African American Studies


Summarized by Alan C. Ventura

In this heartfelt interview, Carlos Rico of the Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project meets with Lionel Spencer to discuss the impact that COVID-19 has had on his life as a son and father. Spencer highlights his close relationship with his brothers and the challenges they have faced together, expressing admiration for their bond and hoping to have a similar connection with his own family going forward. Both Rico and Spencer take a deep dive into the challenges people face in adjusting to the lack of social interactions and their interest in understanding the impact of COVID-19 on social dynamics. In terms of Spencer’s own personal experience with COVID-19, he demonstrates resilience and adaptability in dealing with his father's life-threatening illness and navigating the challenges of the healthcare system during the pandemic. Into the discussion comes discrimination and marginalization in healthcare as Spencer shares his reflections on his father's healthcare and raises concerns about the difference in treatment that his father received. In the wake of tragedy, Spencer still remains engaged with his community through events like a church-led Sing for Justice and a Juneteenth barbecue. Spencer also briefly reflects on the ongoing nationwide protests for black lives and his experience with social movements. He expresses uncertainty and fear about the impact of protests and the narratives that those protests present to his community, but also maintains the need for protest in order to bring about systemic change. The challenges of isolation and testing are discussed, including Spencer's personal history with testing and the impact on family dynamics on it. In closing, Spencer talks about the music he has been listening to as a means of staying whole during the pandemic, gives his thoughts on how people consume his own music, and shares words of advice emphasizing the importance of staying hopeful and diligent through troubling times.