Guest post by Jonna Huseman
What is your profession/involvement in the community?
I’m an at-large member of Montgomery County Council. I serve on the Transportation and Environment Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee. Before serving on the council, I was civically involved in many organizations and nonprofits. Before that, I was a CNN journalist for 12 years. I quickly realized that more good work can get done on the local level than at the national level.
How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
This crisis has exposed all the inequities we knew existed in our community, and laid them bare for everyone to see. The food insecurity, health care discrepancy, and transportation inequity overlap with the communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. Much of my work is supporting those communities and the most vulnerable. I’m also devoting a lot of my time to constituent services to ensure people receive the benefits and assistance they are entitled to.
Are you working more or less?
Work is nonstop. Any minute I’m not replying to emails or attending a meeting, I feel like something is wrong. There is so much need in our community that I’m devoting all of my energy to helping as many people as possible.
What are you most afraid of?
I’m most afraid that society does not learn from this crisis. The problems that have been exposed are systemic and have been created through decades and centuries of political decision making. We have to get the solutions to this crisis right. We have to fix these problems; otherwise, we will experience the same situation with the same communities in need again.
What are you most hopeful for?
I’m most hopeful that we continue to share our love and compassion with our neighbors and with those most in need in our community. We are blessed to live in an area where there is great wealth and great charity, which means we can do a lot of good. I’m hopeful that people will remember those in need and continue being generous to their neighbors.
What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
I’m a people person and I enjoy interacting with others and hearing their personal stories in person. The disconnect from staying at home has been difficult. No amount of Zoom calls or FaceTime conversations can make up for an in-person conversation.
Is there anything—even a tiny thing—you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
Having the ability to stay at home has given me a newfound appreciation for the hard work of people who don’t have that same luxury—our essential workers and others who have to go to work, particularly by public transportation, who are putting their lives at risk every day. I appreciate them even more now. I can stay at home and be on Zoom for nine hours a day. But not everyone has that luxury.
What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
We have to learn that inequities don’t fix themselves. It takes leadership, courage, and tough decision making to provide everyone with a level of comfort that we should be afforded as Americans. I’m not talking about a high level of comfort—just basics like healthcare, food, and transportation—things we need on a daily basis. If we do nothing, people’s lives will not improve and we’ll be back at square one.
How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
I walk my dogs once if not twice a day. I do yoga at home. I have a number of YouTube yoga channels and Facebook friends who teach it, and try to take an hour when I’m able.
When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
I hope that future generations look back at this time and see that we tried to heal people as quickly as possible, and mended wounds so that this doesn’t happen again. We have to learn from this. We have to make our society more fair and equitable. The communities of color and most vulnerable members of our population are bearing the brunt of this pandemic. It’s not fair and it’s not right. I hope we make the necessary changes so that future generations don’t have to go through this.
What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
I want my friends, neighbors, and constituents to know that they can contact me at any time, any day, and I will help them with whatever they need to get through this. That’s why I ran for office, and that’s why I’m working nonstop to ensure that everyone is healthy and safe during this crisis.
Jonna Huseman is a family photographer who serves Silver Spring and beyond. During the COVID-19 crisis, she is using her free time to document the lives of friends and neighbors living through the pandemic.
Author’s note: Over the coming days and weeks I am documenting the lives of dozens of members of the Silver Spring and Takoma Park community. My goal is to talk to teachers and students, religious leaders, small business owners, frontline workers, parents, elected leaders, and private citizens. I want to learn about our collective hopes and dreams, our biggest challenges, and our greatest triumphs. Mostly, I want to build connection and create community at a time when we need it the most. If you live or work in Silver Spring or Takoma Park and are interested in having your life documented at this time—or know someone who has a unique experience and is willing to share—please contact me. To all those who have made this project possible, including Source of the Spring, I thank you for your time and generosity. To the neighbors who will respond in the future, I look forward to getting to know you. And to everyone reading—stay healthy and safe. We will make it through.