By Joe Landsberger
From 1968 to 1971 I was witness to death and near-death experiences in West Africa that prepared me for what was to become.
What came was AIDS. While my fellow Americans shunned the dying, the gay community and their allies communicated, organized and even protested in the crisis. The first order of business was to sit bedside thousands of friends and even strangers who were dying. As medications came on board extending life such as it was, through the Minnesota Aids Project we provided home support services. My first “assignment” died shortly after I began visiting. Over the next several years once a week I visited, cleaned, cooked, did laundry for Doug who was isolated in his apartment until he needed institutional care, and died. In the meantime, friends and a previous lover died as well.
Covid 19 is now with us — but there are lessons that can be learned. We need to look out for each other. Now professional care providers sit bedside of the dying with families and friends behind glass shields. We thank but must support and protect those providers. In West End neighborhoods we are blessed with medical and social service agencies with expertise: United Family Medicine, Sholom Senior housing and Assisted Living, Little Sisters of the Poor. Senior residences are at risk. Organizations such as the West Seventh Community Center, the Fort Road Federation, Joseph’s Coat, provide services to our neighbors who often live on an economic and social edge. The West Seventh Business Association networks small businesses in this time of challenge.
While our dysfunctional president spins falsities, it will be up to us to communicate, organize and even protest within our communities and neighborhoods. My first call is to our West End medical facilities, neighborhood organizations, churches, etc. to meet together in order to explore challenges and coordinate their activities in our neighborhoods. My second is to my neighbors to watch for those who may be at risk, or worse, in order to support them within the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and Minnesota State Department of Health Services.* A third might be for us to use our historic ingenuity to face the pandemic. If your Airbnb is now vacant with reduced travel, perhaps you can provide isolation facilities supported by our city? If your church continues to meet, sanitize frequently used surfaces before each weekend. If you miss seeing a neighbor, call.
It has been done before, and so will be again.
By Joe Landsberger