Heard on CultureShift

COVID Diaries: Finding A Reason to Be Joyful

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Image credit: Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

In the ninth installment of “COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience,” five documentary photographers created art that illustrates this week’s assignment: “Just Stopping By.”

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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 eight chapters.

This week’s assignment: “Just Stopping By.”



Just Stopping By”

Introduction by Courtney Wise Randolph

Click play to listen to Courtney narrate the introduction to Chapter 9 of “COVID Diaries.”

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

In my family, cookouts are not an imaginary event hypothetically good white people aspire to be invited to.

They’re real, nearly constant mass gatherings of my favorite people in my uncle’s backyard. The apex of these weekly affairs is The August Party, so named for the many birthdays we Parnells get to celebrate in that month. It’s not a couple of households that gather for this event, either. I’m talking hundreds of members of my family, from near and far, both Parnells by birthright and those adopted into our tribe by hearts, gather one night each year to laugh, dance, drink, and most of all, eat good barbecue.

The most glaring truth about The August Party 2020 is that it ain’t happening — not for the reasons we want it to, at least.

So, what are we to do? We’re a large, huggie-kissy, close-knit family whose favorite summertime activity is discovering new sides or drinks to share alongside long-perfected barbecue.

Well — we’re sneaking in pop-bys.

There’s no such thing as “just dropping something off” and turning around to leave, unless doors stay completely shut between interacting parties and no audible conversation is made. To make a successful drop and run to my mother, I have to put said package by her door, drive away, and then call to say I made the drop. She holds the phone until the package is safely inside and then we talk for thirty minutes about the quality of this week’s cherries at the grocery store.

If I dare enter the house, like I did when I stopped by to measure my uncle’s rooms to prepare his house for sale, I go ahead and plan for two hours because measuring the rooms is a ten-minute job at best, but he’s always got a good story to tell and finds a way to feed me a rib, too.

Those are the rules. I didn’t make them, I just benefit from them.

It’s the best and worst part of this season. In grief and in joy, my family literally lifts me up, with rib-cracking, back-bending hugs, raucous laughter, and food made with love. I miss them all, even the cousins who inspire my deepest sighs and make me wonder how far I can roll my eyes into the back of my head.

Speaking of which, there’s got to be some coupons or something I can ride over to their mailbox.  

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Chapter Nine

I met up with my friend Rebeca whose from Southwest Detroit as well. We had been trying to catch up with each other for a while and were finally able to meet up at St. Annes. She's an amazing woman who I really admire and love listening to her perspective on life and the events happening around us. Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET

I met up with my friend Rebeca whose from Southwest Detroit as well. We had been trying to catch up with each other for a while and were finally able to meet up at St. Annes. She’s an amazing woman who I really admire and love listening to her perspective on life and the events happening around us.

Rosa María Zamarrón

Even though you’re far away, just being able to see them is really nice.”


For this week, I tried to document when I was visiting my friends.

And the people that I photographed were some people that I really missed during quarantine. It was just really nice to be able to have a face-to-face conversation and not be on a computer, especially with how tough the weeks have been with all the emotions that are going through me.

Just having that interaction, even though you’re far away, just being able to see them is really nice.

I miss everybody, very much.

— Rosa María

Diego Cruz is a Director from Southwest Detroit. I've known him for several years. We wanted to meet up at El Parian for some local tacos. He moved to New York recently and I'm so proud of everything he's accomplished. Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET

Diego Cruz is a Director from Southwest Detroit. I’ve known him for several years. We wanted to meet up at El Parian for some local tacos. He moved to New York recently and I’m so proud of everything he’s accomplished.

Javier is the Exectuive Director of Darkroom Detroit. He's become an amazing friend over the years as well as my film dealer. I had stopped by after Friday's protests in Detroit and just had a good conversation and let out a lot of frustration. Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET

Javier is the Exectuive Director of Darkroom Detroit. He’s become an amazing friend over the years as well as my film dealer. I had stopped by after Friday’s protests in Detroit and just had a good conversation and let out a lot of frustration.

I recently met Dorthea while paying a visit to my friend Sacramento Knoxx. We quickly became comfortable with each other as I asked her what she did for a living and tried to get to know her.Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET

I recently met Dorthea while paying a visit to my friend Sacramento Knoxx. We quickly became comfortable with each other as I asked her what she did for a living and tried to get to know her.

Hanging out in friends backyards is definitely a thing now. Here, my friend Kelly Ardito and I catch up in her backyard at her home in Hamtramck, Mich.Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET

Hanging out in friends backyards is definitely a thing now. Here, my friend Kelly Ardito and I catch up in her backyard at her home in Hamtramck, Mich.

Rachel Elise Thomas

I felt so spoiled and loved. I’m definitely going to continue visiting friends in backyards and being safe.”


So I celebrated my 32nd birthday this past Sunday, on Father’s Day.

My birthday is the first day of summer, and sometimes summer solstice and Father’s Day happens on the same day. So my dad and I, we both have our day. It’s funny because looking back, I thought “My birthday won’t be a COVID birthday,” but it still was.

My friend Lizz Cardwell is a Queen in her habitat: After months of being socially distanced from friends, dipping my feet in a mini pool in the backyard at the home she shares with her roommates and having a birthday dinner cooked in my honor was quite special and delicious.Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET

My friend Lizz Cardwell is a Queen in her habitat: After months of being socially distanced from friends, dipping my feet in a mini pool in the backyard at the home she shares with her roommates and having a birthday dinner cooked in my honor was quite special and delicious.

It wasn’t eventful, but later on in the coming week, my awesome friends made up for that.

One of my friends cooked in my honor. She grilled and I spent time in her backyard with her and her roommates. And then the next day, another friend of mine surprised me with beautiful flowers and a gift. I felt so spoiled and loved. I’m definitely going to continue visiting friends in backyards and being safe.

I prefer it more than going out to certain places, honestly. I feel great.

— Rachel 

Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Alison Simons and Adam Nail relax in a hammock on Belle Isle. Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

Alison Simons and Adam Nail relax in a hammock on Belle Isle.

Amy Sacka

Going to places time and time again can create a sense of comfort for us.”


On this evening, I noticed Kathleen Rix right away and approached her. “You photographed me two years ago,” she said. The Rix family has seven children between them. “This is your spot,” I say to them.Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

On this evening, I noticed Kathleen Rix right away and approached her. “You photographed me two years ago,” she said. The Rix family has seven children between them. “This is your spot,” I say to them.

This week’s theme made me think a lot about the familiar places that we know and love. I decided to photograph Belle Isle because it’s a place that I can just pop in and pop out of. I live about a mile from the park, so I’m often there running or driving around.

I’ve met so many people on Belle Isle over the years. I truly consider it my stomping grounds. Apparently, I’m not alone.  

I took my camera to the beach and I had this really cool experience where I ran into a family who I had photographed years prior in the same exact spot.

And I asked the family, is this a place that you guys come to often? And she said yes.

And it made me really think about how much place matters, and how much ritual matters. Going to places time and time again can create a sense of comfort for us. When those places are taken away, they can create a pretty big void.

I was pretty excited to go to one of those places this week and really photograph what places means to me. 

Amy

I met my friend Sam for a walk on Belle Isle Beach. Sam and I met at our local gym and became fast friends. Now our gym is closed because of COVID, so we haven’t seen each other much. I wanted a picture of Sam jumping over the water because it reminds me of his carefree spirit.Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

I met my friend Sam for a walk on Belle Isle Beach. Sam and I met at our local gym and became fast friends. Now our gym is closed because of COVID, so we haven’t seen each other much. I wanted a picture of Sam jumping over the water because it reminds me of his carefree spirit.

A man cruises through Belle Isle with the top down at dusk. Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

A man cruises through Belle Isle with the top down at dusk.

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

Darryl DeAngelo Terrell

I took it upon myself to try to find joy during this time.”


DVE Pride SessionTaken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET

DVE Pride Session

We just got hit with an uncomfortable amount of police brutality videos and situations around the country.

And like, me personally, the way that I grieve these things is difficult. I have a hard time sleeping and things like that.

So, I took it upon myself to try to find joy during this time.

Just turning 29 this past Tuesday, it was one of my cousin’s anniversary parties so I went over there. And then during the entire celebration of the anniversary party they had the protest on the TV, so we were having conversations about the protests.

The images that I have are simple images of me stopping by my family’s house or my best friend stopping by my house for my birthday.

You know, finding an inkling of joy is important for self-care and mental health at a time when our Black lives feel that they don’t matter. 

Darryl

Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Ferras cleans the '62 Impala before the cruise. Riders gathered for a cruise in place of the Majestics annual Memorial Day picnic that usually takes place in Pontiac, Mich. Lowriders cruised Woodward Ave. from Pontiac to downtown Detroit and then to Belle Isle before heading to Western International High School across the street from Clark Park in Southwest Detroit.Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

Ferras cleans the ‘62 Impala before the cruise. Riders gathered for a cruise in place of the Majestics annual Memorial Day picnic that usually takes place in Pontiac, Mich. Lowriders cruised Woodward Ave. from Pontiac to downtown Detroit and then to Belle Isle before heading to Western International High School across the street from Clark Park in Southwest Detroit.

Erik Paul Howard

I hope that sometime in the future, we visit each other because we know that that’s the best way to take care of each other.” 


There’s a lot, right now, that we don’t know.

Despite the risks, we visit each other. Despite the risks, we’re gathering to challenge what we’ve come to know as normal. In a time and a place where information and education and health and safety and care are not normal currency, we visit each other because we’re all that we have. I hope that sometime in the future, we visit each other because we know that that’s the best way to take care of each other.

Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

In the midst of all of this, it is nice to get outside, to be around other people that are outside, especially when those are people that care about you in the way that you’re trying to care about them. It’s nice to see folks’ faces in-person that you haven’t seen in a while. Whether that’s through a car window or out in the open, in nature, walking down the street and seeing them on their porches, these are all really nice seasonal things that we’ve become accustomed to over the years, that this year feel very special. 

— Erik

Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Sisters from the Mata Morales and Madrigal families in Southwest Detroit work on a series of murals together along the wall on Elsmere at Chamberlain.Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

Sisters from the Mata Morales and Madrigal families in Southwest Detroit work on a series of murals together along the wall on Elsmere at Chamberlain.


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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