A Path towards a New Normal
By Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, Latino Community Foundation CEO
“Justice—love made visible—is the great force limiting the harm this pandemic will visit upon us.” Dr. Mindy Fullilove
Perhaps because I came of age in a city ravaged by a nexus of epidemics that tore through the social fabric of inner-city neighborhoods, I remain hopeful that we will emerge from this global crisis grounded in what really matters in life. In the 80’s and 90’s, HIV/AIDS, crack, violence, drug-resistant tuberculosis, asthma raged a war against neighborhoods like Washington Heights and the South Bronx. AIDS alone claimed the lives of 25 million people worldwide.
Just when things began to turn around—at the dawn of a new decade—the heart and soul of NYC was struck down on 9/11. In one day, 2,977 lives were lost within hours. The fear, stress, trauma was unprecedented—and it was exasperated by the economic fallout which led to $2.8 billion in lost wages in NYC and 430,000 people became unemployed in the three months that followed. Yes, the impact was global. But living through it in the epicenter magnified the reality and immediacy that normalcy collapsed when the Twin Towers came down.
Life—literally and figuratively—was consumed in the black billowing smoke that engulfed the streets of lower Manhattan. Funeral after funeral, the stench and sting of death eclipsed any momentary relief of pain in the months that followed. Yet through it all, New Yorkers managed to stumble through a collective recovery in the years that followed, and it led to a stronger, more resilient city that cared and loved more deeply.
While there is no blueprint for what we are facing today, I draw hope from what I have lived through and witnessed in times of crisis: the strength and resiliency of the human spirit; the power of love that fuels extraordinary acts of kindness, generosity, and service; the moral clarity of what is essential and nonessential; and the determination to rebuild and adapt to a new normal. There is no doubt that this moment in history will be punctuated by intense grief, loss, and economic instability at a global level. We may not know how long it will last or have yet grasped the full scale of this crisis. But we do know that this ‘era’ will be defined by a fundamental schism: life before and after-COVID19. The social norms that have defined our lives, and economic order of how our society has operated will be redefined and restructured.
So, how do we move forward amid the uncertainty?
Grounded in Values, Driven by Purpose
Moving through this rapid pace of change, my primary focus of has been the people at the center of who we are and what we do. First, our team. The strength, commitment, and love that holds this team together made it possible for us to navigate through uncharted water. These last three weeks, the Latino Community Foundation (LCF) team steadily pressed forward as we grappled with the unknown and dealt with the wave of emotions that accompanied the times we live in. The team supported each other, and we were able to quickly turn our attention to the needs of the communities we serve. We found our bearings by holding on to our values, among them: leading with love and from a place of strength, leaning on family and what unites us, and elevating the voices of our most vulnerable communities. As the public health crisis intensifies and economic fallout increases, we continue to find stability in what we do best: listen to, serve, and support our community, and connect our community leaders with resources, decision-makers, and each other.
We launched our Love Not Fear Fund to support grassroots organizations that provide services to our most vulnerable Latino communities— especially undocumented seniors in rural regions and families that have already experienced wage loss. Many working-class Latino families in the Central Valley are still not connected to the internet at home. While school is cancelled, parents are waking up at dawn to work in the fields to pick the nation’s fruits and vegetables. Armando Valdez, the leader of a CCAT, a volunteer run community arts and tech center, is personally buying and delivering food and information to elders in rural communities outside Fresno. Our first grant from the Love not Fear fund went to support his work.
We are determined to leverage our mission, work, and values to help pull families from beneath the dark shadows and we invite you to join us. Now more than ever, we need to work alongside our community partners to eliminate—not exasperate— the injustices that have led to 6.9 million Californians who don’t have enough money to cover basic needs. Another 7.2 million Californians are one step away—a job loss, rent hike, or surprise medical bill—from calamity. Despite being the backbone of our economy, Latinos make up more than half of them. If there is ever a time to advocate, elevate, and mobilize our own resources and reputational capital to tackle these inequities and injustices—it is now.
At the moment, this is how we intend to press through uncharted territory and into a new normal.