This post was written by Contributing Author Mariama Khan, an adjunct lecturer at Lehman College.
On March 23, 2021, I participated in the “Transformative Learning in the Humanities” workshop on “Teaching Africana Women’s Responses to the Covid-19 Crisis,” under the theme “Ubuntu Pedagogy in Pandemic Times.” The workshop was chaired by Professor Bertrade Ngo-Ngijol-Banoum, chair, Africana Studies Department, Lehman College. Her discussion on the Ubuntu Pedagogy framework was followed by my presentation on dome-ndeye and badenya, Wollof and Mandinka concepts on interpersonal and communal solidarity. The two concepts were useful to how I personally responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some Lehman College students also made presentations during the workshop.
I thought teaching Africana women’s responses to the Covid-19 crisis can be usefully done through experiential learning. What that meant for me was to reflect on my pre-Covid-19 experiences in America vis-à-vis how I responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. As an immigrant, I will forever cherish the extraordinary kindness and generosity I have enjoyed in America from both people I knew and complete strangers. Without any exaggeration, I can write a whole book about the greatness of American compassion and kindness.
However, as a single parent, by the time Covid-19 started, I experienced a series of unfathomable crisis with my two sons. I list some of the experiences to highlight their severity.
They include unknown intruder(s) coming to our place and ransacking it while we were at school.
My older son was taken to a laundromat where a man he was seeing for the first time, came and started punching him on the face, badly injuring him. A taxi-driver who was arranged to pick-me up intentionally sped and ramped his car into other cars in the traffic. Thank God I survived that accident. My younger son was also robbed at the train station. Some person or persons submitted fraudulent applications in my name at the NYC HRA and the US Department of Homeland Security. There was also manipulated gas leaks in my apartment. Unbelievably, two police detectives came to my apartment to search if I had a gun based on information they received. I thought I was having a nightmare as they spoke to me. They searched, found nothing and left.
The Covid-19 pandemic found me navigating through unfathomable crisis upon crisis. It brought an additional uneasy layer to the sense of incomprehension I have been having. But more importantly, it heightened my awareness that there is a need to follow to the best of my abilities, expert advice on the pandemic, and to seek and share information on it. It reinforced my sense about the importance of family even if separated by many thousands and thousands of miles. The pandemic helped me to engage in deep introspection which has reinforced new ways of understanding the world, my purpose in it and the divine duty to love, care for and have genuine compassion towards other human beings even as I go through my own personal struggles, alone, but under God’s full watch. I went through the pandemic, like my crises, appreciating prayers, thoughtfulness, goodwill and good-faith.
Mariama Khan is an adjunct lecturer at Lehman College Africana Studies Department. She is a Gambian scholar, poet, filmmaker and an advocate of culture. She is the author of The Gambia-Senegal Border, Issues in Regional Integration.