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Producer Yasmeen Khan checks in with Brooklyn resident Donna Perry, about grief and the "blessings of COVID."
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Host Anna Sale and the logos for Death, Sex & Money and WNYC Studios, all on a beige background.

Do you know who Lady Gaga is?

Yeah, she’s from the video we watched. About voting.

Huh?

And ‘This Land Is Our Land."

Oh! The inauguration!

This was a Saturday late afternoon conversation with my 4-year-old, when we turned up the speakers and had a family dance party to get us from afternoon playground time to pizza time. My conversation with Jessica in last week’s episode reminded me about how good it feels to dance—even if it’s just rolling around to a beat—and how long it had been since I’d done it.

Before Lady Gaga, we’d danced to Janet Jackson, Janelle Monae, Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Deee-Lite. Songs that took me back to dancing in my different bedrooms at 10, 13, 17, 21, 29. Then, after pizza, we watched more dancing. "Good Morning" from Singing in the Rain. Alvin Ailey's Wade in the Water from a (virtual, distanced) September benefit.

We haven’t had regular family parties much in the last twelve months, save for the first few weeks of shelter in place, when “Jump Around” was in heavy rotation to help us burn through that first shock of pent-up energy and anxiety. And getting a taste made me ache to dance with people who aren’t related to me again. What I wouldn’t give for a thumping, dark club or packed wedding reception dance floor!

We’re not there yet. We still have to keep our distance, though we can fantasize about our coming return to proximity, as Saeed Jones does beautifully in this essay.

In the meantime, we can start being more intentional about building back our relationships with people we’ve been far from. You’ll hear in the episode today about one woman in Brooklyn, Donna Perry, and how this year has reinforced for her that she needs to just pick up the phone and reach out to people in her life. And we have plans for all of us to do that together on March 26, a day we have declared “Pick Up the Phone and Call Day.” You’ll hear more about it in this week’s episode, but to get in on it, text "call day" to 70101 and we’ll send you text reminders and tips leading up to our newly declared holiday. 

—Anna and the Death, Sex & Money team

This Week on Death, Sex & Money
Donna Perry, a Black woman, sits crosslegged with her arms outstretched on a paved road. She is smiling and looking off to the left, and has close cropped reddish brown hair, multiple strands of pearls around her neck, and is wearing a black sweater that reads "got curves?" in white, a magenta tulle skirt, and iridescent heeled boots.
Donna Perry, who lives in Brooklyn, recovered from COVID-19 a year ago. That’s when producer Yasmeen Khan first interviewed her for a news story. At that point, Donna had lost several people to COVID. And as the virus spread through New York City during the past year, she lost many more. Donna estimates that she’s been to at least 15 funerals on Zoom—all deaths related to the coronavirus—mostly for her fellow members of Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn. And she's also been grieving the loss of her best friend, Selisha. They'd been close since childhood and talked on the phone every morning.  

Still, Donna is adamant about what she calls the “blessings of COVID.” When Donna and Yasmeen caught up over Zoom a couple of weeks ago, Donna told Yasmeen that she's been able to hunker down with her family, to refresh her marriage, and to think about what’s most important to her. “I'm really starting to believe that now more than anything, that every day that I have is a gift and I have a responsibility to live my life in purpose,” she said. Listen to our latest episode now.
Your Stories: Lending Money and Changing Friendships
Last week, we asked you to tell us about your experiences lending or borrowing money to loved ones. If you've got a story to share, write in or send a voice memo to deathsexmoney@wnyc.org. One listener, Michelle, told us a story about lending money to her friend's boyfriend last February. What happened next completely changed how she viewed both her friend and her friend's partner:
“He said he was in trouble and needed to borrow money. He also asked that I not tell his girlfriend, which should have set off ALL THE ALARMS. Against my better judgment, I lent him $500 without really asking what the money was for. I trusted my friend and assumed I could trust him too. He promised to pay me back within a week.

The day arrived, and nothing. He wouldn't answer my calls or respond to my texts about where the money was. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but after a week, I hadn't heard from him. I told my friend (his girlfriend), who said she'd talk to him and she promised I'd get my money back soon. About three weeks later, they paid me back half my money and then made no promise of when I'd receive the remainder. I was on vacation at the time, and it really put a damper on my trip, and I had to borrow money from my friend who I was traveling with.

In the beginning of March, I got home and I still wasn't paid back in full. I was so angry and frustrated and super stressed out because the pandemic was starting here in the U.S. Another friend was so fed up with them that she said she would blast them on social media. When I told them that, they responded right away with a firm timeline. They valued their reputation more than our friendship. Almost eight weeks after I lent him $500, I got my money back, with interest. Our 18-year friendship is over. This really showed me that when people borrow money from you, how they pay you back shows you what kind of person they are. Now I will never, ever lend money to anyone aside from my immediate family!”

—Michelle, 44, New York, NY

Listen to This: Audio We Love

A multicolored square with red, purple, and pink curves and the text "ARIA CODE" in white font. The logos for WQXR and The Metropolitan Opera are at the bottom of the square.
A square photo of a group of police officers surrounded by two blue cars and a white minivan. The photo fades up to black, and the word "Chicano" is in orange capitalized letters, and "Squad" is in black capital letters on a yellow, crinkled background that looks like police tape. The Vox Media logo is centered at the top in white, capital letters in a small font.
Aria Code is back with another season. Hosted by Rhiannon Giddens and produced by our classical music colleagues at New York Public Radio along with the Metropolitan Opera, this is the show you need to pull you into opera, and both orient you and envelop you in the music. In the first episode of season two about the aria “Nessun dorma," I especially loved hearing from a critical care physician talk about his relationship to music during the pandemic (and about being part of the National Virtual Medical Orchestra, which I’m very glad to know about!).

I also just dug into Chicano Squad, the new serialized podcast from Vox about 1970s Houston, police violence, and an experiment to create an all-Latino homicide squad when tensions between the police and the community hit a fever pitch. There’s a deep sense of place in this show, and I learned a lot of history I’d never heard before. We also love hearing host Cristela Alonzo, who was on a guest on Death, Sex & Money back in 2017.
"Community! You are expanding our vision of what community can be. You have been doing this for years with your hybridity—online, in-person—but in this moment, I am especially grateful for your work."
—Lynn, Rhode Island

Join Lynn and support our work at Death, Sex & Money!
Give now at deathsexmoney.org/donate.
Want to join Donna in picking up the phone and calling a loved one?

We know it can be hard to actually pick up the phone sometimes, so we’re all doing it together on Friday, March 26th. Text “CALL DAY” to 70101 to sign up for encouragement and a reminder.
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