Darlena Cunha is a writer who has lived in her neighborhood in Gainesville, Florida for three years but never really got to know her neighbors until recently. For Cunha, an unlikely outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic has been her neighborhood coming together and connecting in ways reminiscent of an earlier time. She and her neighbors have been doing socially distant exercise dates, happy hours, and lunches together from the safety of their lawns. Without our usual social safety nets, humans, as social creatures, seem to be forging new ones, and are making friends the old-fashioned way, Cunha writes. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
With people home from work, children home from school, and everyone discouraged from going out anywhere, the internet is getting a workout — but so are the sidewalks. An unlikely outcome of the lockdown due to the global pandemic is neighborhoods, and neighbors, coming together.
It's true in my neighborhood in Gainesville, Florida, in Alachua County: As I take my dog for his morning walk, what used to be an empty street, devoid of life other than a car or two struggling to get to work on time, is now a bustling center. People are gardening, sitting out on the front lawn watching their children play, talking across driveways, and living comfortably with each other — at a distance, but somehow closer than ever before. Mary and Chris live right next to us, in one of the few two-story houses in the cul-de-sac here in central Florida. They have a son too young to play with my tween twins. She's a pharmacist, he's in childcare. Marsha and David moved in across the street about a year and a half ago. They've reroofed and repainted, and work on their lawn every week. They have two teenagers. Danielle and Ken are on the corner, with their three boys who cycle, skateboard, and play tennis on the street, in front of the "Slow — children at play" sign. Down the street, Tom walks his small white dog slowly, with the aid of his cane. Terry's oldest daughter just graduated high school. Her younger daughter is my twins' best friend. I've lived here for nearly three years, but I've only just started getting to know these people Why? The coronavirus. Interestingly, now that we're forced to stay more than six feet apart, neighborhoods seem to be getting closer. The rules now enforced by society have done away with previous social protocol that kept us at a distance far greater than a few feet. Previously, if we wanted to sau hello, we wondered if we'd we be bothering them. We assumed they were probably busy with something. We were probably busy with something. We decided to nod and move on quickly, to avoid that 'hug/handshake?' debacle. Living near someone doesn't mean we have anything in common. We had coworkers and friends and for that social nourishment. Until we didn't. Of course, I'd seen my neighbors in passing throughout the years. Sometimes we would wave at each other from inside our cars as we passed. Sometimes we'd ask our partners or children, "Wait, what did she say her name was again?" after a brief morning greeting or pat two-liner about the weather. But even though we lived right next door, the most we ever knew about each other was what could be gleaned by glancing at the recycling bins once a week. We were close in proximity, but each in our own social bubble. Until COVID-19 took away nearly everything else. It's not that we didn't want to get to know each other. I remember back in my youth, my parents had neighborhood parties that seemed like the epitome of adulthood. Wine glasses clinked and grown-up laughter filtered through the closed laundry-room door, where my young ear was pressed. What were they joking about? The housing association notes, again? The ungodly hour of garbage pickup? It seemed magical. "Hey, do you have a printer?" Mary asked the other day while I was watering my rose bushes. "We have to return something, and wouldn't you know, we have to print a shipping label." "I sure do! Give me a sec, and send it to me, I'll run it out and leave it on your driveway. Just make sure I don't have to print it on toilet paper. I'm all out." "I just got some! Let's trade." And when I got back outside with the label, there were three rolls waiting for me. A group of us now even work out together from across the street, since we can't go to the gym
People are going to the store for each other, and checking in, always from six feet, but never closer in spirit. We do happy hours and lunches from our front lawns, or via computer, leaning on each other and on our proximity, even as closeness is barred to us. Without our usual social safety nets, humans, as social creatures, seem to be forging new ones — or at least ones new to us. In reality, we're just rediscovering the communities we lost when the internet, capitalism and having to move frequently for work uprooted traditional neighborhoods. COVID-19 is set to be with us for a long while yet, and these habits we are making don't have to disappear with a vaccine. It'll be up to us to make sure the friendships and neighborly back-and-forth don't fade into the distance when the distance-requirement fades. Darlena Cunha is a professor at the University of Florida and a freelance journalist.SEE ALSO: A Florida bar pulled down $10,000 in single bills stuck to the wall so it could pay its 22 unemployed workers READ MORE: We finally opened our restaurant after the COVID-19 shutdown — a day later, it was damaged during the protests. Here's why we still stand in solidarity with protesters. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid
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A brutal assault on Jacksonville man has rattled the local LGBTQ community, and has some advocating for carrying guns
Demetrick Jones, of Jacksonville, Florida, was beaten, bound, and dragged naked for more than two blocks...Demetrick Jones, of Jacksonville, Florida, was beaten, bound, and dragged naked for more than two blocks last month. Police have not ruled the attack a hate crime, but friends of Jones say that while he didn't identify as transgender, he often dressed in women's clothes. Jacksonville was dubbed "America's transgender murder capital" in 2018. Jones is currently still in critical condition. Visit Insider's homepage for more stories. JACKSONVILLE, Florida – Demetrick Jones was a carefree soul. Friends called him "Lil' mama." "He was a happy, happy person," said Connie Blue, a longtime friend. "He just loved being around people." But on Sept. 27, tragedy struck. Jones, 38, was beaten and his feet were bound. Then he was tied to the back of a stolen Dodge Caravan and dragged, naked, for more than two blocks along West 36th Street in Jacksonville, sheriff's deputies say. A surveillance camera recorded part of the ordeal, but deputies said the footage was so horrific they couldn't release it. Jones was taken to UF Health Jacksonville Hospital with life-threatening injuries. "I know my friend didn't go down without a fight," Blue said. "I know that for a fact." On Sept. 29, detectives charged Eric Shaun Bridges, 34, with attempted murder. Bridges, who is being held on $500,003 bail, has a rap sheet that includes fleeing an officer, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, resisting an officer with violence, battery, possession of burglary tools and possession of cocaine. On May 15, 2010, a judge gave him 9 ½ years for auto theft and other crimes. He left prison after seven years and three months, records show. He "denied having any involvement in the incident," an arrest report said. Members of the LBGTQ community are alarmed. They consider Jones one of their own. Another attack in 'America's transgender murder capital' Blue said Jones did not consider himself a transgender woman, but he did wear women's clothes. "Demetrick tells me all the time that he's just a man with a sexual preference," she said. "He enjoyed wearing women's clothing. You could still tell that he's the man. But he did dress up as a woman." Court records in 2016 alternately listed Jones as male and female. He has not regained consciousness since the attack, friends say, so he can't be asked about it. Chloie Dianna Kensington, 38, a transgender activist and performer, worries the attack might have been a hate crime. Jacksonville was dubbed "America's transgender murder capital" in 2018 after three black trans women and one queer man were killed in the city. "Last year I was asked, 'Are you scared?' And I kept saying, 'No, no, I just wasn't scared.' But in the last week and a half, I've literally thought to myself, going into the store or whatever, look behind you. You know, just be aware," Kensington said. "That hatred, that ignorance, is rising again. My question is, how do we stop it?" Kensington believes trans women should start arming themselves. "I've never really been an advocate of civilians with guns. I'm not an advocate of assault weapons, but I am an advocate of self-preservation and self-protection. If the police won't protect and serve the way that they should, then I do think it's up to each of us to take our safety into our own hands." She said the attack on Jones reminded her of a lynching. "Well, you know, it happened to black people all the time at one point," she said. "Just walking down the street being who you are and you were lynched and dragged and hung from a tree." "An assault on one of us is an assault on all of us" Jones was found badly injured shortly before 7 a.m. in a crime-ridden neighborhood northwest of downtown. A man was shot to death five blocks away in an unrelated crime that same morning. "Nobody coming into the barbershop because of all this killing," said Bobby Stevens as he gave a customer a shave at Mop City Barber along Moncrief Street. "This neighborhood can be deadly." Just days before Bridges' arrest, Sean Bernard Phoenix, 21, was charged with second-degree murder in the February 2018 shooting death of transgender woman Celine Walker. Jacksonville activist Jerry "Jay" Wilkes said the attack on Jones is a troubling step backward. "An assault on one of us is an assault on all of us," said Wilkes, manager of the Metro Entertainment Complex, which caters mainly to the LGBTQ community. In August 2018, Sheriff Mike Williams announced the creation of a liaison team aimed at improving communication with the LGBTQ community. Kensington applauded the move but said sheriff's deputies still don't do enough to reach out to the LGBTQ community. Another trans activist in Jacksonville agreed. "They need to go out into the neighborhoods," said Paige Mahogany Parks, founder of the Jacksonville Transgender Action Committee. "They need to be at the gay clubs. They need to hold a town hall meeting for LGBT people." Friends are hoping for justice An unnamed relative told Jacksonville's News4Jax that Jones was in critical condition and was "fighting for his life. Whenever he recovers, he wakes up, we are just going to move forward and just put it behind us." Jones' friends want justice for Lil' mama. "He didn't deserve this from that deranged man," said Eric Tarver, of Ocala, Florida. "He was a very caring person" and loved his siblings and his mother, who is disabled. "He is loved by many." Blue said she has known Jones since 1995. "I have seven kids," she said. "He helped me raise most of them. I've known Demetrick since he was 18 years old." She said after she learned he had been attacked, "I just got chills all over my body. I knew it was my best friend." Another friend, who goes by Omar Shabazz on Facebook, told Business Insider he had known Jones socially for more than a decade. "He was always a very sweet and fun-loving person." Jones has had some health issues over the years, Blue said. He has occasional seizures. He is easily distracted. Blue suspects he has Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. "He had the mind of a child," she said. "Some people took advantage of him. But he was never a sad person. Demetrick has a heart of gold. Everyone loved him. I have not met anyone who had a problem with Demetrick. He has a lot of people out here that love him and I hope he makes it. I really do." Deputies say if anyone has any information about the crime, they should contact the sheriff's office at 904-630-0500 or JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Nxivm leader Keith Raniere has been convicted. 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After being reported for illegally renting out her home, one California woman took revenge with a...After being reported for illegally renting out her home, one California woman took revenge with a mural, neighbors sayA California woman’s decision to plaster emojis on her outside walls, a move neighbors say came after they reported her for renting out her home on Airbnb, has made headlines around the world. But the war in Manhattan Beach, a city in southern California, sums up a wider problem for neighborhoods transformed by the tech platform: what happens if your neighbors hate it?Neighborly disputes over Airbnb and other home-share properties are frequent, said Dan Weber, the founder of Airbnb Hell, a website that collects horror stories from hosts, renters and neighbors of Airbnb homes. Continue reading...