We are six months in and the government still has not figured out how to respond to the COVID-19. From public health management to addressing economic concerns, there are far too many gaps. The main issue continues to be failure to consult. What does the government have against engaging experts, practitioners and affected people?
Tourism is supposed to restart in October, but major hotels are opting out. Reopening comes at cost and they are not prepared to absorb that cost just to be shut down again in a matter of weeks. They do not want to run the risk of mass infections and becoming breeding grounds for COVID-19. It is clear they do not trust the government’s plans and, after the botched reopening in July and given the information we have now, it’s understandable.
We will definitely have to learn to live differently, knowing COVID-19 is not going away any time soon, but we need to care as much about the people the economy is meant to support as we do about the economy itself. We have to plan for the worst, be prepared to take care of vulnerable people and be more creative in our responses and solutions.
We should have learned by now that tourism is not enough. It is a fickle beast and we cannot continue to rely on the unreliable. What else is there? What are we able to create? It is irresponsible to — in response to calls for diversification of the economy — focus solely on diversifying tourism. We are more than tourism.
Aside from the economy itself, we still need to put significant attention on the needs of our people. Many parents are forced to be teacher’s assistants and technical support for their children in virtual learning environments, all while having to work full-time and attend to other needs. Do all children have their own devices to use for school? Do they have comfortable desks or tables with chairs they can be comfortable in and safely occupy all day? Electricity outages have already caused disruption and internet service is not particularly reliable either. Even our “solutions” fail to take our daily realities into account. We cannot replace in-person learning with virtual learning when we don’t have the infrastructure in place to support it and access to the necessary products and services is unequal.
It has been six months. We should be further along. There should be better ideas, diverse teams, and realistic solutions at work right now. This is our reality and will be for the foreseeable future, and we are still fumbling in the dark. The most basic needs are not being met. The most obvious gaps are not being filled. If people do not have enough food to eat, children cannot attend school in-person or online, business places can’t manage social distancing and people can’t receive proper post-natal care at the hospital, is our attention in the right place?
People need to work. For many, this depends on the tourism industry. There is no argument against the economic need to reopen. We can see the government is not prepared to meet people’s needs so it is more inclined to make decisions that allow them to work. The problem is that swinging the doors open isn’t enough. It needs to make sense. It needs to be safe and sustainable. It must not result in another shutdown or mass outbreaks on hotel properties. The government needs to, as we often say, make it make sense. The reopening date is just one month away, so there is no time to waste.
Osaka uses her platform for Black Lives Matter
Naomi Osaka, 22, won her third Grand Slam title on Saturday afternoon in a match against Victoria “Vika” Azarenka who won against Serena Williams on Thursday night. It was a hard-won match as Osaka was down in the first set and had to fight hard to recover in the second set.
Azarenka was visibly quite confident, likely due in no small part to her win over Williams. She completely dominated in the first set and Osaka had to change her strategy in the second. In a post-match interview she said she did not think about winning or losing, but took it point-by-point. She is the first woman in 25 years to come back to win after being down in the first set.
Both players talk about the need to remain calm, so it was interesting to watch them work to keep their composure while trying to win. Throughout the tournament, Osaka had been strong in her serve and Azarenka in her return, so it was an exciting match-up from start to finish.
Throughout the tournament, Osaka has called attention to the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing protests. On August 27, she decided not to play in protest of the killing of Jacob Blake at the hands of police. She said, “Before I am [an] athlete, I am a black woman and as a black woman, I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis.”
Players and teams in the NBA, WNBA and MLS make similar decisions which prompted postponement of the games.
At each of her matches, she wore a mask with the name of black person killed by police. On August 31, her mask had the name of Breonna Taylor who was killed in her apartment when police barged in on March 13. On September 2, the focus was on Elijah McClain who was put in a chokehold by police and later died in hospital. Tamir Rice’s name was on the final mask on Saturday afternoon.
Whenever she is asked about the masks, Osaka says she wants people to talk about what is happening. If people have never heard of the people whose names she wears on her masks, she hopes they will go research and learn more about what happened to them and get involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Verzuz: Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle
On Sunday night, we were treated to a Verzuz event featuring Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle. Social media was abuzz in the days leading up to the event, sharing expectations, jokes and tips for preparation. One of the most popular topics was dinner. It was important to find out what everyone would cook on Sunday for what was being called “Auntiechella”— a play on Coachella.
African Americans focused on soul food, sharing photos of fried chicken, collard greens and macaroni and cheese. Once the food was sorted, outfits had to be chosen. People severely underestimated the style Gladys and Patti would bring, joking about wearing fuzzy slippers. They met over 300,000 people on Instagram waiting for them to appear, so they were not going to miss the opportunity to show off and show out.
Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle stepped out in style. They were, as we should have known, decked out in pantsuits. Gladys’ was fully sequined, giving us disco ball energy. That should have been our first clue that she came with performance tracks, prepared to sing live. The highlight of Patti’s look was, of course, the pair of stilettos she rocked. She also had a display to her right which appeared to be a luggage set arranged like stairs, a different pair of stilettos on each level.
While singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Patti kicked off her shoes because that’s the way she does it on stage. She sat comfortably without shoes for a few minutes, but eventually took a pair from her display to put on.
The two women did not come to simply sit down, play songs, smile at each other, then go home. They gave us a show. We even got a cameo from Dionne Warwick who join Gladys and Patti in singing That’s What Friends Are For and Superwoman.
Watching the two women sit, chat and sing along to their songs was a joy. Their conversation was akin to those that take place in the hours after a holiday dinner with family and close friends. They talked about their children and grandchildren, love for cooking and baking, quarantine weight gain, the music business and the friendship they share. They both came prepared to have a good night together, enjoying each other’s music as much as their own. They sang along, ad-libbed, danced in their seats and complimented each other’s music. It was a beautiful display of friendship and mutual respect.
At 77 and 76 respectively, Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle are still dedicated to the craft. They have protected their voices, maintained their images and captured the attention of people across generations. Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Tim Cook were among the celebrities tuned in to Verzuz on Sunday. For those who missed the event, the recording can be found on the Verzuz YouTube channel.