April 24, 2020
Dear ASWAD Family,
As COVID-19 continues to ravage the world, we hope and pray that you, your family and all loved ones are safe and healthy during these increasingly perilous times. We know too well that all over the world, ongoing racial and economic inequalities explain why COVID-19 kills people of color in highly disproportionate numbers. Black and brown people cannot always take protective social distancing measures while disproportionately located in densely populated communities, living spaces, homeless shelters, and prisons. For many of us locked in low-paying service jobs now declared essential, “shelter-in-place” is an unattainable luxury. Pre-existing health conditions of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity linked to the stress of racism, food deserts, and limited access to quality health care place us at even greater risk. Racialized thinking and xenophobic practices that position African descendants as sub-human continue to escalate overt and thinly veiled anti-black racist practices throughout all our societies.
I write from a deep well of personal pain as my wife and me have lost an aunt, an uncle, a cousin and a cherished friend, former colleague and fellow congregant in the last two weeks. For those of you who are grieving the loss of family and friends, please know that the entire ASWAD family grieves with you. We mourn the lonely deaths of loved ones due to forced separation and our inability to provide personalized care, say last goodbyes, or bring families together for funeral services. We love you and stand in solidarity with you. We stand in solidarity with all people affected by COVID-19, and especially with the most vulnerable in our global village. We stand in solidarity with sick undocumented immigrants who risk seeking potentially life-saving health care that can bring unwanted attention from ICE agents charged with deporting them and their families. But even as we also mourn the loss of a number of black intellectuals, musicians, and artists whose work we will continue to cherish, we also celebrate those of us who, despite contracting the coronavirus, have managed to regain health and be reunited with loved ones. As we move through these troubled waters, I hope that we all can draw strength and sustenance from our uniquely powerful history, our resonant culture, and our respective faith and spiritual traditions. We are a strong and resilient people who have weathered so many storms. With continued love, compassion and community, this too shall pass.
A luta continua,
Robert Trent Vinson