November 25, 2020
It has been a very interesting word to read from time to time—“Coexist”. By definition the word means to live in peace with each other, especially as a matter of policy. As a people we have been told that moving forward we have to COEXIST with COVID. I don't mean to set things off in a foul mood, but it has been bothering me lately. Live in peace with something that has taken the lives of the ones we love, and practically upended the industries that we have grown to love. Don’t we coexist with enough?
Change is good; change in most cases takes time, and of course, a lot of getting used to. The changes that have occurred in 2020 were for lack of better word MIND BLOWING. As a member of the entertainment industry, (I am a traveling songwriter and record producer by trade) some of the changes that I have had to coexist with are the death of the venues, the upheaval of the studio model, and time-consuming travel protocols—and in some cases restrictions.
When the virus hit, I like many others, was booked for a string of live performances and in person studio sessions in some of the major music markets in the US. The night before a trip out of town I received a message that sessions were to be cancelled and travel restrictions were in place as a result of Lockdowns. A month later, venues started to shut doors permanently, and I was awestruck. What was going on? How are those who lost their jobs gonna cope with this? How did we get here? Now they want us to coexist? We could barely coexist with each other as it is!
It’s important to note that not all of the changes were totally bad. Zoom sessions have saved us time and are doing wonders for the environment, and there is a certain comfort that can be taken from logging on from home with a collaborator in another state (New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles) or in other countries all together (Europe, Africa and Saint Lucia). We can cut out a lot of travel time, and commutes can be draining and lead to bad diet choices when we have to eat at the nearest available option. It feels good to create from a place of comfort, and when I log off I can immediately be safe at home.
Safe at home. Another anomaly, as the days turned into weeks and the weeks to months, the world kept changing. More infections. More loss. And between the protest and elections, more division. Are we really safe at home? Isolated from the world's problems and others? Some of us, while grateful for the small stimulus and unemployment checks, can't even imagine what others in third-world countries are dealing with. Entertainers such as myself have had to adjust to drastic changes without the ability to go out and perform due to the restrictions; struggling to find ways to monetize the new normal.
As a creator my content started to change, there was only so much you could say about being “Bored in the house Bored in the house Bored.” There only so many covers you can record and DIY projects you can take on before you start to go a little nuts.
A lot of professional relationships began to fray, especially in the music business, since so much of them were based on face-to-face encounters and constant contact. Random interactions didn't just “happen” anymore; It had to be scheduled, and even the best of friends couldn't make it work. Some people were able to travel—some of us were braver in the face of the pandemic, whilst others just couldn’t risk the exposure.
You see, when you are working and constantly on the move, things don't bother you as much—they don't get a moment to seep in. Not only can you smell the roses, but you also are around long enough to catch a whiff of the fertilizer that helps those roses grow. I got back in touch with my real, personal feelings and created art in support of social justice and political awareness to help shine more light on the things that are clearly wrong with this world we call home.
I'm very aware that this piece has been a bit personal, however from the countless conversations I have had with my fellow creators from my current home in Brockton to my former home Saint Lucia in the West Indies, it's the same. As a black father of Afro Caribbean descent, I am not just being told that we have to “Coexist with Covid”, we must also coexist with brutality and with loss. It’s encouraging to see how far we have actually come, how much we have changed and how we are all growing (sourdough anyone?).
Many of us have launched new businesses, taken our art online and are more empowered to stand on our own. I am overwhelmingly grateful for that. Some of us have used technology to strengthen our bonds with more consistent communication, and have eliminated the invisible boundaries that may have hindered these bonds in the past.
One thing that is consistent is that we all value TIME more than we ever had, and that's a great thing. We are now more aware that the best time to do something is whilst you still have the breath of life to do it and for that I am truly grateful. Get out there, and don't just Coexist—keep existing, keep dreaming and keep pressing on. You are inspiring someone, and you don't even know it.
—Sherwinn “Dupes” Brice
This piece was made possible through the Boston Arts and Culture Covid-19 Relief Fund. Thank you for supporting our local writers and creators!