Dispatches From The Field

Since its beginning in May 2020, Rituals in the Making has developed in myriad ways, guided by the generosity of individuals and communities who have shared their experiences with death and mourning during the pandemic.

Here is a sampling of some of those conversations and observations from our fieldwork. They include excerpts from interviews, brief write-ups of events we attended and observed, as well as photo essays.

Voices of Funeral Service, Iowa

“Fly in the Milk:” African/American Rituals in White Spaces While there are 4.1% of African Americans in the state of Iowa there is a sizeable population of West African immigrants. Between 1990 and 1993 a couple of thousand African refugees were admitted to the U.S. each year with admittance doubling from 3,000 to 7,000.  In…

Voices of Funeral Service, Virginia

In Norfolk, the Grave Family openly discussed how the Chesapeake Bay Boating Disaster of 1955 catapulted their business to where it is today. A schooner named the Levin J. Marvel capsized in the Chesapeake Bay near the town of North Beach, Maryland. The ship sought shelter from Hurricane Connie in Herring Bay during a weeklong…

Voices of Funeral Service, Baltimore

“I had to take care of the community; I had to take care of the dead.” –Mr. Joseph H. Brown, III, CEO of Joseph H. Brown, Jr. Funeral Home “It’s just what we do.” –Mrs. Nadean Paige, 16-year Funeral Service Professional                                         Founder of C.A.L.L.E.D. African Americans in Baltimore have been engaged in the death…

When One Cannot Sit Shiva

When we spoke to Emma, a 27 year-old social work student in Manhattan, she was still feeling overwhelmed by the deaths of her two grandfathers, Bob and Marty. She was also overwhelmed by the rules Jewish funerals necessitated.