This week Idris Elba wants an annual lockdown and activists are shipping masks from Hong Kong
Yearly quarantine? I think not. Meanwhile, Southeast and East Asian organisers are taking the protection of marginalised groups into their own hands by shipping in masks.
Kemi Alemoru and Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff
20 Apr 2020
Illustration via Canva and Wikimedia Commons
REFLECT: An annual lockdown isn’t the answer to post-pandemic woes
It’s hard to know how you’ll look back at a pivotal moment in history when you’re in it but Idris Elba has started putting forward some suggestions. The actor, who recently recovered from the virus, said that we should have an annual weekly lockdown to commemorate this period of time. I’ve heard of a moment of silence, but a week of quarantine? Not sure that will catch on. “The world should go to war for a week to remember ww2 [sic],” one user replied on Twitter.
What is clear though is that the world is wrestling with what our future should look like. Imagining a new world takes new imagination and honouring this time means learning the right lessons. 150 fruit pickers from Romania were flown to UK to farm and keep us all fed during the crisis after failing to garner enough applicants from Brits. Will we remember how migration helped us in our hour of need? Spain is ahead of the curve stating that universal basic income will remain in place even after the lockdown ends.
As most of us lament our lost freedom, in the states this week has seen huge protests of people begging to go back to work. Unlike European countries that have offered business help, rent and mortgage freezing, extended furlough pay and more, a lot of Americans are surviving on a $1,200 stimulus check and many still haven’t even received that. But we shouldn’t be begging for the return of aggressive capitalism that valued money over people, a life so fast-paced we’d got our priorities mixed up. Over here, as Keir Starmer settles into his new role as leader of the opposition, he too is demanding to know: what comes after lockdown? If the answer is more of the same then I’d prefer to stay inside.
REPORT: Hong Kong to London PPE ‘masks circuit’ is catalysed by pro-democracy protests
A new “masks circuit”, led by a collective of East and Southeast Asian people, has launched after organisers looked to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests for inspiration. The circuit has already brought thousands of surgical masks into the country to be distributed specifically to food banks, homeless shelters, outreach organisations, care homes, frontline supermarket, postal and cleaning workers.
One of the organisers of the circuit told gal-dem that the group was driven to do the project after realising there is a dire lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) across the country, especially for marginalised groups.
“The government response has completely ignored the most vulnerable in our society – whether that’s the elderly, immuno-compromised people, undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, people of colour, disabled people, people experiencing homelessness, incarcerated people, or poor people,” she said.
The organiser is part of the Lausan Collective, which shares decolonial perspectives on Hong Kong and daikon*, a zine and organising platform for Southeast and East Asian women, non-binary people and all trans people. She explained that they decided to use Hong Kong as a focal point for the circuit in part because of the city’s inspirational pro-democracy organising.
“During the protests, there were networks of people identifying where police cordons were, trying to connect victims of arrest to their family members at home, offering vouchers and floor space to kids kicked out of their homes because of political disagreements at home,” she said. “Then, as coronavirus was kicking off, medical staff went on general strike, partially to fight for better protections at work.”
They were also influenced by the wider availability of PPE in Hong Kong and the fact that they calculated it would cost two to three times more to buy masks from within the UK than to buy and ship them from overseas.
The circuit has so far distributed 1550 masks to organisations including Queen’s Park Community & Sports Hub, Streets Kitchen, Museum of Homelessness, the North Paddington Food Bank and The Outside Project.
They are keen to push forward with the creation of international solidarity networks beyond the pandemic.
“We have to disabuse ourselves of the idea that the state – whether that’s the British or the Hong Kong government – will save us,” said the organiser. “Rather, we have to look to our communities, and to those who have already been pioneering ways to survive beyond existing structures of oppression and the shadow of the state.”
• Brazil’s leader Jair Bolsonaro is still in coronavirus denial leading an anti-lockdown protest while death tolls rise.
• Kelis is launching a weed cooking programme, Cooked with Cannabis, on Netflix today. Happy 420.
• The US has been accused of diverting medical supplies from the Caribbean, Brazil and more.
• A coalition of 21 race equality organisations have written to the prime minister asking the government to consider racial disproportionality in the response to Covid-19. The letter included nine key asks, including a moratorium on all deportations and immigration detentions.
• High school students in the US are being expelled after posting racist TikTok videos. Two students in Georgia who posted a video on how to “cook” a black person have been removed from their school.
• A 28-year-old nurse who contracted Covid-19 died after undergoing an emergency caesarean to deliver to save her baby daughter. Tributes have been posted to “highly valued and loved” Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong.
• Almost 400 Rohingya Muslim refugees drifting at sea for nearly two months have been rescued. The group were trying to make their way to safety in Malaysia.
• Black Ballad’s Tobi Oredein announced she would be taking a step back from the platform to focus on motherhood after the birth of her daughter. BB are launching their Motherhood Project this week.
• Ava Duvernay is working on her next political docuseries And She Could Be Next, following women of colour in politics
• Legal action has been launched against Priti Patel following claims that she bullied members of staff. gal-dem has a handy guide of everything horrible the politician has smirked at, said and done.
Diane Abbott celebrated the anniversary of her M&S mojito can on Twitter!