STORIES BY MAUREEN HOZEY

Essential and Endangered 

Published: Nov. 20, 2020

Millions of essential workers are putting themselves at risk on the front lines as the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep across the globe.

Health care workers, first responders and customer service workers across the nation have found themselves facing a difficult choice – to risk the health and well-being of themselves and their families or to pay their bills. 

Many people have lost their jobs and many others have been able to work from home, but for others not working is not an option, as their states have deemed them “essential.” 

These essential workers face increased stress and heavy workloads, understaffing and fears about contracting COVID-19. However, as essential workers continue to fall sick, their already unstable livelihoods are at even more of a risk. 

Isaias Nerio is a UNF student and a full-time employee in the garden center at Lowe’s. He tested positive for COVID-19 at the beginning of July and was quarantined for 17 days. He locked himself in the downstairs basement at his parent’s house, only coming out in full protective gear to use the bathroom and to get his meals that were left outside the door. 

During that time, Nerio fell behind on his bills since he was only paid for a week and a half of the time that he was gone from work. 

The virus not only affected his financial and physical well-being, but it also affected his mental health. 

“The worst part of the quarantine was the isolation. No face-to-face with anyone,” Nerio said. “It was like being stuck in an asylum. Being alone in that tiny room was a different form of isolation.” 

Although Nerio and countless others have since tested negative for COVID-19 and returned to work, they still face the lasting effects of the virus. 

“All the time [at work] I find myself trying to catch a breath, trying to get my lungs working,” Nerio said. “I didn’t even have that severe of a case as a young person.”

He was one of the lucky ones. 

With nearly 10 million cases and over 233,000 deaths across the United States due to COVID-19, the pandemic has taken a toll on the world. 

“Consider That” Activism in the Digital Age

Published: Oct. 26, 2020

With the explosion of social media over the last decade, videos, news and all the other content in the world has become readily accessible at our fingertips. We are in the digital generation, and the youth of this generation have a different kind of power in technology. 

However, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility.

One of the main social issues that has come to the forefront of media attention is racial injustice, particularly police brutality against African Americans.

Over the past several years, police brutality, such as shootings of unarmed black men, have become a regular occurence. Millions of people, particularly the youth of the nation, have stood up against the violence. Earlier this year, the nation witnessed millions mobilize to take a stand against police violence in protests across the country.

On the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Will Smith said, “Racism isn’t getting worse; it’s getting filmed.”

“The revolution is not being televised, but it’s being tweeted,” Colbert added. 

 As both peaceful protests and more violent riots exploded from city to city, the digital generation took to their most well-known tool: technology. 

The responses of the youth to social injustice on social media has been overwhelming. Many have shared links to resources and websites to donate to the Black Lives Matter movement. Other youths have utilized social media to promote small, black-owned business.

Artists, celebrities, influencers and even average teenagers shared images in outcry over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among countless others killed at the hands of police. 

Jacksonville native and college student Drew Hart has taken his social media activism to new heights since the pandemic began. Hart, an established political rapper, used his small following on SoundCloud and Spotify as inspiration to start a TikTok account to promote his political views and activism. 

Hart also advocates for LGBTQ rights and women’s rights. However, after the death of George Floyd, he felt called to use his voice and his platform to make a change in the world. 

Now, he has over 150,000 followers on TikTok. 

The social networking site is used mostly by young people across the world to share short video content. Hart posts dance videos and his own original political raps to draw attention to the real world issues he is passionate about.

The response to police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement on social media sites has been overwhelming. Photo by Maureen Hozey.