Photography

A pandemic at our doorsteps

When the coronavirus intensified its deadly grip on the United States in March, it quickly became apparent that minorities and the underserved would be hit particularly hard. The African American community proved to be most vulnerable in two parts of Maryland close to my home where the population is predominantly Black: Prince George’s County and the city of Baltimore.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

I made photographs at lonely funerals, drive-by graduations and backyard weddings, rites of passage suddenly altered. Then the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police set off nationwide protests. While anger filled the streets, victims of the virus kept filling morgues, lines for food handouts kept growing and the nation’s economy kept sinking. Vaccines are on the horizon, but the pain of the pandemic and economic and racial disparities remain.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

A drive-by memorial is held for Bishop James Flowers, whose body lay in repose at City Hall in Seat Pleasant, Md., on April 13, 2020. The service allowed mourners to pay their respects without exiting their vehicles. Flowers, who died of covid-19, was the pastor of Shining Star Freewill Baptist Church for 38 years.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Relatives of Bishop James Flowers, including his daughter Elder Yolanda Flowers, second from left, grieve as they pass in front of his casket as he lies in repose at City Hall in Seat Pleasant, Md., on April 13.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Elder Yolanda Flowers of Shining Star Freewill Baptist Church, in foreground at right, watches as pallbearers carry the casket of her father, Bishop James Flowers, to his grave in Landover, Md., on April 13. The widely respected Flowers was pastor of the church for 38 years.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Jayla Bobo, 18, celebrates her high school graduation on a street corner near her home with friends and family in Fort Washington, Md., on May 26. The pandemic turned commencements into drive-by ceremonies and backyard celebrations.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Jayla Bobo, center, 18, celebrates with friends and family after graduating from high school. They gathered at a street corner near her home in Fort Washington, Md., because of the pandemic.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

David Ivey, left, celebrates his marriage to Dana Ivey, in background at right, at their wedding ceremony in the Ivey family's backyard in Cheverly, Md., on May 15. Many such events were held at home as the pandemic upended life across the nation.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Volunteer Mike Williams waits for the few voters who showed up at a polling station, specially equipped to deal with the pandemic, for a special election in Maryland's 7th Congressional District in Baltimore on April 28. Most voters mailed in their ballots to fill the House seat left open by the death of Elijah Cummings.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Volunteers head to their stations to prepare for a food giveaway at St. Mary's Church in Landover Hills, Md., on May 2. People stayed in their cars and were given a box of groceries, including produce and staples, as they drove through. Food security became an issue for many who lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Gready Man readies a cart to deliver produce on May 19. It was part of an effort by Baltimore's famous “arabbers,” vendors who traditionally sell their produce from horse-drawn carts, to help needy seniors in Baltimore.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Robert Kiker, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Prince George's County Sheriff's Office, practices on his trumpet before a Memorial Day ceremony at the Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Md., on May 25. The ceremony was filmed for streaming and virtual viewing.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Morgan Dean-McMillan, an employee of Maryland Cremation Services, removes the body of a covid-19 victim at a morgue in Columbia, Md., on June 1. The cremation firm ran out of room in its refrigerator units during the spring as covid-19 deaths soared.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Friends and family members hold a vigil in Baltimore on May 20 for Daryana Dyson, 15, the first child in Maryland to die of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. The disease has been linked to covid-19.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Protesters gather in Baltimore on June 19 to celebrate Juneteenth and protest police violence. The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers ignited a firestorm of protest during a pandemic that has taken a disproportionate toll on African Americans and other minorities.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Protesters take part in a youth-led demonstration in Baltimore on June 1. Despite the pandemic, protests erupted in cities across the country after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Jeremiah Flowers holds his 1-year-old nephew Nolan James Flowers as they watch the funeral of Bishop James Flowers at a cemetery in Landover, Md., on April 13. The widely respected pastor, who died of covid-19, led Shining Star Freewill Baptist Church for 38 years.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post