Alexis Jade Ferguson

 

Alexis Jade Ferguson is a sophomore in the SFS majoring in CULP, with a focus on Criminal Justice and Racial & Gender Equity. She is originally from San Diego, California and spends her free time writing poetry and performing spoken word about her experiences with marginalized identities and oppression. She is a proud queer, black, native, and Filipino-American woman passionate about cultivating the power that art has in communicating organic human experiences and raw emotions. 

About my collection

"The Ocean is Angry" focuses on the waves of pain that have come crashing down on societies, in light of the ongoing pandemic. "The Broken System"  more closely depicts some of the systemic issues connected to the global health crisis and the power that hope has in maintaining sanity during this troubling time. Both collections feature particularly significant words, phrases, images, and excerpts from various media sources covering COVID-19 as well as the work of different poets and some of Jade's own poetry throughout the pieces. She hopes both individuals and communities can unearth a sense of meaning amidst the chaos and isolation as well as more adamantly examine the devastating institutional prejudices that are associated with suffering, displacement, and loss. 

 
 
 
 
 

March 15, 2020

Sunday

8:42 pm PST

 

I just arrived in San Diego, after an 8 hour flight from DC and 6 hours of packing up all of my college furniture into 7 large luggages. The last few days have been a whirlwind of emotions, like a never-ending drop on a roller coaster. First, Georgetown switched to a virtual learning environment for the entirety of the semester and now, they are kicking me out of my dorm room. I left California for a reason and now, I’m back in a household consumed by homophobia and racism. That being said, I don’t know how I am going to move forward emotionally and socially within the next few months. Every day, I have a panic attack and every day, the amount of COVID-19 cases on the news increases. A pastor in my friend’s neighborhood in Seattle just died from the virus and a student at San Diego State University recently tested positive. I am surrounded by the faces of people I do not know--on buses and trains, in grocery stores, and on airplanes--every single face seems to be fraught with the same sentiment of fear and anxiety about the weeks to come. It’s as if there is a palpable tension enveloping the air and if someone so much as coughs or sneezes, a wave of frowns and sideways glances arises and the allegedly “sick person” is subsequently susceptible to an immense amount of ridicule.

On my plane flight from Atlanta, Georgia to San Diego, a nice older man, who only had the flu, was scared that if he so much as coughed, people were not going to want to sit next to him on the plane. It’s sad how incredibly distant I feel from the people around me. Yet the true irony lies in the idea that we are all connected to one another in our common culture of distress and paranoia. I didn’t realize until now, how much I crave human touch and physical connection as signs of my love and affection for my friends and family--people I can no longer hold hands with or hug because I’m scared I will get them sick. My mom is even forcing me to self-quarantine for 14 days before I visit my grandparents--my best friends--because she is fearful that at their age (78), they will not be able to recover if they catch the virus.

I guess the real question I should be asking myself is not “will I get sick” but rather, “how do I make sure I do not get others sick?” We are all carrying an inherent social responsibility to protect one another, but how can you tell a child not to visit her dying mother or an elderly husband not to visit his sick wife in her rest home? How do you tell people to distance themselves from the people they love in order to keep others safe? I’m afraid of my grandparents catching the virus, but I am also afraid that too much social distancing and forcing them to stay in their house to protect them from a contagious world, will only drive them insane? My grandpa will no longer be able to do his daily gardening or go fishing; my grandma won’t be able to visit Paris or anywhere else she wants to go with all the money she has saved up for a trip--these are the things they live for. And, when these things are taken away, will they even have the will to carry on? My grandparents only have a few years left and I’d hate for them to spend it locked behind the 4 walls of the same house ...

March 16, 2020

Monday

1:46 pm PST

 

            Adjusting to a new environment at home has been incredibly difficult, seeing as my mother will barely let me leave the house. I am fearful that she is going to catch the virus because she is a nurse who works 12-hour shifts at the hospital. My mom was working 2 jobs to help pay for college, but now, one of the clinics she was working at shut down all non-essential surgeries due to the virus, so she can no longer work there as much. On one hand, I am selfishly happy that she won’t have to be in close contact with more sick people, but on the other hand, I understand that she is losing a large portion of one of her primary sources of income. Truthfully, it just goes to show how fragile the system really is and how our societies are not adequately equipped to handle a disastrous pandemic. Income inequalities and the increasing racialization of poverty are inherent products of a corrupt scientific-military industrial complex that has been pervasively supported by xenophobic rhetoric in the media.

Before Goergetown sent its students home, I had visited the Student Health Center on campus for a really bad cold and my doctor told me that a girl had recently come in because she was being bullied for having visited China and she was scared that she might have the virus even though she was not feeling sick. I believe she was fine, but it is vividly depressing to hear that people have turned their fear and anxieties into racism and unwarranted prejudice against their own peers. As I continue to watch the news from my bedroom, I can see how vicious and vindictive people truly are. The media fails to put into perspective the things that truly matter and despite our entire world facing a common threat, rising anxieties have only further deepened the chasm and sociopolitical divisions between cultures, communities and families. Everyone is just trying to cope and go on with their lives without seeking systemic change and without taking a step back and looking at the oppressive institutions that have fueled chaos.

I.C.E. still conducts its dehumanizing practices; now, it merely includes officers wearing face masks and gloves when forcing people out of their homes and pushing them into concentration camps at the border. The fascist BJP still terrorizes and murders innocent people. Australia is still in flames. Climate change is still ravaging the globe. The concerted and relatively coordinated efforts of politicians and the Trump administration to direct millions of dollars to fight COVID-19 serve as testaments to the idea that people only care about the issues that affect them. If the bourgeoisie truly cared about helping people other than themselves, the classist and racist institutions that govern our societies probably wouldn’t be as severe...It’s beautiful how people can come together to fight a pandemic and preach performative rhetoric about empathy and kindness, but when the flames settle or the virus is subdued, people will go back to their normal, indifferent lives and will refuse to help those who are dying from the very institutions they support.

 

March 17, 2020

Tuesday

11:37 am PST

My mom refuses to get tested, but she is surrounded by sick patients every single day. A person recently tested positive for coronavirus at the hospital she works at and I’m worried she is going to get sick if she treats the patient. I do not want to be selfish and take my mom away from her work, but just thinking of her in pain makes my blood boil. I want her to be safe. I want both of my parents to be safe. I want my little sister to be safe. I want my GRANDPARENTS to be safe. I even want my dog to be safe. I can’t tell whether I am blowing this pandemic way out of proportion, like my mom tells me I am, but I can’t help it if I am scared...not just of death but of losing the ones that I love. The media keeps shoving bad news after bad news down my throat and I don’t know if I can cope with it. My friends who were kicked out of their dorms are going back to broken homes, with abusive parents, and they are in so much pain. I cannot bear to watch their pain unfold over social media anymore. The irony about social distancing and loneliness is that we all feel alone at the same time. It’s like we are together facing a common pain. I guess I didn’t realize how much I crave human touch until I couldn’t have it anymore. I miss my friends. I miss school. I miss DC. I miss...I miss...I miss the life I had started for myself on the east coast. I left home for a reason and now, I am being forced to live in a home where I feel like I am suffocating from the dead air. I’m lucky to have a mom who cares about me and financially supports me, but I left the nest for a reason. And now, it feels as though my wings have been cut off...

 

March 18, 2020

Wednesday

11:36 PM PST

 

            It’s funny how people always say “one day, everything was normal and then the next, everything fell apart” as if society hasn’t already been falling apart. Yes, COVID-19 is a threat to everyone around the world, but at the same time, it’s mind-boggling and frustrating how millionaires can, in such a short time frame, fund research and services for a pandemic but refuse to help mitigate other crises (extreme poverty, pollution & climate change, the school to prison pipeline, etc.). People truly only care when it affects them and it disgusts me so much. All these rich white girls on Instagram keep complaining about “getting evicted” and not being able to show off their summer tan at Georgetown when they are literally sitting on a beach in Cancun sipping on martinis and baking in the sun. This pandemic is really exposing people’s true colors. I understand that people use humor and sarcasm, especially on social media, to cope with this troubling time, but it frustrates me when privileged students try to monopolize narratives of oppression. These girls will never know what it is like to be a black or brown homeless student displaced by the virus. Everyone’s struggles are valid, but by equalizing the privileged experiences of others to the hardships and marginalization faced by vulnerable minority communities, people are only perpetuating systems of oppression and clouding the vision around crises that continue to go unnoticed.

 

March 19, 2020

Thursday

5:15 PM

 

I think I might be going slightly crazy. I was doing fine this morning until I called my father. All he could talk about was COVID-19. I mean, I can’t blame him, right? I just hate that the virus has to make up 70% of my conversations in a day. All my dad could say was how scared everyone around him was--how people are dying and suffering and how the pandemic could possibly be worse than 9/11 with regards to how influential it has been on public perception and anxieties. I know I’m young and the chances of me catching the virus and dying from it are low, but pathos can quickly be stirred when people constantly shove credible yet brutal statistics down your throat. And, today, may have been the worst...

 The governor announced that the entire state of California is now on quarantine, meaning everyone (except for licensed emergency medical care professionals or other essential service workers) has to stay at home unless they are picking up food or going to a doctor’s appointment. The bitter irony of this all is that there is a likelihood that if you want to get tested for the virus and thus need to go to a medical care center, you may catch COVID-19 WHILE WAITING TO BE TESTED. People around me are scared to even go to the ER, for they might catch it from one of the patients in the waiting room. Everyone is scared. And everyone has turned cold, mean, rude, in dire distress...it’s as if everyone is just trying to hold their breath amidst the chaos. If you so much as exhale and let off your guard, you could potentially put yourself and others in danger. But, being at home, especially by yourself, is so incredibly depressing. I sit in my bed, watching the news and reading about death after death after death and I can’t seem to wrap my head around all the pain.

My mom was assigned as an essential care worker at the local hospital while workers who have been with the hospital for a shorter time were laid off. Since my mother has 25 years of experience in the intensive care unit (ICU), she is possibly going to be the one to treat the patients with corona. It’s frightening to think that my mom’s life is in imminent danger every single day and how one’s professional experience is being exploited. The hospital is working my mother too hard--she has worked 12 hour shifts for 5 days in a row. I don’t know how much longer she can take. The physical and emotional labor are heightened by the tense, politicized climate that we now inhabit. I just hope she can take a break...before she breaks...

 

March 20, 2020

Friday

9:32 PM

 

            There is talk in my neighborhood that the national guard will be coming to San Diego. A couple of my mom’s friends have already been stopped by the police, asking them to show their hospital work IDs to prove that they are essential service workers. It scares me because as a black woman, I already have to be extra careful around law enforcement, which are naturally suspicious and prone to racial biases. And, now that the pandemic has hit, I have to be weary of the rising probability that I will encounter the police and such encounters will likely not be amiable. I’m fearful of many things, but more than anything, I am fearful of being a victim of a hate crime.

This pandemic has really exposed people’s true colors, colors that can be both beautiful and ugly at the same time. The amount of animosity and privilege being showcased through social media is truly abysmal. There is a new trend going around where millennials record videos of themselves trying to balance a roll of toilet paper on their toes instead of a soccer ball. Once they are done, people may THROW AWAY the entire roll of toilet paper and then they just tag a long list of friends to make the same videos. It is absolutely disgusting that even my own classmates are engaging in this wasteful behavior. I read somewhere that the environment has become much more cleaner since COVID-19 broke out because less people are driving cars and going to crowded places where they can pollute and damage their surroundings.

But, the truth of the matter is that no matter how dire this situation has become and no matter how many evil systems of oppression and cracks in societal systems are exposed, once COVID-19 dies out, people will go back to their normal polluting behaviors. These behaviors have become so ingrained in our ways of living that polluting and other hazardous activities are like breathing--subconscious, almost involuntary behaviors that govern our everyday lives. We will go back to supporting and perpetuating unequal distributions of income, political representation and social networks. We will go back to oppressing the very people we tried to convince to participate in social distancing in the first place so as to not get US* sick. We are too selfish. When we say “stay at home,” we do not have others’ safety in mind--subconsciously, we only have our own. So, I do not agree when people say that COVID-19 has brought people together and encouraged empathy. It has not. If anything, it has exposed evils that have been brewing for centuries--evils that we just now, bother noticing.

 

March 21, 2020

Saturday

7:43 pm

 

            People keep calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.” Racism is real. Xenophobia is real. No one blamed the Europeans when they brought the bubonic plague and viciously utilized biological warfare, such as the “gifting” of blankets and linens contaminated with smallpox, to kill indigenous peoples. It’s horrendous and it’s disgusting, but no one blames the Europeans. No one blames white people for all the pain and suffering they have caused. A white nationalist and fascist could be elected as president and people still wouldn’t care and we know this because other countries look at the U.S. and don’t want to be friends with us. China gave thousands of ventilators and medical supplies to the Italian people but refused to assist the Trump administration in combating the virus. Russia even gave medical resources to the Philippines, but it is certain that they will not be helping selfish, excessively individualistic, indulgent Americans like us. They hate us...and for good reason too. Chinese people are not at fault here. The system which breaks every time a national crisis hits is to blame. And, this system is continuously glorified by the United States and its imperialistic, grossly ambitious president. This pandemic has seriously put my mind into clearer perspective. I don’t blame China. I don’t blame the Chinese people. Gosh, I don’t even blame the bats. I blame society in general. I blame people. I blame myself. If there is any good thing about social distancing it’s that I don’t have to interact with humanity because right now, I am drowning in disappointment.

 

March 22, 2020

Sunday

4:26 pm

 

The irony about loneliness is that we all feel alone at the same time. I wrote a poem about COVID-19 below and how happy news feels like a distant memory:

 

The Epidemic

By Alexis Jade Ferguson

 

My life is a series of badly written songs--a string of words carelessly patched together like loose bandaids suspended from the hair on my skin. Songs about death, songs about disease, songs about death and disease are mere casual collections of the deepest, most painful moments of my solitude and distress--moments consumed by a fear of attachment, a fear of losing control. My life is a series of sad songs that never end but are punctuated by fleeting breaths of silence and release--of hands carrying soft musical notes and the haunting whispers of violins in my ears.

 

There are songs that remind me of the months prior--heavy against my eyes and pulsing inside my chest, following me everywhere I go as I recount the moments of falling, of rising and falling again...songs about mistakes, and regrets, and “could haves” and “could have nots” and “did do” and “didn’t do.” There are songs about friends and family--about everything beautifully temporary in between...I want to live through happy music but tell me why I can only remember the sad songs and sad notes and sad breaths and sad noises and sad conversations at the dinner table banging against my head--bitter sounds that never end. I hear the crazed buzz of the television bleeding in my ears and the screams of separation, control, and containment...songs that scream panic and whisper my anxieties into existence.

I don’t remember the last time I’ve understood a happy song...I hear it in my head and feel it in my footsteps and carry it in my arms but can never hold on to their hands...I’m always letting go of the moments that make me smile, laugh, escape my sorrow--the moments that matter the most. Because my life is a series of badly written songs, stumbling through a narrative written on shattered ground and breaking promises like burnt paper catching the wind...my life is a sad song that never ends, that cuts through the silence like a cello weeping alone in the darkness as the death toll rises. Because I hear music in the deep pits of my depression and my fear of death, carelessly pasted together collections of songs that cry tears and spill notes into my palms like holy water kissing the edges of mashed play dough crumbling between my fingertips. The artistry of my sadness is so beautiful yet so haunting because I hear sad songs, I hear sad songs, I hear sad songs...until my sadness becomes so loud even the music wants to leave me in silence.

 

The Ocean is Angry

 

Broken System

 

© 2020 Dr. Ananya Chakravarti

Thanks to Rajeev Kozhikattuthodi for his help in building this website.

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