The New York Times
The New York Times 20 May 2020

How Covid-19 Derailed a New York Dream


Najee Wilson is a 32-year-old artist's muse who is quarantining alone in Crown Heights. Unable to work or see his friends, his video diary documents what it means to find a new virtual community while organizing a rent strike.

CGTN's Rachelle Akuffo spoke with Krishna Subramanian about how COVID-19 is impacting social media influencers. Krishna is a Co-founder of Captiv8.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta highlights how Covid-19 is baffling doctors, seemingly triggering a number of health issues and mysterious symptoms all over the body.
CGTN's Rachelle Akuffo speaks with Peter Goggi, the President of the Tea Association of the USA on how COVID-19 is impacting the globe's tea supply.
Gov. Cuomo made it clear that flattening the curve is at risk if the community doesn't stick to the guidelines.

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“Beautiful Saturday sun, I love this.
It’s starting to feel like summer
again, waking up with the sun.
This feels amazing.
My name is Najee Wilson.
I’m originally from Charleston, S.C.,
but I currently live in Brooklyn, N.Y.,
in the neighborhood of Crown Heights.
I’m quarantining with me, myself and I.
I moved to New York because New York is the city of dreams.
I work as a fine art muse.
So that means that I’m lending inspiration
to artists for their work.
It’s hard to maintain a practice where
it is very much reliant on being
in the same space, breathing the same air.
There is an exchange that’s happening.
There is a connection between the artist and the muse.
Technology just really lacks a lot of intimacy.
And the intimacy that you get of being in the same room
with someone is unmatchable.
When Covid hit, all my work got canceled.
I have already been late on several bills.
Now at this point, I’m just totally in the hole,
and at a deficit.
As far as paying rent, I don’t have a lot of cushion.
As an artist, I don’t have a lot of savings.
And, yes, that is my fault to a degree,
but I could never have foreseen something like this.
The pledge to try to get rent canceled
isn’t something that’s just happening in Brooklyn.
It’s happening throughout the rest of America
because without work, there is no money.
And without money, there is no rent.
I decided to become involved with H.O.P.E.
That means Housing Organizers for People Empowerment.
And It has been really comforting to know
that I’m not the only one going through this struggle.”
“Hi, everyone.
This is H.O.P.E.’s first virtual meeting.
We’re going to be talking about our campaign
to cancel rent.”
“When Covid hit, we were ready to get the government
to pass a moratorium to help with the rent.”
“The governor right now has an extraordinary amount
of power because he’s declared
a state of emergency.
We believe that he has the authority and the power
legally to cancel rent.”
“I think we’re all just going down
a very slippery slope here, because I mean,
nobody’s working.
Everything stopped.
Everything’s closed.
So let’s just say this continues for another two
months — right now I’m not working —
and there’s going to be nothing left.
The thing that I miss most about life pre-coronavirus
is freedom — freedom to hug a friend
and not feel like maybe I’m going to contract something.
I’ve been having very solitary, quiet days.
Sometimes, I won’t speak for an entire 24-hour period,
and then some days I’m on the phone
for seven hours straight with different friends.”
“I think for myself the first thing I needed to figure
was unemployment.”
“Did, you know, get through the website?
Because as far as I was concerned,
I thought it was like a tragedy and impossible.
I didn’t even know if it was going to work.”
“There’s some people who haven’t gotten through yet,
and we’re in May.”
“Sometimes all you can do is just breathe through it.
Sleepless nights have been happening to me.
I was sleeping so well before this.
And now I find myself being very restless.
It’s like around midnight,
and I still am not tired.
I’ve been so awake lately, awake
when I need to be asleep and asleep when
I need to be awake.
So I’m going to read, continue reading here.
There’s literally like nobody outside on the street —
as I roll through this intersection.
Eastern Parkway would normally be
a bustling promenade of people walking, running,
biking, families, maybe dominoes being played,
just all sorts of life happening.
And now that’s all stopped.
It just really doesn’t even feel like I live
in New York anymore.
So many opportunities I’ve had have come out
of simply being in New York, and being
open to the experiences that come.
I told myself that in August, if things are not
somewhat normal, I may move back to South Carolina,
but we’ll see.
This quarantine hasn’t been easy,
but what I can do right now is focus on being present.
I’m living for today.”

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