Photo: J. Boogie Love Photography

This work is supported by BK Reader, Brooklyn Community Foundation COVID-19 Response FundThe National Geographic Society’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund for JournalistsThe Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and The American Medical Association.

The COVID-19 Writers Project (C19WP) is a multimedia project that aims to capture a hyperlocal viewpoint of the Coronavirus Pandemic from inside one of the virus’s hotspots– Brooklyn, NYC.

The COVID-19 Writers Project is inspired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which spawned the Federal Writers Project (FWP) that produced audio and written recordings of slave narratives, captured during the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. These first-person narratives are now archived in the U.S. Library of Congress and are considered some of the most important historical records to date.

Similar to the WPA, the C19WP presents first-person oral and written narratives of 30 Brooklyn residents. Through Zoom video interviews, essays and photography captured and compiled over a course of 6 months, beginning March 2020 to August 2020, the project builds an historical record of America’s response to the greatest global health crisis of the century, while examining the extent to which socio-economic outcomes are impacted by healthcare, education and race.

From the formerly incarcerated, to the college student; from the homeless shelter resident, these first-person narratives offer an inside view of the pandemic’s diverse impact on America’s citizens, ultimately helping to answer: What is the crisis telling us about who we are as a society today

C19WP Timeline 

Ten professionally edited 20- to 30-minute videos, a compilation of interview footage captured via Zoom to honor social distancing, document personal narratives across a 5-point timeline: 1. Crisis (news of the pandemic’s arrival Feb-Mar 2020);  2. Response (government and public response to the pandemic, Mar-April 2020); 3. Devastation (during the virus’s peak in New York City, April-May 2020); 4. Awakening (civil and racial unrest, during the pandemic, May-June 2020); and 5. Recovery (after “flattening the curve,” and attempting to reestablish order, July-Aug 2020). 

Industry Insight

Brooklyn-based experts on race, education, socio-economics, health and government weigh in with industry insight, studies and current mobilization efforts: Dr. Aletha Maybank, AMA Chief Health Equity Officer (MPH) and Group Vice President; Lurie Daniel-Favors, Esq., Center for Law and Social Justice, Executive Director; Reginald Richardson, Empire State 2017 School Administrator of the Year Recipient; Sheena Wright, Esq. President of United Way New York; Dr. Sara Weber, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University; Clinical Consultant Chair; Dr. Jonathan Metzl, Professor of Sociology and Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University, Best-Selling Author of “Dying of Whiteness”; and Kenneth Mbonu, Flatbush Nostrand Junction Business Improvement District Executive Director, Northeastern Economic Development Association Board.

Project Components 

Foreward by the C19WP Executive Producer, C. Zawadi Morris

10 Video Narratives of resident interviews of the pandemic’s impact during Crisis, Response, Devastation, Awakening, Recovery

5 Essays by professors, award-winning writers, published book authors that speak to Crisis, Response, Devastation, Awakening, Recovery

Biographical Summaries on each of the subjects interviewed for the project

Photo Essay by Brooklyn photographer Mateo Ruiz González

THE PRODUCTION TEAM 

C. Zawadi Morris, Project Manager, Executive Producer 

Nigel Roberts, Writer/Reporter 

Khadijah Diouf, Co-Producer 

Ngozi Johnson-Romain, Production Assistant 

Nicole Conflenti, Video Editor 

Michael Johnson, Music Producer 

Mateo Rodriguez, Photographer 

Cristian Gallo, Graphic Artist 

Aletha Maybank, Advisory Board Member/Health Equity Consultant, American Medical Association

This work is supported by BK Reader, Brooklyn Community Foundation COVID-19 Response FundThe National Geographic Society’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund for JournalistsThe Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and The American Medical Association.

Project Participants