Tracy Johnke

One Friday in March, my boss suggested that I try to work from home on the following Monday. We knew that coronavirus restrictions were coming, but not when. I thought I would return on Tuesday so I left my raincoat at work. It had turned into a warm sunny day and I didn’t feel like lugging it home on the bus.

My raincoat is still in my office. I haven’t been back there since, and it has been that way for thousands of office workers and school kids in Washington, DC since March 13th. My son spent the last two months of sixth grade in remote learning. Seventh grade has continued in the same way, with no end in sight. The eighth graders at my son’s school usually travel to France, Spain or China for two weeks in the spring depending on the language they are learning. The class did not get to do that this year, and the trips will likely be canceled next year. Students are missing out on graduation ceremonies and other rites of passage, too.

Older students this year, however, have participated in another rite of passage – as protesters and protest leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement. The death of George Floyd in police custody in late May spurred protests across the U.S. two weeks later. Soon, there were protests in DC on a daily basis. Since the DC school year ended early due to the pandemic, high school students had a lot of time to organize, to show up, and to lend their voices to the protests. Young and mostly Black people have risen to the occasion.

My family is among the lucky ones. We are able to work and learn at home when many are not. We have been healthy. We enjoy spending more time together, and that is a good thing, since we are three people in a small two-bedroom apartment. We take long walks and have explored everything in our neighborhood and the surrounding area. One thing we discovered is that the highest natural point in DC is a ten-minute walk away!