Esquire (USA) : 2020-06-01

20 LIVES, 20 PERSPECTIV­ES : 65 : 65


THE FUNERAL DIRECTOR As a resident advisor, STEPHEN KEMP A lot of us Southfield, Michigan AFRICAN-AMERICANS MAKE UP: 14 percent of Michigan’s population 41 percent of its coronaviru­s-related deaths Kemp at his funeral home, outside Detroit, with a refrigerat­ed truck storing the remains of people waiting for cremation. County authoritie­s have been overwhelme­d, which has delayed the issuance of death certificat­es. I’m starting at Reeves didn’t get to say goodbye in person to many of his friends, shown here before the pandemic. communityp­eople. We’ve always been that way, especially in the African-American community. I always say the leaders in the community are the doctor, the lawyer, the minister, and the funeral director. impersonal now that we can’t see each other, we can’t touch one another, we can’t hug each other. We can’t even have a church service. If we do, there’s only ten people, and they’ve got to sit apart. You know, I’m afraid that if people get used to this, when their loved one dies, they’ll say, “Oh, just cremate them and we’ll call you later.” I tell families: Whether it be in your backyard or at the bar or at the funeral home—anywhere—celebrate their life in some way. political environmen­t that we FUNERAL DIRECTORS ARE 20 LIVES, 20 PERSPECTIV­ES I T S E E M S S O WHAT WE’RE LEARNING R I G H T N O W T H E have—us versus them, and it’s happening to them so it won’t happen to us—has to change. I mean all over the world. I’m not trying to be profound here. I’m just trying to be real. My issues are your issues; your issues are my issues, especially when it comes to communicab­le disease. EACH OTHER. A LOT MORE IF WE KNOW OUR NEIGHBOR.” abigprotes­tinLansing against Governor Whitmer by people who said that she’d taken away their freedoms. “Don’t tread on me” and all this kind of thing. They have no conception of my community, our lives in the city. All they know is “I live out here on five acres, and I can’t mow it. You’re stepping on my freedom!” Meanwhile, our people are dying because they have no choice. There may be ten members in one house. How do you tell somebody they’ve got to self-isolate when there’s multiple family members in one house? to each other instead of being so separated, but that’s the political environmen­t we’re in. We don’t even know our own neighbor, so we can’t detect if he or she is sick. Or you never noticed that they’re not out of the house. I think we need to get back to that. A lot more lives will be saved if we know our neighbor. YESTERDAY, THERE WAS One of my big When people are Historical­ly, when a WE MUST TALK DON’T MISS THE TWENTIETH PERSPECTIV­E ON WHAT WE’RE LEARNING: THAT OF EUGENIO MESA, AN ENVIRONMEN­TALSERVICE­S WORKER AT ONE OF NEW YORK CITY’S BUSIEST HOSPITALS. There isn’t a tension —As told to D. H. TURN TO PAGE 4. 65 SUMMER 2020