What is the most challenging part of Covid-19/this time in history? 

 

Covid19 has presented us with many challenges but has also gifted us with many unique opportunities to flex our muscles, push ourselves and re-imagine everything we thought we knew and understood. The most challenging aspect of this time however for me is the inability to interact with people the way I was accustomed to. I have always been a people loving individual, I believe in the soothing and in many instances the healing power of physical touch – Covid19 has compromised that greatly. I have seen and benefitted firsthand from the power of a hug or a handshake, from a simple high-five from a total stranger, or something as simple as a smile as I went about my daily endeavors. With the needed and necessary public health and public safety guidelines, much of that has been severely compromised and, in many cases, irradicated. The inability to gather in Sunday and midweek worship and fellowship with my faith community, the inability to celebrated lives and accomplishments, mourn passing and reinforce each other, the curving of social events and gatherings due to guidelines implemented in an effort to control and ultimately wipe out the virus, have proved most challenging about this pandemic. Not only is the pandemic a historic time in our lives, but where we are in this nation’s history with the racial reckoning and the struggle for EQUALITY, EQUITY, FREEDOM AND JUSTICE for the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPoC) and the LGBTQ+ Communities coupled with the struggle to accept, condemn and repent of America’s original sin of White Supremacy and Racism have all made it that more difficult to navigate life’s tumultuous terrains daily.

What has given you strength/ are there any unexpected positives from this time?

Notwithstanding all that I have mentioned before, this time has gifted us with the unique opportunity to get on the right side of history. The unexpected positive from Covid19 for me is the ability to reconnect with my family and get to know my kids as the men and woman they are emerging into. Covid19 gave me an invaluable opportunity to spend quality time with my family, to get back to the basics of who I am as a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an uncle and just a person. I rediscovered the little quirks about myself, I notices how my son’s eyes squint when he laughs or glows when he wins a bet with me. I was gifted with the opportunity to remember why I loved the silly tv shows I liked or noticed how the kid in me leaped with excitement when my favorite cartoon came on. I was gifted the opportunity to sit and have life lesson conversation with my son who turned 18 years old or reinforced my position in my daughter’s life as her best friend. So, while covid19 came with many challenges, it brought with it, precious gifts.

Who do you wear a mask for?

For the first time in my life I wear a mask for me! All my life, as a black boy and now a black man, I have been forced to wear a mask. Whether it is a mask to cover my true emotions, or a mask to cover who I truly – I had to wear a mask. The mask of being a husband, the mask of being a father, a pastor, a community leader, a doctor, or the mask of being a CARIBBEAN MAN! I had to wear masks. I was told that “real men do not cry” so every day I put on the mask of a “real man” and pushed through some of the hardest most devasting events. I was told when I first came to this country that I “was not black enough” that I ‘couldn’t possibly understand what it is like to be a black man in this  country” so I had to put on the mask of a black man to be fully accepted. As a Caribbean man I was told that “real men don’t associate with the LGBTQ+” community so whenever I was among my LGBTQ+ friends I had to wear a mask to not be ostracized and when I return to my country men I had to put on the Caribbean man’s mask. I have been wearing masks all my life because I was forced to do so. Now when I wear a physical mask, I wear it for myself first. I wear is for my health, my protection, my safety, my loved ones. I wear it because I intend to stick around and continue lending my voice, my body and my gifts to the struggle, the fight and the plight of all marginalized communities, so that we can take all the other masks off and show our true beauty, so that our light no longer be dimmed by the masks of oppression and inequality. My favorite quote and mantra say, “our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure; it is our LIGHT not our DARKNESS that most frightens us!” Now when I wear a mask it is so that my LIGHT will keep drowning out the DARKNESS! I wear a mask for me, for my son, for his sons and their sons’ sons. I wear a mask for my mom and her mom, for my father and his father before him, I wear a mask now because I am determined to live, and I am determined to thrive!

I WEAR A MASK FOR US!!!!!

Rev. Dr. Andre K. Bennett

36 years old 

Father of 4 beautiful children, 3 of whom are now legal adults, with two of them serving in the United States Navy.

I am an ordained minister in The American Baptist Churches Of Massachusetts (TABCOM), currently serving as the Pastor of Youth and Young Adults at Zion Baptist Church in Lynn, MA. I am also the Mentor Specialist at Next Step Fund Inc. in Cambridge and a Behavior Consultant by profession. In addition to my occupations, I serve as the President of the Board of Directors for the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), as well as a co-founder and Director of School Culture and Student Support of Equity Lab Community Learning.