The pandemic starkly revealed our deeply dysfunctional system—from health care, to housing, to education, and the structure of work. It also revealed the ways in which we are all implicated in social and economic structures built on inequality and neglect––how some of us benefit from the exploitation of others, often close neighbors. As Fred Moten asks, “How do you count even one loss when any one lost is so many people for so many people?” [Watch Fred Moten “Preparing to Imagine”] How could we even begin to imagine repair? 

Repair, for ZCMP, meant assuming responsibility for the long-standing neglect that exacerbated the effects of the pandemic, and the admission that there is no better before to go back to. But, as one participant said, You can’t heal what you refuse to see. Our workshops and gatherings were conceived to be a process of seeing, listening, acknowledging and, where possible, addressing past wrongs and alleviating present pain in creative, even joyful ways. We accompanied each other in grief and in discovery. Participants collected and recorded stories in their own neighborhoods for the Lost New York City Story Map. The public was invited into a time capsule to Talk to the Future about the experiences of the pandemic and to have their voices preserved and inscribed by artist María José Contreras.

Such small gestures and acts, reiterated and repeated, were acts of care that, we all hoped, would begin to build new forms of sociality and coexistence. We are not alone, one of our workshop leaders reminded us, we are here together. [See our film, Together, Not Alone] The fleeting moments of connection that helped to build a multivocal narrative of the pandemic in our neighborhoods were in themselves acts of repair. Could they also lead us to take greater responsibility for each other, for our communities and our city? Could they provoke us to envision and actively work for more just social and economic structures that could prevent devastation such as the one we were witnessing? For ZCMP, Imagine Repair also meant setting the stage to work together on Demanding Justice. 

Header photo: Desiree Rios