Angela Kender saw it just before bed, and right then made a plan to confront her state’s lawmakers with pictures of local virus victims, including her mother. An old friend sent it to Fiana Tulip. She was furious about her mom’s death; maybe she could channel her rage like Urquiza had. And Rosemary Rangel Gutierrez’s sisters told her about the obituary after their father died. She sounds like you, they said.
“This man is the most dangerous person on the planet,” Urquiza said this week after Trump told Americans on video not to be afraid of covid-19. “I’m counting down the minutes until his referendum comes on November 3rd and we can end this nightmare and protect ourselves and our families.”
The loose support group Urquiza formed has tightened into organized activism. They have pushed politicians, especially Republicans, to enact more serious public health measures. This week, across the country, they have led vigils, memorials and funeral processions to grieve the more than 213,000 lives lost in the United States. The national week of mourning is likely the largest collective recognition of the country’s coronavirus toll.
Powerful grass-roots groups often have started this way, even before the days of organizing through social media. They began with personal anguish, with individuals grieving their dead alone, trying to transform their anger into action, policy or change. It’s the story of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, of the Sandy Hook Promise and Never Again MSD, of Black Lives Matter and Mothers of the Movement.
Urquiza named her group Marked by Covid. She founded it in the days after her father died, with some of his last words to her reverberating. He said he felt betrayed by Arizona’s governor and Trump, politicians he once supported. Urquiza, 39 and a recent graduate of a master’s program in public policy, decided then she would be the voice of a constituency that grows larger by the day: Americans who have lost loved ones to the pandemic and who are fed up with their elected officials.
“I hope that my small actions can start a movement,” she said in July, less than two weeks after her dad died.
It’s too early to know how influential the group, or others like it, will become. Some of Urquiza’s fellow organizers joined her as a way to process loss, and it’s unclear how Marked by Covid will define itself when the pandemic ends. But part of Urquiza’s ambitious vision is to advocate for policies that address the racial and economic inequalities exacerbated by the virus.
Urquiza and Marked by Covid have attracted national attention and more than 50,000 followers across their social media accounts. More than 1,000 people have donated $30,000 to the group, Urquiza said, and they’re using the money to place more honest obituaries online and in newspapers.
The Joe Biden campaign has taken notice. Urquiza spoke at the Democratic National Convention in August, appears in anti-Trump ads and sat in the