Books And Podcasts: Past #coronakind Friends Spread Kindness In New Ways

Over the past year of the pandemic, two people previously featured for their #coronakind efforts have expanded their projects and reached out with kindness to even more Northeast Ohioans with a podcast and a new book.

Clevelanders struggled with isolation as social distancing became mandatory and some experienced the hardest moments of their lives. Allison Hite (formerly Meyer) knows many of those stories. People submit them to Never Ever Give Up Cle, a project started in 2018 as a way for people to talk about their most difficult experiences and for others to respond.

“I'm always just very grateful for people willing to share their experiences, because as soon as I post and share it out, I really do believe, and I know that, there's somebody who's going to read that and feel much, much less alone. And that's a really powerful thing,” she said.

People share anonymous letters about their hardest moments and others respond with letters of hope, Hite explained. During the pandemic, Never Ever Give Up Cle has continued collecting stories online and with its traveling yellow mailbox.

Yellow mailbox in a park in University Circle

Never Ever Give Up Cle has been collecting letters of people’s hardest moments and responding with letters of hope. [Never Ever Give Up Cle]

Some themes in the letters were consistent with pre-pandemic stories: people expressed shame and feeling bad about struggling, she said. But new themes came up too – uncertainty, anxiety, death and loss of opportunities.

The change left Hite questioning how she and Never Ever Give Up Cle could do more.

“What can we be doing to not only be there for people who are experiencing it, but thinking more [about] systemic change; what can we do to make this not what people are writing about when they're writing about the hardest moments?” she asked.

So in July, a podcast was born, created by Never Ever Give Up Cle with support from Neighborhood Connections and Good News Cle. Volunteers read letters of struggle and letters of hope and offer reflections.

One of the podcast volunteers was already known for spreading kindness and interviewed for our #coronakind series: Lou Barrett. Barrett is a queer, non-binary person who started Purple Palm Press in August 2018 to uplift queer stories about relationships, work, cooking and more, making them a perfect volunteer for the podcast’s “Coming Out” episode.

Though Barrett came out more than 15 years ago, “it’s a journey, it’s an ongoing thing,” they said. “It’s not come out and everything is exactly how you want it to be immediately.”

About a year ago, Barrett also created a new place for sharing stories about getting though the COVID-19 pandemic. Recording Corona is a partnership with Elaine Schleiffer, an advocate for people who are often are not in the spotlight who focuses on reproductive and queer justice.

The stories have been published in an anthology that can be found at the Purple Palm Press online store or local Cleveland Bookstores.

The cover of the book Recording Corona

[Purple Palm Press]

Many of the initial Recording Corona stories are from essential workers who talk about the necessity for their jobs combined with the feeling of not being valued and constantly putting their health in danger.

Barrett said it was sometimes difficult reading the stories because they were also experiencing similar hardships because of the pandemic but is “grateful that there is a space created for people to let those feelings out or to have the catharsis.”

And Barrett continues creating spaces where stories are uplifted. Before the stay at home orders, they ran a queer storytelling show called Let it Out. Since people could not gather, they’ve started a podcast, Queer Discourse, where Barrett and a guest talk about a book by a queer author.

The pandemic isn’t over and Hite and Barrett are still working to ensure there are spaces to talk about hard moments and how to get through them, dismantling the single story assigned to struggle and breaking down storytelling barriers.

“How are you building and maintaining community in light of social distancing?”  If you have a story, post about it on Instagram, tag us @ideastreamneo and use the hashtag #coronakind!

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