For episode fifteen of season two, Tim and Tuesday are excited to introduce you to two members of the Outside Team, Bronagh Gallagher and Sommer Sibilly-Brown. We hear their perspectives, from two different parts of the world, on COVID-19 and talk about how we are not all experiencing this pandemic in the same way.
Together, Tim Merry and Tuesday Ryan-Hart are THE OUTSIDE—systems change and equity facilitators who bring the fresh air necessary to organize movements, organizations, and collaborators forward for progress, surfacing new mindsets for greater participation and shared impact.
2.15 — SHOW NOTES
- Tues: Today on the podcast, we have two Outsiders with us! Welcome, Sommer & Bronagh. Our podcast continues to be about this pandemic. We wanted to talk with some other folks on our team as it has become clear that not all of us are affected in the same way. We’re seeing in the news more and more everyday about how people are disproportionally affected. We thought it might be great to hear from the two of you, who are in very different parts of the world than Tim and I, to hear what’s happening there, what you’re noticing and we can ground this conversation of it’s happening to all of us but it’s not the same for all of us in our own lived experience.
- Tim: I feel this podcast is juxtaposed to a lot of the stuff that turns up on my social media - themes which are like, “now we’re discovering the great equalizer,” “we’re all in this together,” “finally there is a shared human experience”… and we are not all experiencing this the same. And so I think this podcast, is somewhat in response to that.
- Sommer Sibilly-Brown: I live in the St. Croix US Virgin Islands and in my day job, when I am not an Outsider, I run a food systems organization that focuses on food systems change. I live in a predominantly black and brown community and I have the awesome opportunity to work and learn with The Outside and its multiplicity of Outsiders; learning a lot more about equity, complexity science and really how we attack large-scale systems change so I can bring some of that work and that lens here to the Virgin Islands.
- Bronagh Gallagher: Based in Glasgow, Scotland. Been working for The Outside for over 1 year now - involved in prototyping, how to work with complex systems and also in this inquiry with you all around how to make systems change, equity systems change, and not just changing a system for the sake of it and building in old patterns.
- Bronagh: Some of the other work that I am actively involved in is around economic systems change related to climate breakdown and so really finding the parallels with the conversations I’ve been in around that versus where we are now with the pandemic in which a lot of the stuff that we have been arguing for, in order to create a better world for everyone, was completely off the table 3-4 months ago is now suddenly moving from the “politically impossible” to the “politically inevitable.” We’re seeing conversations about universal basic income, we’re seeing massive amounts of money suddenly being available when we were told that they weren’t… so that is really fascinating from a political perspective. The flip side of this is that around us, there is a really horrible virus killing people, it is being massively disruptive to people’s lives. Everyone I know is negotiating huge amounts of personal stress, health stress, family stress, work stress, and it’s such an intensely exhausting moment to be in.
- Bronagh: Sitting in Glasgow, I’m just noticing where the numbers of people testing positive are considerably higher than in comparable areas and really wondering what that means and what that is? There is not a real analysis coming through yet but one thing that Glasgow is well-known for is being the “sick man” of Europe. This is known as the “Glasgow Effect” where the death rate is significantly higher than similar post-industrial cities… so really curious to see if the existing health inequalities will be a part of why we are recording such considerably higher numbers.
- Tues: This feels like it is quite analogous with what’s happening in the US where we’re seeing more COVID-19 deaths among black folks and there are just a few cities who are just starting to track by race; who is being infected and who is dying from COVID. It’s disproportionally black and brown people; black people specifically and it’s because of long-term health disparities. Are you saying that is what’s happening in Glasgow… that the long-term disparities are manifesting through COVID? Can you say more, Bronagh?
- Bronagh: I’m noticing that the numbers in Glasgow are significantly higher than I think for comparable cities… but we don’t have the analysis on that yet but I am wondering if the pre-existing health inequalities in this city are one of the reasons why folks are experiencing it a lot more. I think we are just seeing that ill health is often socially determined and so communities which have a lot of socially determined ill health are going to be the most “vulnerable.”
- Tim: Bronagh, when you say “heath inequalities’ can you just make that very, very laymen’s terms for me? What exactly are you pointing to? Can you also break down “social determinants?”
- Bronagh: So one of the ways of thinking about this is how poverty is actually a social determinant - how your lived experience of poverty actually makes you more vulnerable to illness, to heart attacks, to strokes, to cancer. The stress of that kind of existence makes you more vulnerable to those experiences of ill heath. Poverty is a social determinant.
- Tues: As we go into this conversation and we say that not all of us are experiencing this the same; this is a key part of it. This idea of class, race, different marginalized groups are going be more vulnerable simply because of pre-existing conditions.
- Sommer: St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, is a territory. We are an unincorporated territory and I think the largest fare for me is how invisible we tend to be to our nation. As you talk about structural inequalities, we talk about communities that have high level of vulnerabilities… we import 98% of our food, my sister territories have predominantly huge instances of obesity so 60% of my population (20-40yrs) are all vulnerable. When you couple that with two devastating back-to-back hurricanes, that we experienced in 2017, and a hospital that is in recovery where we don’t have access to respirators… those structural inequalities also puts another layer/lens of equity, and service and what justice means for people. What health justice means for people for whom the disaster was created way before COVID. While we are dealing with COVID-19, the other issue is how do we manage what is here in a system that was not made to see me and my community.
- Tues: Sommer, you’ve been so clear here and careful in calling the US Virgin Islands a territory but I’ve also heard you refer to it as a colony and I’m asking you to go a little deeper into what you understand around the relationship with the US as a territory. What does that look like? What does it mean to be a territory?
- Sommer: What it means to be a territory of the US is that we are owned property. We are run through the Department of Interior. As an unincorporated territory that means we cannot apply for statehood. So Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth and statehood is an option. For unincorporated territories it means our territory has not been officially incorporated into the American status. It’s still a level of ownership… and so we are in that regard a colony because technically the United States owns us and we are probably four major steps away from being able to ever consider statehood.
- Tim: How much of this is class? And Bronagh, are you seeing a geographical parallel as Sommer described it?
- Bronagh: For me, it is being experienced/witnessed as having a very direct class relationship. A really basic framing of it is the rich went to their private islands and yachts, the middle classes stayed home and worried about their kids, and the working class folks had to go and stock shelves, drive buses and take people around and they got very, very, very sick. That is really basic but pretty accurate reading of how this is impacting people.
- Tues: That’s such a clear way of showing the stratification. To keep us all integrated, we can sometimes be that clear when the classes are all white. Just to name that class is a huge factor and here, at least, we cannot separate from race. Class here is so inextricably tied with race and often gender. Here in the US, people want to say it’s about class, not race. It’s a clear way to not talk about race here instead of really talking about the fact that we have structurally stratified our economy so that black and brown folks are in the lower class. Here there is a real overlay with race.
- Tim: We’re beginning a conversation and we are inviting you in. As always with The Outside, there are no simple answers but by seeing it and hearing these perspectives from the different parts of the world we get to understand this in a completely different level and way then we would if I was just living in sweet, little Mahone Bay.
- Tues: We’ll be having these conversations together as Outsiders. Bronagh & Sommer, you are both are so brilliant. This is why I leave our team meetings so happy. Thank you for being here!
- Poem: “Untitled,” by Sommer Sibilly-Brown
Does a Black Heart Bleed Black Blood?
Does a Black man make Black Love?
Does Being Black now signify everything that I am ?
Or will ever be?
Am I Black?
Or is Being Black Me?
Does Being Black, mean seeing Black?
The Black Decision
Do the Right thing.
Not the White thing !
And Manifest your Black Destiny
Brought on Blackships
Beaten with Black Whips
Stole Freedom in the Black Night
Fought the Black Fight
That one day Black might
Escape the Black lagoon
And Break the Black Cocoon
And Fly high Black Butterfly
And Celebrate myself and my way of life
Than more than some Black Holiday
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Produced by: Mark Coffin @ Sound Good Studios
Theme music: Gary Blakemore
Episode cover image: source
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