“We’re loud!”

I don’t remember if it was Anna or Melle who remarked on our booming voices and boisterous laughter last night, but the statement was true. We sat around an oval-shaped table eating lumpia and pancit and garlic rice and Menudo and donuts at Robinson Space in the middle of the Historic Filipinotown neighborhood of Los Angeles. The room was decorated for Christmas and revolution, and we were having a grand old time.

These old friends hadn’t been together in this configuration since before the early days of the pandemic. It had been two years without our usual round of March birthday brunches and drinks. Two years without quick get-togethers or whatever we used to do when a plan could come together without worrying about our mortal safety and that of those we love just by breathing the same air with people we like for a while.

And yet there we were, drinking white claws and seltzer water and making small talk with new acquaintances.

It was a family dinner. It was a celebration. It was recognition of the work one of us had been doing during these desperate times. While most of us had been in our own homes protecting our butts, Melle had been in the streets of our city making sure our neighbors didn’t go hungry. Her organization, Polo’s Pantry, was in its infancy when the needs of those she intended to serve increased exponentially. At the same time, many of the government services they may have depended on became unavailable.

Melle and the community coalitions she is a part of sprung into action to meet those needs. They did so from nearly the moment stay-at-home orders began at the time when we didn’t fully understand the risks, the safety protocols, or how long we’d be living this way.

“I say ‘I love you’ through food,” she said as she spoke to the attendees last night. Food is a love language. It had brought all of us together on a Saturday night to laugh, cry, learn, and share.

To get loud.

Be loud.

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