Special Needs Awareness and Advocacy 

We will be reading about the year 2020 in the history books for many years to come.  What a year it has been.  It began with the tragic helicopter death of our beloved Kobe Bryant and his beautiful 13-year-old daughter Gianna (GiGi) along with their six family friends.

Then Covid-19 or Coronavirus was declared by the World Health Organization as a pandemic on March 11, 2020, and is now said by some to be the second worst health pandemic of all time infecting over 20.6 million worldwide and over 5.21 million in the United States. The death rate as of this writing in the United States is over 166,000 people.  To say that this virus has changed every aspect of our lives is an understatement. It has evoked panic, anxiety, fear and has led to many psychological and mental health issues that we have not even begun to address.  Many have lost their jobs, apartments, and homes. Businesses have closed their doors, organizations have moved to working from home and kids can’t go to school or attend college campuses and are attempting to learn online or virtually.  Individuals have been confined to hospitals and have died alone. We have lost our ability to visit our loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes, hug our relatives, attend festivals, concerts, vacations, restaurants, family reunions, amusement parks, sporting events and even funerals. We must always wear face coverings, sanitize, and disinfect areas. We will forever be changed from this virus and the impact is devastating.

If that is not enough, we faced witnessing the brutal death of George Floyd. On May 25, 2020, Minneapolis Police Officer Derick Chauvin arrested Mr. Floyd after a convenience store owner called 911 to complain that Mr. Floyd bought a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill.  17 minutes after officers arrived on the scene, Mr. Floyd lay lifeless pinned beneath 3 officers.  Millions around the world witnessed bystander video of Officer Chauvin with his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds with the other officers standing idly by doing absolutely nothing. Officers called 911 for medical assistance but did not render aid and Mr. Floyd died of his injuries sparking international protests and outcry regarding police brutality of black and brown men and women.

Protests and unrest rocked Minneapolis and around 140 cities across the United States and the National Guard was activated to at least 21 cities.  My family among many others, watched on television peaceful and violent protests, looting and neighborhoods burn with anger over this senseless death.  We were still digesting the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year old black man chased and killed in a Georgia neighborhood while jogging by white armed men.  And the senseless death of Breonna Taylor, of Louisville, Kentucky, who after 150 days, charges still have not been filed against the officers who blazed into her apartment and murdered her.

So much trauma our eyes witnessed, and our hearts feels, still. My family talks daily about our feelings and how to process so much of what is going on with the world.  My twins who are young adults, like many, lives have been turned upside down. It’s hard to be an example to our kids when we feel so out of control ourselves.

Several lessons I have learned during this traumatic season are:

Turn off. You have got to disconnect from television, news, and social media. It is good for the mind and reduces stress. My television is on the news all day, I realized how much better I felt when I cut it off for a few hours, and I did not miss a thing. Cut off and log out.

Relax. Meditate, take a walk, head to the gym, head to your favorite picnic bench with your journal. I visited a park in my neighborhood that I have never been to before, it was so peaceful. I’ve lived here forever, why didn’t I know it was there? Too much hustle and bustle! Stop and smell the roses.

Take a class, learn a new skill. Sign up for an online class, enroll in something you always wanted to try.  I enrolled in 2 classes, learned some valuable skills, and made new friends and connections.

Find a cause, be active.  How could you not get involved in anything with the climate of the world right now. Racial inequality, health and mental health disparities, school-to-prison pipeline, unemployment, and socioeconomic disparities.  I was inspired by those leading peaceful protests to invoke change, which lead me to thinking what more can I do to change the world. Safely volunteer at a local food bank, organize a neighborhood clean-up. Mentor a young person. Be the change you want to see!

Vote! This election will be historic in many ways.  We have the first African American woman, Kamala Harris, on the ticket for VP. Voter suppression is real. Check your local board of elections and make sure your information is up to date.  If you are not registered, do that immediately and request your ballot and vote the whole ballot.  Voting is critical, especially locally because from the bottom up is where the change comes from. We cannot sit idly by and not let our voice be heard. These are critical times.

protester holding sign

I do not know what the future will hold. I pray for those battling this virus, other illnesses, trauma and for those who lost loved ones.  I pray for justice for so many individuals whose rights have been violated.

What is clear to me in 2020 is that I needed this time to stop and be still. I was running through life to the next meeting, the next event, the next something, so busy I was missing out. Life is fragile, you only get one, live with no regrets, do everything you want to do, spend time with love ones, cultivate and mend relationships, and pick up the phone and call someone.