I remember being a kid. I remember being a kid in school sitting on one side of the classroom, and straining to hear the teacher standing on the other side. I remember times that I would try to answer a question or offer an opinion, only to be interrupted with requests like, “We can’t hear you. Can you speak up?” I also remember being a kid growing up in my mother’s house. In our family culture, there was no getting up and walking down the hall to communicate. Instead, it was nothing to hear Mama yell, “Nikki!” to which I would yell back, “Yes, ma’am?”  Those were not exchanges of anger or disrespect. Rather, they were quick, convenient (albeit startling to unfamiliar with the culture) fixes to the problem of too much distance between us to hear one another. Needless to say, I have come to understand and respect the art of “raising my voice” to ensure that others hear me, and hear me clearly. I am eternally grateful, particularly now, that these simple experiences in my upbringing taught me the necessity of being just a little bit louder.

We have been warned, begged, and (in some instances) threatened to put distance between us to flatten the curve on the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing has become a necessary weapon against the damage that this virus causes. While the intervention isn’t perfect (no medical intervention is), right now it is the best chance we’ve got at containing sickness so that our healthcare systems can help us fight it. And while this pandemic is certainly nothing to take lightly (please follow the recommendations of organizations like the CDC and World Health Organization), the impact of having so much space between us may include negative effects on our sense of community and togetherness.  If we don’t raise our voices toward each other, we will lose our ability to hear one another’s hearts. We will create much more than social distance if we don’t make extra, innovative, and maybe even inconvenient efforts to ensure that those away from us can hear us when we say: “I love you. How are you? I care about you. We will make it through this together, no matter how far apart we are.” Without getting louder, without tackling the problem of less proximity by adding more volume, we will create void. We will create emptiness. We will create hopelessness.

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Join me in making a commitment to get loud. Join me in speaking up to neighbors and elders and friends and “frenemies.” Why? Because it’s going to take all of us yelling to each other messages of hope and healing and strength to overcome this pandemic. Join me in my determination to overcome social distance, and COVID-19, with louder love.