As I walk through the empty stillness of our recently opened Black Women’s Wellness Center, I am struck by just how deeply the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives overnight. As I check the mail and water the plants, I am keenly aware of the sound of my footsteps in a space that only a few weeks ago was filled with life, laughter and the celebratory zeal of a dream achieved and a new chapter.

Opening the doors of our center this past January was a highlight of our organization’s nine year history — a major milestone in our journey to secure a physical space to house our work and engage women and partners more deeply in the work of elevating black women’s health. Our grand opening celebration on Feb. 1 was a history-making moment, packed wall to wall with community members, donors and friends, all wrapped in a gleeful haze of pride in having helped achieve this milestone together.

As we gathered, there was no sense of an encroaching danger, no outcry by public officials of an imminent threat, no thought of social distancing. Only excitement about our plans to do more as we welcomed new staff, launched new programming, and witnessed the first signs of confirmation of just how needed our center is in a community where black women and their families are hardest hit by racial health disparities.