Starting on Monday, September 7 and running through Friday, September 11, people throughout the country will create grassroots memorials dedicated to naming the lost who have died from Covid-19. In homes and yards, on street corners and stoops, in cities from Portland to Austin to Brooklyn, these memorials make our grief visible. This “labor of mourning” is initiated by Naming the Lost Memorials, a group of artists, activists, and folklorists who have been making public awareness memorials in New York City since May. They invite people everywhere to join them in making memorials during the week that begins with Labor Day on September 7 and ends with the 19th anniversary of September 11, 2001, when spontaneous memorials arose throughout New York City in response to the deaths of nearly 3,000 New Yorkers in the attack on the World Trade Center.
As the United States nears 200,000 deaths due to Covid-19, Naming the Lost Memorials sees grassroots memorials filling a real need. “There has been no national day of mourning set aside for the Covid dead,” says folklorist Kay Turner. “So many people died alone, and burials and rituals have been deferred. While heads of state do not perform their solemn duties to comfort the afflicted and mourn the dead, the rest of us rise to confront this tragedy.”
Born in New York City, Frank DeCaro was a Professor of Folklore in the English Department of Louisiana State University from 1971-2004. He was the first Chair of the Louisiana Folklife Commission and was the editor of “The Louisiana Folklife Miscellany”. He was much loved by his fellow folklorists for his humor and generosity. He had a distinguished career as a folklorist. He died from COVID-19 in March 2020. We mourn his passing.
Those who are interested in participating in Naming the Lost Memorials can visit www.namingthelost.com/memorials to learn how to make a memorial, find public resources for researching names and stories of the dead, submit photos and videos to the archive, and more. During the week of creation, participants are invited to share their photos and videos using the hashtags #namingthelostmemorials and #namingthelost.
“Creating the memorials has been a way to recognize and honor those who have been lost, but also a way to connect us as a community as we work with artists, activists and scholars on this project–finding ways to not feel alone, to contribute and give back to our communities and lastly, to give voice to our disappointment, anger, and sadness concerning the way this crisis has been handled by those in a power,” said Elena Martinez, volunteer organizer of Naming the Lost Memorials.
Yitzhak Levy-Awami of Brooklyn, (on the left) was a wonderful dance teacher of Yemeni Dance traditions who participated in folk arts programs of the Brooklyn Arts Council. He worked for 28 years as a Paraprofessional for the New York City Department of Education, working for 25 of those years at P.S. 205 Clarion in Brooklyn, NY. We mourn his passing.
In Schenectady, New York Folklore invites people to visit their memorial at 129 Jay Street, Schenectady from September 9 – September 11, 2020. We invite anyone to post a photograph or other remembrance to honor a loved one lost to COVID-19.
In creating these memorials, we invite you to join us, in the labor of mourning.
Calvin Kaintuck of Elmont, NY learned to ride horses in Baltimore, MD and started out as a “hot-walker” in the stables of the Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore. He served in World War II, and when he returned from the war he studied electrical engineering. He made a career at Sylvania Electric in Oyster Bay, NY, all the while continuing to ride as an exercise rider at the Belmont and Aqueduct Racetracks. When interviewed for the Library of Congress in 2012, he was riding for trainer Cleveland Johnson, although he was 93 years old at the time. He died from COVID-19 in April 2020. We mourn his passing.