After a year of dissension, roiled by verbal and physical clashes, and shrouded in a pandemic, one can only hope never to see another like 2020.
For Black people in America, 2020 has been a year of outrage against tenacious racism, but the renewed fight for justice has drawn a battalion of diverse allies. It’s also been a year of grief, as African Americans and other people of color succumbed to the coronavirus in disproportionate numbers.
Of course, the political and racial rifts, pandemic-wrought illnesses and death, devastation of businesses and jobs have swept indiscriminately across the country, sparing a fortunate few.
That the general mood in the country is dour is evident in some of the comments about a recent Lincoln commercial. It shows a mother quickly retreating to the solitude of her beautiful car as she’s greeted by the chaos of family life at the front door. I’m sure many mothers can relate on some level, but in the midst of a pandemic, parents are overwhelmed with significant concerns.
They are agonizing about whether to cocoon their children at home or send them to in-person classes. Some have been able to hire personal tutors, while others lack the technology, work-from-home capability, or even the skill to assist with their children’s virtual schooling.
And, in 2020, while many of us worked from the comfort of our homes, cleverly pairing professional tops with pajamas or workout bottoms for endless Zoom meetings, heroic health care workers deployed to confront the pandemic – cleaning, cooking, pushing food trolleys, healing the sick and comforting the dying.
Through it all, many others, individuals and organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, Daystar, Pinellas County Urban League, Feeding Tampa Bay and the Pinellas Education Foundation, have worked to continue to attend to the needs of our neighbors.
After the year we’ve had, it’s not surprising that the approach of 2021 is being met with a certain amount of relief, as well as apprehension. Many African-American churches will greet the new year with traditional Watch Night services, a custom that dates back to Dec. 31, 1862. The observance is rooted in the Emancipation Proclamation that became law on Jan. 1, 1863. Black people, enslaved and free, gathered the night before, “Freedom’s Eve,” to pray and to give thanks.
This year, as with so many events, Watch Night services have had to be adjusted because of the pandemic. Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, one of the city’s largest predominantly African-American congregations, plans a virtual service that will begin at 10:30 p.m.
As he looks back on 2020 this Watch Night, the Rev. Louis Murphy, who will lead his congregation in prayer, reflection and resolve for the new year, offered a few thoughts.
“Interestingly enough, the Emancipation Proclamation was more about the economy than doing what was humanly right. And, after 157 years, we currently have a government more interested in the economy than the rights of all human beings,” he said, adding that he’d like to see all Christians heed the teachings of Jesus to feed, clothe and care for the disenfranchised.
“My hope for the new year is just that, ‘hope.’ I hope that people that have not experienced salvation will. I hope that social justice and economic equality would become a reality for people of color. I hope racial discrimination and systemic racism would be eradicated. I hope, in the words of Donald Trump, “the virus would just disappear,” Murphy said.
“And, as Lionel Richie sings, ‘I wish the world was full of happy people.’”
Indeed, perhaps more than any other recent new year, 2021 will be infused with extraordinary hope. Much of it will be centered on combatting the coronavirus that’s affected each of lives. My hope is that this shared experience will make us more grateful, especially for family and friends, and kinder – to everyone.