Throughout our time together in the Zip Code Memory Project, we turned to performance to connect, touch, and express our feelings. The workshops offered a space to improvise and trust each other. But we wanted to enlarge our circle to engage our families and larger communities.

We invited participants, their families, and friends to create postcards, responding to two questions: What have we lost and learned from Covid? And: How can we heal and grow together? We invited friends to a pop-up exhibition of our body maps, where we could engage with them together. Several hundred neighbors joined our December 2021 Gathering for Covid, a much needed candle-light vigil with testimonials, music, and song. Our walk through the neighborhood, accompanied by drums and chanting made the loss and mourning public, demanding acknowledgment. We were present–– and carrying our dead. The Sing Harlem Choir reminded us that there was hope and beauty, even in the dark.

For almost two years, participants showed up in person and on Zoom to support one another amid the uncertainties of continuing contagion and vulnerability. We created, laughed, learned, offered counsel and critique, and worked hard to create community after months of isolation and loss. The Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve come to understand, has its own temporality and certainly “over” is not the right word either in terms of the virus or its multiple aftereffects. Nonetheless, in our April 2023 closing reunion What We Could Do at the Forum at Columbia University, we gathered to wrap up and reflect on our project in conversation with related NYC pandemic initiatives. A/P/A Voices–A COVID-19 Public Memory Project; Black America and Covid; NYC Pandemic Response Institute; NYC COVID-19 Oral History, Narrative and Memory Archive and Confronting COVID-19 Loss in Harlem presented their projects and, together, we were able to look to the future. Leaving messages to future generations on Maria José Contreras’ time capsule Talk to the Future, watching Gabriella Canal and Judith Helfand’s film Together, Not Alone, and listening to a moving performance by the Sing Harlem Choir, which had closed our Gathering for Covid in December 2021, we came together once again to celebrate the community we’ve created.

View the postcards

Header photo: Desiree Rios