situations. I also have older family members that I would hate to unknowingly harm. I had initially planned to wait tables this summer, but due to the current circumstances, I relied on drawing and printing commissions, which was definitely difficult financially, becoming another major concern of mine. As the fall semester approaches, I am extremely nervous about being on campus. I think that we all thought that this summer would have been handled better by the whole country, but here we are, with cases ever rising, sending students, faculty, and staff back to an in-person education.”

Q: Now, I saw your piece Hoard. As many of us have struggled to find resources in the beginning of the pandemic, I noticed the first stores to be restocked were the ones in the Middletown area – also known as the upper-socioeconomic area of Louisville. I also noticed these stores were the ones to maintain their stock of food and cleaning supplies. I want to know what your experience was trying to find resources. Portland and the West end are a food desert; what resources were the hardest to find? For how long? Are you still having trouble finding certain items? If so, what items?

A: “As a consequence of the mass panic-buying, I initially had a hard time finding hand sanitizer, alcohol, tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, and the like. Alongside cleaning supplies, I think many people were stockpiling food in the event that the stores totally closed, so I remember the fresh meat section being basically empty. As the pandemic continued, supplies became more available, so I have not had a hard time finding most of the things I have needed this past month or so, as I usually go to the Kroger by UofL.

“It comes as no surprise that the “upper-socioeconomic area of Louisville,” as you mentioned, was restocked first. If this pandemic has shown us anything, it is the ruthlessness f our country’s capitalism. Those with the money to stockpile will be given the supply for their demand. Many Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, and these are the same people who will be financially forced to prematurely reenter the workforce, put themselves at excessive risk out of necessity, and then not have the insurance or income to cover the consequences of mere exposure to the virus, let alone potential months of health complications or worse.”

Q: What is the hardest part of this pandemic for you? (i.e.; isolation, finding food, finding medical supplies, lack of transportation, lack of access to healthcare, etc.) How have you coped with this during the last few months?

A: “I consider myself a motivated, hard working person, but I have really lost most of my steam during quarantine. Without being able to attend classes or swim laps, my days have lost their structure, and I feel quite flat in most aspects of my current reality. I suppose, I cope by calling my family often or escaping into mindless television to avoid a constant state of emotional limbo, ruminating on what is happening. 

“My significant other has been quarantining with me, and I am not sure where my mind would have been without him. I would not necessarily say I have a great answer for this question, as I feel simultaneously fortunate to see my SO daily and to have a family to call, yet I definitely feel an overwhelming sense of emotional lacking, such that I am not sure how well I would say I am actually “coping” at all… Looking beyond myself, seeing everything happening across the globe and here in Louisville then makes me feel quite guilty in relation to much grander problems than my own, which in itself cyclically drags me a bit deeper into my thoughts without my normal routines and socializing to ground me and to focus my energy.”

Q: I love your documentation of the protests for Black Lives Matter; I think this is a very powerful, important moment in history for acknowledging and fixing the disparaging inequities between people of color and those who are Caucasian. Now, we know about the 9:00pm curfew instated by Governor Beshear due to these “riots.” How do you feel about the fact that this fight for equal rights caused a curfew for safety reasons, but the pandemic did not become public knowledge until early-mid-March? Even so, it did take a long time for regulations to be put in place (i.e.; wearing a mask in public, staying 6-feet apart, stay-at-home orders); regulations which are still not absolutely mandatory. What is your perspective on this?

A: “The BLM protests occurring so soon after the “Haircut” protests against masks and social distancing truly illuminates their differences, showing the racial motivations of police responses to citizens and their concerns. A large group of white protestors can scream in the face of police, storm government buildings, and heavily arm themselves over a haircut with no response from police, as police “do not feel threatened,” when case after case after case of peaceful protest against police brutality against black people is met with… more police brutality. In addition, these police have predetermined their use of riot gear, which is obviously not a response as it is, again, predetermined before their arrival to the scene, further illustrating their inherent violent bias toward the movement itself, which in turn reiterates the need for the Black Lives Matter. 

“The curfews in Louisville directly reflect this attitude—a curfew was input to limit protest and silence voices, yet for months the “freedom” of association was not obstructed for those wishing to congregate in large groups sans mask during a pandemic.  

“So far as the regulations in response to COVID-19, I have entered countless stores that have posted their company-wide regulation of “No Mask, No Entry,” yet seen limited local enforcement of these precautions, if at all. The infection rates are skyrocketing, yet the lack of adherence to regulations is not seen as a public threat, instead we are focused on the “threat” of black people demanding the removal of racist symbolism in their own communities, demanding no more “no knock” warrants, demanding de-escalation training for the people meant to save more lives than they take. Those hired to serve and protect are murdering black citizens in their own homes, turning off their body cameras, hiding their badge identifications, and brutalizing them in the streets for saying “Enough.” 

“I have also seen a response to BLM protestors in regards to the pandemic, saying that obviously we are not seriously concerned about the virus or else we would not be out here. In actuality, the persistence of BLM protests during a pandemic should exemplify their necessity. We as a people have had enough. As a white person, I cannot sit at home, safe in my privilege of race and lack of COVID-19 exposure. People are protesting because change has to happen now, and there is no more time to wait, no more excuses to hesitate, because people are still dying.”

#SayHerName. #NoJusticeNoPeace.