Can you describe what changes, if any, COVID-19 has had on your life or on other girls you know?
Covid-19 has had a heavy impact on my wellbeing. Not being able to socialize has taken away tools that have helped me manage my depression and anxiety. My stress levels have skyrocketed, I've gotten really bad stomach pains because of it and have been hospitalized because of it. The usage of social media has negatively affected my self-image. It's the one of the only ways I interact with my peers and I'm constantly comparing myself to distorted images.
What are some ‘highlights’ (could be anything) that has helped you get through this pandemic so far?
The pandemic has highlighted the struggles people go through on an individual level and systemic level. The black lives matter movement has pushed me to examine my relationship with my blackness and has pushed the conversation on a systemic level. I consider this my highlight, it's a conversation I've been wanting to happen for a long time. It forced me to look at how systemic racism has affected me on an individual level.
How has the intersection between COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement affected you?
The Covid 19 pandemic has pushed me to grow within myself and face my fears. When quarantine started, I was extremely depressed. Being a young black woman in spaces that are dominantly white and in a society that praises Eurocentric features has had many effects on me. With social injustices against black lives coming to the forefront, it made me examine my blackness and what it means to me. I attended the Black Lives Matter protests and for the first time I saw my blackness as a blessing and not a curse. I presented a poem about my experience of being black at one of the protests, something I never thought I would do. It was the first time I stood in my blackness loud and proud.
How has your activism shaped your life?
I’ve been doing activism for three years and this really pushed me to be at the forefront of the movement. I campaigned and wrote a letter to the Vancouver School Board describing the extreme harm that having police in schools has on BIPOC students and urging the VSB to remove them. I attended the Hogans Alley blockage, and learned about the history of this once thriving black community. It was life changing to see people rally for black lives. It made me appreciate being black and pushed me to wear my hair naturally. For black people our hair has been looked at as not socially acceptable. I got bullied for my natural hair and that led to me hating it and having anxiety around it. I learned how to embrace my natural hair. It was the most freeing experience to let go of the hatred I had for my hair, for my skin, my culture and for my blackness.
What do you think needs to happen to improve your (and other girls and young women’s) ability to succeed and cope with COVID-19?
I think there needs to be more resources for women especially women dealing with poverty and violence.
If you are or were employed, how has going to work changed for you?
Working in a restaurant pre-covid and during covid there's more things to worry about. Giving good customer service is no longer your top priority. Customers would refuse using hand sanitizer and waiting outside. It's super frustrating because you're risking your health for people who could care less. Pre-covid I would get hit on frequently by older men, since covid I have seen a decrease.
JFG is reaching out to teenage girls and young women in the community to hear directly from them about how COVID-19 has affected their lives.