I’m a high school student currently residing in Newark, New Jersey, an incredibly hard-hit area of the nation in terms of COVID. I am passionate about my studies, and understanding the world around me through different lenses and perspectives. I’ve been fortunate to switch between many different schools in my life— a Newark public school that no one would willingly want to send their kids to, and one of the most prestigious high schools in the country.
Having lived in Newark for a long time, it strikes me, especially during times like these, how far people are willing to go for themselves and their families. Living in a low-income community in regular times, you are forced to do a lot of things already— such as diligently working day and night. The stress and sacrifice that is required of families in my city right now is only heightening this work. I am lucky enough to not have an entire family to look after, because I am an only child. However, I have seen the way various larger immigrant families in my apartment complex have been affected by COVID, especially having to deal with numerous financial constraints. I know someone in my community who has been devastated so deeply by the virus’s economic consequences that they have been driven to commit suicide.
It’s pretty evident that politics can be easily brought into discussions about the virus— like addressing the controversy behind lockdowns and how long they should be in effect for. As someone living in a low-income community such as this one, one with such a diverse mix of cultures and ideas and people that thrives so deeply on small family-owned businesses, I typically give a very different response to those of my peers who hail from more privileged areas in the nation. I wholeheartedly believe the lockdowns are doing more harm than good. My father currently works for a ridesharing company (Lyft, Uber, etc.) and is dependent on such to support our family. For a period of time, he was able to return to work, and that news was the happiest of our lives. He is currently hoping to be able to return to the job as soon as possible, and I know he is not alone in this struggle. People in Newark need to start going back to their lives to be able to pay their rent or mortgage and feed their families.
There are so many small businesses that are so integral to community life here, deeply woven into the fabric of our society and contributing immensely to the culturally rich place that Newark is. They bring together people from nations all over the world and provide cultural safe havens for certain immigrant families. It has broken my heart to watch certain businesses close down in the rise of this pandemic, and I am certain that I will see more of my favorite childhood diners being negatively impacted by the coronavirus soon.
As of right now, Essex County has seen more than 1,600 deaths from the virus. It has been devastating to see the struggles of neighbors and family friends, and difficult holding onto the hope of being able to return to work. Sometimes it can be frustrating, having people not understand the urgency that certain families feel to return to their normal lives. However, in the past couple months, I’ve learned a lot about patience and grace and that steadfast hope is required for us to get through this virus. I can’t wait until things begin to shift away from chaos again, and I can’t wait to get back to school.
Written by: Lily Zeng