Henry Street Settlement Launches COVID Frontlines Online Oral History

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since New York City first went on COVID lockdown. Henry Street Settlement has curated a selection of Lower East Side interviews done at the height of the pandemic in 2020. The oral history project, “Hope & Resilience on the COVID Frontlines,” features 13 frontline workers and community members from the local area. Interviews were conducted and edited by Julie Napolin, a digital humanities professor at The New School, Sylvie Douglis, producer of the NPR Life Kit podcast, and Katie Vogel, public historian for Henry Street Settlement, who coordinated the project.

They write:

“The project is the culmination of 30 oral history interviews with Henry Street frontline staff members, program participants, and neighborhood residents, recorded during the city’s first lockdown in spring 2020 and through the summer. During this period, Henry Street underwent a significant pivot, with frontline workers creating new programs practically overnight in response to community needs and steering the organization through an unpredictable time while managing their own fears and losses…

Many interview subjects also address the turning point in Black Lives Matter activism amid the June 2020 protests, particularly in the context of racial disparities exacerbated by the pandemic.

By summer 2020, the Settlement had established three food pantries, a helpline, and an emergency cash assistance program, while maintaining existing programs and working to keep its team and community safe. Interview subjects describe the imperative to keep moving: delivering meals, transforming an afterschool program to a food-distribution center, and responding to their own fears about their coming to work.”

You can listen here.