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Mokah Speaks: Maintaining Community Through COVID-19

By Mokah Jasmine Johnson

About six to seven years ago, I experienced a period of homeless. My family was in a downward spiral. After missing consecutive paychecks, it felt as if we were on a roller coaster ride and couldn’t get off.

As an entrepreneur and working-class mother, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to recover from a financial crisis. That's why I am deeply concerned about the financial and educational impact that the coronavirus closures will have on our communities. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, it was already difficult to secure affordable housing, a living wage, and healthcare. A national emergency that is out of our control will only make things harder.

But stay strong. We can use our time and energy to prepare for a new way of life while minimizing expenses and social distancing as much as possible for the foreseeable future. It can be emotionally and mentally draining when you have to constantly worry about how you are going to pay your bills or how to survive if the savings run out. So be mindful of your thoughts because too much negativity can cause health and relationship problems and hinder you from seeing clearly.

As an activist, I feel the need to organize and protest the civil rights violations we have seen in the past few weeks, but social distancing has made that difficult. While we protect our health, we must find new ways to demand that our government seek ways to provide financial support to families, individuals, and small businesses negatively impacted by this public health crisis.

All of us still have to pay rent, buy groceries, and take care of our children. And any discussion regarding curfews or closures must be combined with discussions of economic relief for the working class and all those in need.

In closing, I would like to share a few personal survival tips I have learned along the way.

1. Stock up and save. During past difficult times, I saved a ton of money by couponing and going to food pantries.

2. Cut back. While your income may reduce, your bills and food expenses will increase when kids are home. If you don't need cable, get rid of it. Reduce your cell phone plan, and reassess your monthly recurring payments. Call the electric company and make advance payment arrangements if possible.

3. DIY (Do it Yourself). Growing up, my dad grew sugarcane, peas, yams, tomatoes, mint, and more in his garden. This was helpful in reducing expenses and spending time in the garden can be peaceful. Look in your kitchen cabinets and see what you can use without going out and buying additional products. For example, hand sanitizer is made out of rubbing alcohol and aloe (aloe vera gel), so if the store runs out, just make your own. Do some research and seek new solutions. I won't share my personal natural remedies because people can be funny about those things!

4. Relationships. Help "Thy Neighbor" and love your family. Despite what is happening you must find ways to spend quality time with your immediate family and loved ones. Especially during a time of “social distancing,” build a virtual support network and maintain relationships. Learning how to enjoy the small things in life can help you to mentally survive during difficult times.

In the upcoming weeks, I hope to share some ideas with you on how we can best protect our economic and civil rights during an emergency. Not only must we continue to advocate for economic justice and healthcare, but we must also seek ways to support each other.

Mokah Jasmine Johnson is an adult educator, civil rights activist and mother, who is a candidate to represent the 117th District in the Georgia House of Representative. As president and co-founder of the nonprofit Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement (AADM) she advocates for racial and social justice, helps citizens protect their rights through education and activism, and works to improve race relations and community policing. She led successful local efforts to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance and repeal cash bail.

To learn more about Johnson and her vision for the 117th District, visit or email

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