Funmilayo Chesney is a resilient woman who confronts obstacles head-on that arise in her life. However, Fumni (as her friends call her) faced hurdles during the pandemic that tested her steely resolve and came close to breaking her spirit.
Covid’s impact on Funmi’s finances was devastating, but she found ways to stay afloat.
Funmi had anticipated great things for 2020. “I had many contracts out there,” the Brazil-born dance instructor recalled. “This was going to be a good year for me financially.”
In addition to teaching dance at public schools and to adult students, Funmi’s plate included performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the New York City Dance Parade, and several overseas gigs for her dance company.
However, her financial foundation crumbled when the pandemic prompted New York to shuttered schools and order a citywide quarantine.
Before the pandemic, she had been teaching hip-hop dance at several different schools, as well as workshops and after-school programs. Through her Fusha Dance Company, Funmi taught Central African dance classes three nights a week.
Covid-19 put Funmi’s career on hold and pushed her in a deep financial crater. But her resilience kicked in. Funmi turned to Zoom and Google to teach classes. It was a challenging pivot for someone who was not tech-savvy. Little-by-little, she mastered the platforms.
Funmi’s seemingly indomitable spirit was tested when the deadly virus swept through nursing homes and stole the lives of numerous seniors. Funmi’s mother, who had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, was in a Brooklyn facility that would not allow her to communicate with her mother.
“My mom is the matriarch of my family, and we all love her so much,” said Funmi, who routinely visited her before the lockdown.
A friend had warned Funmi that several seniors died from the virus at the nursing where her mother was living.
“Of course, I went berserk, asking why I can’t see my mom not even through FaceTime,” she said, recalling breaking down in tears out of fear for her mother’s life.
After contacting Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ office, Funmi was finally allowed to FaceTime with her mom.
It turned out that she developed bed sores and had antibodies for Covid-19, which means she contracted the virus at some point.
“So, all I do now is worry,” Funmi said.