Heard on CultureShift

COVID Diaries: A New And Unfamiliar World

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Image credit: Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET

In the eighth installment of “COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience,” five documentary photographers created art that illustrates this week’s assignment: “The First Step.”

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101.9 WDET presents COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience.”

Through WDET’s StoryMakers and in partnership with Documenting Detroit, we’ve commissioned five documentary photographers to create a multimedia introspective that taps into our shared experience of the novel coronavirus. Over ten weeks, the artists will create work under a given assignment.

Experience the first seven chapters.

This week’s assignment: “The First Step.”



The First Step”

Introduction by Courtney Wise Randolph

Click play to listen to Courtney narrate the introduction to Chapter 8 of “COVID Diaries.”

Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

Love is the most beautiful thing in the world, and to have found it twice is an unspeakable blessing.”

So says my Uncle David when I asked him how he’s feeling these days.

We spoke for a few minutes on Juneteenth, the day before his wedding.

He’s been officially engaged to Evelyn for the past ten months, since the August Party in 2019.

Uncle David’s Wedding was to be THE Parnell event of 2020, usurping the perennial August Party affair — outfits been worked out; hustle classes been had; plane tickets been bought since last Labor Day.

But, this doggone pandemic… you know how it is.

Anyway, he’s obviously happy and I’m genuinely happy for him because I couldn’t have imagined this as a possibility nine years ago when Aunt Gloria died. Frankly, Uncle David couldn’t imagine outliving Aunt Gloria in the first place, so he’s more surprised than all of us.

But this beautiful reason to celebrate makes me think of all the ways our lives have forever changed.

In the most superficial sense, I wonder where I’m supposed to meet my cousins to eat barbecue. In the most earnest sense, I wonder where I’m supposed to meet my cousins to eat barbecue.

We did that at Uncle David’s house in him and Aunt Gloria’s backyard. That’s where the August Party began. And in 3 months, we’ve said goodbye to Jonathan who paid for the hall where we’ve held most August Parties since and move now to lift our Uncle David up as he enters into a new era of his life with a new love that he barely dreamt possible.

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Chapter Eight

Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET

Darryl DeAngelo Terrell

I feel like we’re also going to always be mourning more than we’re already accustomed to mourning.”


Everything is opening, right? And it’s bittersweet because we have space and time to do stuff again, but I feel like people are forgetting that COVID is happening.

I feel like on top of the fact that Black bodies are popping up and literally being lynched around the country, and they’re also being murdered by police officers and racist white people… people are also forgetting that COVID is an existing thing. And people are passing and we are mourning.

#Altercall @ Room ProjectTaken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET

#Altercall @ Room Project

A friend of mine, Honey, organized a city alter at Room Project so we can uplift our new ancestors. So we can celebrate them.

Is this going to be our new normal? As Black people, we’re already in a state of surveillance and hyper-visibility, but I feel like we’re also going to always be mourning more than we’re already accustomed to mourning. And I’m honestly over it. 

— Darryl

Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET

Rosa María Zamarrón

I’m still feeling like a hermit and it’s better to stay inside and just never go out. But I can’t do that.”


In my walks, I noticed signs popping up.

The way people were behaving, some people it felt like they weren’t following those social distancing rules still. And then other people were still wearing masks, wearing gloves, and trying to keep a safe distance or cleaning the area that they were sitting in. I just really noticed how, even in Campus Martius, they now have this little area where you can wash your hands… which, that was never there before.

Seeing families and kids play in Campus Martius.Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET

Seeing families and kids play in Campus Martius.

Then I went to La Feria. I met somebody and we had some tapas there. 

Normally, the first thing you want to do is you want to go inside and sit down. But I was just terrified. I could just feel myself freaking out. So we sat outside, and it was just really, really interesting, because the waitress had gloves and a mask. It’s just a really weird experience. I know that there’s different theories and different things that we’re being told, but it’s still in my head just insanity, and I freak out about anything. 

I’m still feeling like a hermit and it’s better to stay inside and just never go out. But I can’t do that. So it will be interesting as the days and weeks go on as things keep opening up again, I hope people are safer and keeping social distance and following those signs that are everywhere. 

— Rosa María

Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
We come together how we can and as we are.Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

We come together how we can and as we are.

Erik Paul Howard

There’s lots of ways that we show up, that we use our hands, that we use our feet. Ways that we get to places but also ways that we get to conversations in each others hearts.”


There are some moments and some learnings that I think are important to highlight that have come out of the last couple of weeks. Not only as an individual and a person with relationships, but also as a creative that aspires to make in a way that supports our values. There’s lots of ways that we show up, that we use our hands, that we use our feet. Ways that we get to places but also ways that we get to conversations in each others hearts. We use our tools and our instruments and we use our bodies and we offer all of these things in how we show up.

We come together and we play. For each other.Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

We come together and we play. For each other.

Instagram, for example, has turned into an informal public forum, a sort of freedom school, and a way to share information and ideas, not just through art but also through text in a way that meets people where they are. People can share things with each other visually but also access information that they would normally not access. 

Artists whose work is wisdom and life for me and for lots of other folks right now. Where we get stuck, and where we need to learn, and where they’re good at their art is an intersection that they have just been working, tirelessly, and it’s a corner that we’re fortunate to be able to hang out at. 

— Erik

We come together and rest. We listen. We learn.Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

We come together and rest. We listen. We learn.

Even during a pandemic... "I shall praise him." I think the statue at Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Detroit wearing a mask is the church’s way of reinforcing the importance of wearing them in public spaces.Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET

Even during a pandemic… “I shall praise him.” I think the statue at Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Detroit wearing a mask is the church’s way of reinforcing the importance of wearing them in public spaces.

Rachel Elise Thomas

We’re going past 20 days marching in Downtown Detroit, and the movement is strong.”


This week, I would say I’m still feeling overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed career-wise. I’ve been blessed with a lot of opportunities and assignments, which is really great. It’s better than feeling overwhelmed when it comes to things that are going on in this country that are the reasons why we’re still marching.

We’re going past 20 days marching in Downtown Detroit, and the movement is strong. I’m learning to manage that better. I’ve been photographing it now for a duration of time. And I’ve learned that even with that I cannot be there all the time, for my mental health and for my safety. Because there’s still COVID out there, it’s still there. I was tested this past Monday, and it came back negative. Results usually take 24 to 48 hours, and I got my results back within a half hour, and just let me know that a lot of people are not getting tested. That’s concerning to me, it really is.

This car in Downtown Detroit has the names of several Black people killed due to police brutality written on it. As I photographed the car, a young Black couple and their child walked by and stopped. While the woman was taking a picture of the car, the man said: “Any of those names could be our names." His statement was so unnerving because it’s true.Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET

This car in Downtown Detroit has the names of several Black people killed due to police brutality written on it. As I photographed the car, a young Black couple and their child walked by and stopped. While the woman was taking a picture of the car, the man said: “Any of those names could be our names.” His statement was so unnerving because it’s true.

Because of that, I’ve decided to tackle this week’s assignment with what’s going on in this country, with protesting and with COVID

The only human interaction you have is my hand in one of the pictures. It’s a rose that I got from when we marched, and there’s still this girl that likes to pass out roses to people that says “Black Lives Matter” on it, and I think it’s really beautiful.

So I was really inspired by that, so I decided to photograph my hand with it, and that’s one of my favorite images. It’s so simple. It pretty much says everything that I need it to say. 

— Rachel

Fine art allows me to search within to find the answer and the solution. Even in the most frustrating of times and circumstances, I gather inspiration from my surroundings.Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET

Fine art allows me to search within to find the answer and the solution. Even in the most frustrating of times and circumstances, I gather inspiration from my surroundings.

This weekend I made the unexpected decision to go up north. Things are more open in the Northwest side of the state. But there is still a quietness that indicates that something is different. Here I take a picture in my AirBnB, watching the slowness of the pace around me. Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

This weekend I made the unexpected decision to go up north. Things are more open in the Northwest side of the state. But there is still a quietness that indicates that something is different. Here I take a picture in my AirBnB, watching the slowness of the pace around me.

Amy Sacka

I likened it to coloring outside of the lines, it almost felt like I was breaking the rules, because suddenly I’m going outside of the norm of what I’m used to”


I took a lot of pictures in my home for this project, slices of life that indicate a certain inwardness. Even though we are talking about taking the first step, I think the first step is contemplated and deliberated. How far can I go? Will I be safe outside of my home? We are all doing this dance of uncertainty together. Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

I took a lot of pictures in my home for this project, slices of life that indicate a certain inwardness. Even though we are talking about taking the first step, I think the first step is contemplated and deliberated. How far can I go? Will I be safe outside of my home? We are all doing this dance of uncertainty together.

When I thought about this week’s theme of taking the first step, that began with me with just looking out the window at the world, and realizing what a different relationship I have with it now. I’m sure a lot of people feel that way.

I ate at a restaurant for the first time, and I was trying to eat on the patio and there were too many people out there, so I had to eat inside. And there were only a few people in there. But even eating in a restaurant was a foreign experience. And I found myself looking around the room and being a little bit overwhelmed. I think it’s because I’m not used to visually taking in different environments anymore.

In my mind, I likened it to coloring outside of the lines, it almost felt like I was breaking the rules, because suddenly I’m going outside of the norm of what I’m used to, which is the four walls that I live within. And so there was just this strange combination of feeling a bit of freedom and excitement, but at the same time wondering if I was doing something wrong in a way. 

What should I be doing, what shouldn’t I be doing, it’s a very odd space to be in.

— Amy

Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

COVID Diaries, Exhibition

COVID Diaries is a ten-week multimedia introspective that taps into our shared experience of the novel coronavirus.


Detroit StoryMakers

This post is a part of Detroit StoryMakers.

StoryMakers is a new approach to telling the stories that change how we experience metro Detroit. We train, connect, and support media makers from communities across the region and share their stories with the world. This work is made possible with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs

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