Friday, January 8, 2021

All of the Praise


I was startled to discover I had overslept this morning. Sleep hasn’t been much in my regular repertoire lately. 

The story of Crystal Hardy-Flowers has been on my mind this week, for a number of reasons. You may have run across her Baltimore Sun obituary already. If not, here it is:

Crystal Hardy-Flowers, social worker and child care provider in Sandtown-Winchester, dies of COVID-19 complications , Jacques Kelly and Hallie Miller, Baltimore Sun

Her passing also inspired this piece:

COVID takes an unsung hero from Baltimore, Commentary, Andrea K. McDaniels of the Baltimore Sun Editorial Board 

Ms. Hardy-Flowers is being remembered as a hero, and she was. We can read her story and say, “wasn’t she wonderful?” And, “Is’t that sad?” But then we go on living our lives as before.

There’s so much in her story that should reach out and grab us. 

I immediately thought of the recent Horizon Foundation initiative that clearly outlines how healthcare outcomes for Black and Brown Americans are significantly lower than those for whites. Ms. Hardy-Flowers had COPD, an incurable, chronic condition which put her in an extremely high risk for the worst possible outcomes should she contract COVID.

She worked in childcare, a notoriously low-paying field. (Also a place where one is exposed to every germ one might imagine.) She worked in a poor neighborhood where the parents who used her services very likely had no choice but to work in jobs where they, too, were at risk of COVID exposure every day. 

In the commentary piece you see Ms. Hardy-Flowers advocating for social-emotional learning and what looks a lot like preschool Restorative Justice to meet the needs of young chiidren whose lives are already scarred by trauma. 

She lived in Sandtown-Winchester, an area of Baltimore which some of us know only because of Freddie Gray and the Baltimore Uprising. Those with deeper Columbia roots also know that Rouse invested a huge amount of money there with little success.

The other day I wrote this sentence about Georgia’s Stacey Abrams, but I think it also belongs here as well.

Yes, Stacey Abrams deserves all of the praise we have for her today. But keep your superhero analogies. Maybe we could grant to her and to all Black Americans the humanity we grant to ourselves.

Crystal Hardy-Flowers deserves all of the praise we have for her. But her story, and that of her neighborhood and her young and vulnerable students, would be be remarkably different if we decided to grant to her and to all Black Americans the humanity we grant to ourselves.

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