The Queens Memory Project brings you the ninth episode of season two of the Queens Memory Podcast. This season we have collected the documented experiences of Queens residents during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
In this episode, we hear from artists and creatives in Queens about how they have managed to shine through the pandemic, by finding innovative and fun ways to express themselves while staying safe.
In mid-March, as the pandemic was starting to take hold in New York City, Governor Cuomo issued a ban on gatherings of 500 people or more -- a move that would prove to be only the beginning of great steps taken to slow the spread of COVID-19. That same day, Broadway went dark.
Restrictions grew tighter in the following weeks, and soon enough, public spaces were closed and New York became a vastly different city. Faced with new social distancing rules, members of the arts community did what they do best: They got creative.
Crockett Doob, a writer and drummer from Queens, plays drums on a makeshift setup at 33rd Street and Astoria Boulevard so he won’t disturb his neighbors. When he lived in Sunnyside, he played on the 39th Street bridge, where he enjoyed the noise of the traffic which allowed him to play as loudly as possible. Now, playing in a more exposed location, he enjoys the anonymity wearing a mask allows him, so he can play as excitedly as he wants.
Richard Parker is a tattoo artist in Queens and the designer of the Black Lives Matter mural on Jamaica Avenue. Having spent his entire life weaving through the borough, from Corona to Bayside to Flushing and beyond, Parker calls himself a “Queens mutt.”
Parker sees the world coming to a standstill as an opportunity for artists, “Now is the time to do what you want to do, especially in New York City.” By designing the BLM mural and his other art projects, Parker says he has been called an “activist” by the community, a title which he says he obtained simply by expressing himself through his art.
Lifelong Queens resident Sapphira Martin is a dancer, podcast producer, and writer. She and her mother are the owners of dance studio, It’s Dance at the Brown Barre. She is also co-host of The Black Girl Podcast, alongside four other proud and strong black women. She has focused during the pandemic on supporting her Queens community. She leads classes via Instagram for her dance students and continues to work remotely on her podcast and subscription box service, SassBoxx, co-curated by Martin for black women. She has leaned heavily into her creative outlets over the last few months, and the Black Lives Matter resurgence that took place this summer drove Martin further to create and show up.
“Black lives have always and will always matter,” she says.
This episode of Queens Memory was produced by Jordan Gass-Poore in conjunction with Theresa Gaffney, Anna Williams, Syreeta Gates, Briana Stodden, Jo-Ann Wong, and Natalie Milbrodt. This episode was edited by Anna Williams with mixing by Briana Stodden and music composed by Elias Ravin and the Blue Dot Sessions.
Special thanks for funding support from the New York Community Trust. Queens Memory is an ongoing community archiving program by the Queens Public Library and Queens College, CUNY.