by: Hannah Klemmensen, Alexandra Le, Shalini Murugavel, Michelle Raitman & Subathra Sivapalan
A Summary of “Untold Stories of Civil Society – Unifying Communities Across the Globe” by Kibati Femi-Johnson
Civil society is the third aspect of our communities; the other two being businesses and the government. There is often much talk about the other two sectors, understandably, but there is not as much public acknowledgement of civil society. These “untold stories” highlight the impact that we, as citizens, can have on one another. Most recently, as of 2020-2021, the pandemic gives us an opportunity to shift our focus from global-scale intervention, and ask ourselves how we can intervene in the lives of those immediately around us.
This poem represents the personal experiences of someone’s neighbour, cousin or school teacher. Although not intended to be specific to any individual person, it is somehow relatable to us all; thereby reinforcing the notion that we are more similar than we may recognize. The poem aims to remind us that our relationships, which we would normally engage in on a daily basis, can persist even in these “unprecedented times”, and in fact, be strengthened by them. As the poem details the problems that so many around the world are currently facing, the very end provides a breath of fresh air: reminding us that we are responsible for the change we want to see in our own communities.
Disruptive in every way.
Anxious, and surprised.
We desperately await
the day we may breathe again.
Online, we communicate,
Our relationships made mute
By our connections running unstable.
Offline, the word is “essential”,
Community no longer exists
And neither do hugs nor visits.
Governments were not ready,
Families wish they had more time
To learn how to improvise.
Outside, the air is thick pulp,
We are victim to the illusion of intimacy
Filled with confusion and conspiracy.
Inside, the world is four walls,
We escape six feet but
Cook where we learn, study where we sleep.
Some are Home Alone,
Separated at Christmas, children write
“See Granny again” on their wish lists.
The mind struggles to remain healthy,
Chopped, screwed, and
Scratched, the state of our memories.
Unable to create new ones,
How shall they remember
What it means to be a family member?
Others in society are forgotten,
It’s hard to imagine
How they are left at the margin.
What are stay-at-home orders to the homeless?
If the streets are unsafe
Then where shall they stay?
What are hospital bills to the elderly?
A retiree forced into
What are vaccines to the disabled?
Disproportional priorities improperly
Placed by superintendent authorities.
What are the dying to the medics?
Rooms filled with doctorates
Are now filling with corpses.
But out of this pain, something still grows,
Grassroots organizations, our direct supply
Of blessings for humanity, we will somehow survive.
Providing masks and ventilation, food or funds,
These are our facilities for change
Keeping our communities with aid.
The faults in our systems are unearthed,
Together we stand in solidarity
To work against ravaging disparities.
As international borders are closed,
Some have no means to transport
Food to the landlocked.
Because local hospitals are better than others,
It is more and more difficult to ignore
The lack of access to healthcare for the Indigenous.
Leaving us internationally connected
But also, racially divided.
Days seem to be going on longer and longer, lasting forever,
We are desperate for normalcy
Craving an end to this dormancy,
Do you now see the inequities?
The seesaws in the playground
Our creation of the clay we found.
They’ve always existed, and they’ve always been
Blind to the naked eye, hidden and unseen.
In these unprecedented times, now our responsibility.
A poem by Kibati Femi-Johnson.