People in Geneva, New York have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with a daily noise demonstration expressing appreciation for all the community’s essential workers. Organized by the Geneva Women’s Assembly, the actions began on March 25. Every day at 6:00PM, people go to their windows, porches, sidewalks, and cars to clang pots and pans, play music and honk horns for five minutes of collective celebration of the vital work of those sustaining the community. The demonstrations thank nurses, doctors and front-line healthcare providers. They also show the community’s gratitude to the cleaners, gas station workers, drivers, restaurant and bar workers, grocery and pharmacy workers, and everyone else whose work is essential.
New York’s statewide requirement that all non-essential workers stay home is hard on everyone. Many people have lost not just their wages but their jobs. Household labor has increased substantially with children out of school and family members working from home. Essential workers face additional burdens of securing childcare while potentially putting themselves and their households at risk of exposure. GWA organized Solidarity at Six to help demonstrate how we are all in this together.
The action was initially promoted with a press release, front page story in the local paper, and radio announcements. Social media has been a means for distributing photos and videos from each day’s demonstrations. Since several churches participate by ringing their bells, the sound of appreciation for workers resounds all over the city.
Small bands of community members (spaced six feet apart from each other) have played music outside the local hospital. Households in some neighborhoods have created mini-parades. On one circle a loudspeaker blasts a five minute dance-party with songs such as “Stayin’ Alive” and “9 to 5.”
Inspired by similar actions in Italy and Spain, Solidarity at Six has been a way for Genevans to feel a strong sense of community at a time when people are encouraged to practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible. With cancellations of public meetings and sporting events, people lose the regular contact with others that sustains social life. Solidarity at Six provides a safe way to remind everyone of the power of community.
A daily noise schedule helps parents caring for children at home since daycares, schools, and after-school programs have been closed. “I imagine Mom saying to little Jesse: get your classwork done and you can bang the pots today,” said Penny Hankins, from the Geneva Women’s Assembly.
“The stress that the coronavirus epidemic puts on front-line medical providers is enormous,” said City Councilor Laura Salamendra, who is also a member of the GWA. “They didn’t sign up to do a job where there was not going to be enough masks, gloves, gowns, and swabs, where cuts in hospital funds would mean not enough necessary beds and equipment for an overwhelming number of very sick patients. We have got to tell them that we’ve got their backs. Everyone in Geneva has to know that the way we stand together is to isolate but we don’t have to be alone.”