Paris Foster shares her experience during the COVID-19 pandemic in Madison. She talks about how the pandemic has challenged and motivated her to take life more seriously, by participating in the UW Odyssey program, looking after her health, and spending time with family.
Narrator Name: Paris Foster
Interviewer Name: Karen Dreyfuss
Date of interview: 1/12/2021
[00:00:07] Start of interview
[00:00:58] When did you start hearing about coronavirus and what did you think about it
[00:01:51] How has this impacted your daily life? What does your life look like now?
[00:02:38] What is it like taking a class with the Odyssey Project during a pandemic?.
[00:03:28] What did you first think about COVID, and what do you know to be true now?
[00:04:19] Have people in your family recovered from COVID?
[00:04:49] How do you feel about what's happening in our country, with politics and protests?
[00:06:06] Have you participated or been in anything this year, community-wide?
[00:06:40] What's NOI stand for?
[00:07:58] How has living in a pandemic as a family changed for you?
[00:08:36] What do you want people, 5-10 years from now, to know about living during this time?
[00:09:16] How do you find hope and motivation? What do you do to cope?
[00:09:50] What's something positive that has happened because of the pandemic?
[00:10:20] Do you fear for your own health and safety?
[00:11:12] Is there anything else you want to share?
[00:11:59] It’s a new year; anything in particular you're really looking forward to this year?
[00:13:22] Is there anything else you want to share in general?
[00:14:01] End of interview
[START OF RECORDING]
Interviewer: Hello. My name is Karen Dreyfuss. Today's date is Tuesday, January 12, 2021, and I'm here with the Madison Public Library's Project Stories from a Distance. At this point, I'll let the narrator introduce herself.
Paris Foster: Hey, I'm Paris Foster. I was born in Harvey, Illinois, but raised up here in Madison, graduated from Memorial, home of the Spartans. RIP Mr. Diamond. Make sure ya'll get that in here. Keep that man's name alive. But, yeah.
Interviewer: Awesome. Well, Paris, as you know, we're recording stories about life in the pandemic. And so, let's start from the beginning. Can you describe sort of when you started hearing about coronavirus, and what you originally thought about it last year?
Paris Foster: When I first started hearing about it last year, the beginning of the year, I think, I wasn't taking it serious. I'm like, it's not real, it's not going to get here. But, yeah, it's real. It's nothing to play with. It's not a joke anymore. I don't think anything's funny and I learnt that last summer. It's not a joke.
Interviewer: What do you mean you learned that last summer?
Paris Foster: That COVID-19 is really real. It's nothing to play with. Wear your mask, social distance, something that I've been doing before COVID. Not being around a group of people and staying home and not going to the grocery store if you don't have to.
Interviewer: Yeah, so how has this impacted your daily life? What are things you were doing before the pandemic and how does your life look now?
Paris Foster: Well, I did have a life before the pandemic. But the pandemic impacted my life, because it's pushing me and showing me that life is too short. Life is serious. I need to start getting serious.
Interviewer: What does that mean for you? “I have to get serious.”
Paris Foster: It means open up a business, stop playing, stop waiting around for somebody to help you or for things to change. Start being the change that you want to see. So I've been more serious with school, more serious with just everything.
Interviewer: And I know, obviously, we have a connection through the Odyssey Project. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about why you enrolled, how you got connected, what is it like taking a class this year during a pandemic?
Paris Foster: I got enrolled through the Odyssey. I learned from it from my mom, Lolita Phillips, who completed it. And my sister, Protégé. And I wanted to do it, because I felt like it was a foot in the door for me to pursue my law career. And it would be a foot in the door for me to get in UW once I'm done with MATC. And there's a lot of opportunities that comes along with that. And I'm serious. So I feel like it was a foot in the door, like a new door has opened for me at Odyssey.
Interviewer: Awesome. You kind of talked about this, but COVID-19 kind of came out, information came out about it. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, maybe what you thought about it then and what you know to be true now?
Paris Foster: I thought it wasn't real then, and I know it's true now, so I wear my mask when I go anywhere. I try to keep my daughter in the house. People are dying in my family. People in my family have died. That's how I know it's real, because I'm like, people in my family that's close to me got it. And that's how I found out, Oh, this is serious, because I don't want nothing to happen to my family, so that's how I knew it was real.
Interviewer: Have people in your family recovered, are they okay?
Paris Foster: Yeah, thank God, everyone has recovered. I thank God for that. I think that's God right there, because everyone recovered, everyone is doing better now, and it was fatal, but everyone's doing better now. I had a cousin that was on a ventilation, like needed that to stay alive, but I heard she's doing well now. She’s just out here now. So I thank God.
Interviewer: A lot of people have talked about multiple pandemics this year, and if we think back to the politics of the year, the Black Lives Matter protests–a lot has gone on in our country this year, and I wondered if you could talk a little bit about how you feel about what's happening in our country.
Paris Foster: I feel like that if Black people want to see a change, we got to come together. We have to do better. We can't just put it all on the white man. Yeah, they got us in certain situations, but at the end of the day, it's up to us to make a change. And we can't go burning down they buildings or robbing them, looting. That's not going to make real change. You got to go to school, become a judge, become a lawyer, become a doctor, become things they said we couldn't do. That's how you make real change. And people just worried about the wrong things and not looking at the bigger picture, like the incident that just went down. Oh, Black people can't do this, but yet, you got a picture of a Black man in the middle of it in the building. Y'all not looking at the bigger picture. He didn't get shot, he just standing there. Y'all not looking at the bigger picture. I feel like Black Lives Matter, but we have to start with a change in ourselves first.
Interviewer: I know with the pandemic a lot of people haven't been around crowds, but have you participated or been in anything this year, community-wide?
Paris Foster: NOI–I completed NOI with Alex, and I completed that with them, one of the best community groups I've joined since anything. I like that group. I feel like everyone should take NOI with Alex.
Interviewer: Can you explain that? What's NOI stand for?
Paris Foster: Right–I just know they taught us a lot of things, how to build a core.
Paris Foster: How to build a core, how to–and they was just patient; we gained so much information about the community alders, everything. Everything was broken down for us. And then Alex had so much patience, it wasn't like with other groups where they get mad at you for not knowing information. And that's not right. Talk about Black Lives Matter, but you getting mad at the Black girl because she don't know things and she's asking questions. So now you're ready to kick her up out of the group. And that's one of the experiences I experienced with Sabrina Madison. And then you have Brandy Grayson. You got all these community leaders, like Brandy Grayson. I wish everyone would take her class too, because Brandy Grayson is awesome. You have Alex, you have Brandy Grayson, you have people–and I'm not even naming everyone. You have people that's really for us. You have people that's just doing it just to do it for money and for fame and because it looks right. So I don't care who get mad at seeing this.
Interviewer: Listening. Let's talk about your daughter for a little bit. Can you tell a little bit about her and how living in a pandemic as a family has changed for you?
Paris Foster: It has brought us closer together. We're spending more time together. We're spending more time together. She goes to Reach Dane and Shonda’s Bugs. That's her afterschool, Shonda’s Bugs. If you're looking for any childcare, call Shonda’s Bugs. We just spending more time together. Getting to know each other more. Yeah.
Interviewer: So part of this project is, you know, let's say kids five–ten years from now studying the pandemic of 2020, go back and listen to real time stories, what are some things you think they should know? If London goes back in time and hears this story, for example, what do you want people to know about living during this time?
Paris Foster: Don't let the pandemic or anything hold you back. If anything, this pandemic has been nothing but motivation. And they should look at all bad situations as motivation.
Interviewer: It's interesting that you say that, because I think a lot of people are depressed or having trouble finding hope and motivation. How do you find hope and motivation? What do you do to cope?
Paris Foster: I just look forward to all the good things, speak that into existence, just stay focused on all the positive things. All the positive things that is coming from this pandemic. Because there's positive things that's coming from this pandemic. So yeah, I'm just staying focused on all the good.
Interviewer: Can you give an example? What's something positive that has happened because of the pandemic?
Paris Foster: I'm going to open a business. This pandemic has got me not being scared anymore of what can go wrong. This pandemic got me facing all my fears, and I'm so grateful for this pandemic. I feel bad for everything that happens through it, but I feel like I'm turning a negative into a positive.
Interviewer: That's awesome. Do you personally–are you afraid of catching COVID? Do you fear for your own health and safety?
Paris Foster: Yeah, I do, but I'm just moving how I was moving before COVID, because I was moving like this before COVID hit. I don't like being around people. I don't like nothing, so I'm okay.
Interviewer: That's lucky.
Paris Foster: I fear for everybody else who want to go party and stuff and they can't. They not used to just sitting down. So, yeah, I'm chilling.
Interviewer: It's funny, because a lot of people have said that. Like the Universe is telling everyone to pause, just take a breath, relax, look around, take it in. It sounds like you're doing some of that.
Paris Foster: Yeah.
Interviewer: Is there anything else you want to share, just about what this past year has been like for you?
Paris Foster: I don't know. This past year has been great with the help and support of Emily. Even before Odyssey, I had support from Emily. And Brian, Brian won running for district. That just really motivated me even more. Seeing all my people get out here and do really stuff. J.L.-- she's running, Brandy–everybody's running for district. It's just motivation, and I'm just proud of everyone. That's how you get through a pandemic. You just stay focused on the positive. So I'm just proud of everyone, and I thank them for motivating me to get out here and do things.
Interviewer: That's awesome. So it's a new year, it's 2021. Anything in particular you're really looking forward to this year?
Paris Foster: Just being more involved with my family, supporting them like they support me. Just being more involved and more family-oriented, because this pandemic has got me thinking that I need to be more involved with my family so I can bring them in on this business plan, motivate everyone to do more positive things. So yeah.
Interviewer: That's awesome. I'm impressed, Paris. I feel like you've got just the right attitude. I think a lot of people are struggling. As you know, a lot of people are struggling.
Paris Foster: Yeah, I was struggling. I'm not going to say it was all roses, but you got to overcome it. You got to let the good outweigh the bad, you can't just stay in that dark situation forever. You got to come to the light.
Interviewer: True. Would you be willing–do you want to share something that you struggled with during this pandemic?
Paris Foster: It's not just the pandemic. It's just life, period, before the pandemic.
Paris Foster: So yeah. I'm not ready to tell that story yet, but I will soon.
Interviewer: Gives you more time to think about it.
Paris Foster: Yeah.
Interviewer: Well, I really appreciate your time today. Before we end our interview, is there anything else you want to share in general?
Paris Foster: RIP Mr. Diamond, home of the Spartans.
Paris Foster: No, I just want to say shout out to everyone.
Paris Foster: It's not easy.
Interviewer: It's not easy, yeah. Well, we'll hope for a better New Year and I'll see you in Odyssey and thank you so much for your time today. Take care Paris.
Paris Foster: You too.
[END OF RECORDING]