Spring wind rustles through freshly bloomed leaves and carries the aroma of fresh cut grass. The silence is like that of no other. Being surrounded by those who gave the ultimate sacrifice can be more than humbling.
The Chattanooga National Cemetery is located in the heart of Chattanooga Tennessee. Founded in 1863 by General George Thomas for the union men he had lost in his campaign, it still stands today pristine and closely watched over.
To find the 6th Cavalry Museum in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, it’s best to make use of a GPS. The museum is tucked away from the main road, sitting inside a plain-looking building on the edge of Chickamauga Battlefield and — as the diorama inside will tell you — directly across from a repurposed officer’s house. The most distinct thing about this building is the large sign on the front displaying the name of the museum.
Campus is beginning to look the way it did before COVID-19 pushed students, faculty, and staff to return home and begin learning and teaching classes online. The students of Rising Rock Media were tasked with a project for UTC’s Student Government Association: A Year of COVID-19. The class was split into three groups and covered the past, the future, and a general overview of life in the pandemic. Our hope is that this series helps our friends, classmates, and teachers to feel stronger about the challenges that we overcame together, and provide a light into an unknown, but brighter future.
A mouthful of a pancake drenched in sweet maple rests on Brooklyn’s palate as her mother, Brittany Pickett, adjusts her earrings and prepares her for daycare. Brittany is a single African American mother, who has risen to the challenge of raising her child alone, due to the incarceration of her baby’s father, Shaun Theus. Shaun has been incarcerated for almost three years, which means that Brooklyn has suffered the damage of single parenthood for the majority of her life. Shaun was incarcerated after being convicted of drug charges, although there were no drugs found on him at the time of his arrest.
The mass imprisonment of Black males has been a proven statistic for decades. According to the “Sentencing Project,” Black males account for 38% of the imprisoned population, but only 12.7% of the United States population. The mass, and often unjust, imprisonment of Black fathers contributes to generational curses, where children are raised in these single parent households from one generation to the next.
Without the presence of a father figure, these African American children are brought up not knowing how to be a parent of their own one day or accept genuine love from a stable male figure. This has impacted Brittany and Brooklyn, as well as many other Black mothers and children in their community. Brittany stated, “Out of ten of my friends, seven of their babies’ fathers are imprisoned. Some of these arrests were justified, but others of them were victims of targeting and were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
A challenge that Brittany faces is that Brooklyn does not genuinely know her father and may later struggle with growing in a relationship with him. Brittany explained that the lack of a father in these children’s lives causes detrimental effects, unless there are others who actively intervene and aid in the growth of these children—such as Brittany’s father.
Brittany rejoices in the fact that Brooklyn has been shown the love of a male figure in her life by her grandfather, Larry Pickett. It is individuals like Larry that help shape the futures and minds of children raised by a single parent, but without positive figures like him, these curses are much more likely to pass from generation to generation.
Meet the Storyteller
Lorenzo Pickett is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga who majors in Communication. He has experience in guest services and has been a camp counselor for the past 4 years. Lorenzo’s passion is storytelling, creating art, and showing genuine love and loyalty to those around him. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Saturday, April 11th was my youngest brother Eli’s birthday. He turned 18 which is a pretty significant birthday to be quarantined for. He spent most of his time inside trying to make the most of his special day. At one point, Eli’s friends drove by in their cars outside of our house and honked their horns as a way to celebrate his birthday from afar. It was really sweet but I couldn’t help but feel bad that my brother wasn’t allowed to appropriately celebrate his birthday in a “normal” way.
I thought about how radically different our eighteenth birthdays looked like. Almost three years ago I turned 18 and it happened to be the same day I was graduating from high school. My whole senior year, the thought of sharing my day of celebration with all 400 students of my graduating class bothered me. When the day actually arrived, it turned out to be one of the best birthdays I’d ever had. We were all celebrating something and got to be surrounded by so many people with lots of hugs and socializing. Now fast forwarding to April 11, 2020 Eli wasn’t even allowed to spend the day with his friends or even think about having a party if he wanted to because of COVID-19. Don’t get me wrong my family and I celebrated him as best as we could but this is just another example of how this pandemic has disrupted what we know to be normal.
Sunday, April 12, 2020
In the same weekend, millions across the world celebrated Easter on Sunday, April 12. Churches have not been allowed to gather for weeks now meaning they wouldn’t be able to celebrate one of the most significant days of the year for Christians in the typical way. This was the first time I haven’t gone to church for Easter in as long as I can remember, but that didn’t make the day any less important for me or the millions across the world. Instead of gathering at churches, many of my neighbors placed crosses in their yards or used chalk art as a way to celebrate.
These two celebrations were a bittersweet reminder that life is still moving forward day by day, and that there will be many more birthdays and holidays to come. Hopefully, sooner rather than later we can get back to celebrating the way we used to, but now with a new-found appreciation for being surrounded by friends and family.
Sunday, April 12, 2020
Journal Entry #3
Last week, I was in a meeting for my internship with The House, and my boss asked us to reflect over some questions concerning grief. I was confused. I hadn’t lost anyone so what was I grieving? But grief doesn’t always mean death, and quickly, I began to realize what I actually had lost over the last month. The rest of my spring semester, proximity of friendships, summer plans and much more.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
I have done a decent job at not letting the craziness of this whole situation get the best of me. I have tried to control my emotions, but sometimes it’s hard to deal with so many feelings when they’re happening all at once. In a time where I have the space to process what I’m feeling, the task of discerning each different emotion that comes hand in hand with grief seems overwhelming. They say there are five stages in the grieving process. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some days it feels like I am processing all stages at once. However, I have slowly begun to accept this pandemic for what it is.
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had any hard days during the past month. Some days are productive and some days are lazy. Some days I’m motivated and others I procrastinate until the sun sets. Some days I feel really good, but lately a lot of days have felt heavy. I think it’s because i’m beginning to accept my losses.
However, in my acceptance these are the things that I still know to be true. I am healthy and safe. I have my family who hurts with me, but refuses to let me slip into a funk for too long. I have friends to return to in Chattanooga, and in the meantime phone calls and letters will have to be our best bet at staying in touch. I have simple pleasures that still bring me moments of peace like music, writing and reading. Lastly, I have faith. Faith that this pandemic will eventually end and the process of healing will soon begin for all.
After today, my college experience will be over. One last zoom meeting and a brief ten minute presentation are all that stand in front of me graduating from UTC. College has been the absolute best time of my life so far and I’m uncertain how to feel about leaving.