How we live

Justice and Joy for Black Lives outside my Brooklyn window

“Black Lives Matter” echoed outside my window afternoon into dusk every day this summer. My view overlooked Flatbush Avenue on Bergen and Dean sharing blocks with the Barclay Center and Police Precinct 78th in Brooklyn. It was the initial epicenter of the peaceful protests in New York and my second year in NYC.

Before the George Floyd was brutally killed on May 25, 2020, streets were in a silent war with Coronavirus.

Silent streets, erupted

Busy avenues were uncomfortably desolate during lockdown. I wouldn’t leave my studio for days or weeks at a time. We didn’t know the virus was airborne and washing groceries was futile. All I heard was the echo of the Bergen Street Subway underground and ambulances speeding to overwhelmed hospitals to with COVID-19 patients.

Then, like whiplash the streets filled and virus was secondary.

Days after George Floyd’s murder, before protest in New York I was on a stressful visit to my bodega that allowed for 2-feet of distance at most. With shock and whiplash, I found hoards of people in protest against police at the Barclay Center. I positioned myself between two police cars, where I could get some amount of social distance to have an internal conversation with myself about what cause was worth risking Coronavirus. Black Lives Matters, yes, of course.

New to New York City, my personal comfort with the NYPD waned. I came home and was horrified I was only feet away from horrific brutality:

Much later, we did learn peaceful, masked, protesting did not significantly contribute to the spread of Coronavirus. But wih the nation on fire, I could not leave my apartment without facing 30+ unmasked Police and having to show ID to enter my block. Seeing police actively step on the gas, into pedestrians with my own eyes shifted something deeper inside me.

The protests continued. The virus continued. Living on Flatbush, continued.

Every single peaceful protest was needed and warranted. But in my studio apartment, during a performance review or design critique, I really wished I too had a cabin upstate or an easy way to escape to the suburbs. Just some quiet and relief for my nervous system. Every visit to the grocery store or walking call with my therapist was also a short march in a protest.

Only later could I appreciate the front seat and ease to participate in history in the making.

As autumn turned and friends returned to New York City, they questioned why I would stay here all summer. And now, I cannot imagine having been anywhere else. The city too, came alive, together.

Summer of Joy and Community

I believe Black Trans Lives matter and I know Black Trans Lives are a central community and arts in New York City.

“It was so big, it was impossible to tell from the ground what we had created” – @SarahMilstein, a friend and leader I look up to.

I was comforted, relieved, and felt connected to see people from my music world out marching. And especially Fran Tirado, who I got to know with when he visited Mailchimp in Atlanta, a keynote speaker at the Black Trans Lives Matter march, and collaborator on underground music events I attend in Bushwick.

Summer of Music and Justice

There was so, much, dancing this summer. I went from prancing around my studio to Honey Dijon in my apartment with visiting-cat Jeffy, to in the streets of Clinton Hill with my now neighbors.

After so many months of lockdown, we felt our bodies come alive. I was afraid I forgot how to hug, kiss, move, and play. But at the first sound of a bass, my body knew what to do and I met new and old friends again on the stoops and dance floor.

And lest you not forget Black Trans queens were voguing long before Madonna. Disco, that influenced house, influenced something you dance to, also started with Black Trans artists as tastemakers at the center. Many, who we lost from AIDS, from the biggest epidemic in American history.

We were in it

I waited to write this post.

New York City was like a cinematic sonic boom. Silent and then fully erupted.

We never got justice for the endless souls who were and will be innocently murdered for being Black. We might never. I feel the progress was incremental as best. And we’re still in it. Children hundreds of years from now will read a line in a text book, maybe a paragraph, about this summer and hopefully find our whole way of being, disorientingly archaic and backwards.

I waited to write this post because my voice was not the most important, then. It wasn’t safe to share where I lived. And I was in it. As I pack my Konmari books and gorgeous framed photo of Indya Moore, I am enthusiastic to sign a new lease in New York City. A place that has made it so easy to call home, especially this summer, and especially because of the people who stayed.

Nina Mehta is a writer and product design leader in Brooklyn, New York. She began her design career in journalism and has been writing online for 20+ years. Nina is from outside Chicago and has since lived and worked in San Francisco, Berlin, London, and Tokyo. Learn about Nina at ninamehta.com.