A selfie of Shane Harris at the People’s Alliance for Justice crisis operations center.
A selfie of Shane Harris at the People’s Alliance for Justice crisis operations center.

The Rev. Shane Harris is a young man in a hurry, ever speeding a social justice agenda. Not even the coronavirus era appears to slow the 28-year-old San Diegan.

This week his People’s Alliance for Justice announced an effort to recruit people to shop for homebound seniors, using donor money to buy more than food.

“The effort … will include screened volunteers with the People’s Alliance for Justice and other partners working hand in hand with vulnerable seniors and volunteers collecting a ‘wish list’ of about 10 items seniors may need from the store,” said a news release.

But who is helping Harris, the former foster child and local leader until two years ago of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network?

He shares his current conditions in the second Times of San Diego interview on how prominent San Diegans are navigating the COVID-19 crisis.

How are you working during this pandemic? What telework tools are you using?

I am mostly working by computer (drafting letters to officials, sending emails, holding meetings and attending meetings via Zoom, and more). I am also holding briefings every day with press and social media to update our community, city, state and country of what measures the People’s Alliance for Justice is taking even on a teleworking level to ensure that the vulnerable know we are still here for them even in a crisis like this. I am using Facebook, Instagram, the usual Twitter, Zoom for meetings, and exploring so many other tools online.

How many in your household — number of kids and adults? How are you all getting along?

I am the only one in my household. I have no kids (thank God at this young age of life LOL) and I’m the only adult, so I think I’m getting along fairly. However I will say that I feel lonely from day to day because I can’t go to the beach, park or out for leisure.

The only time I have gone out is if it’s for my organization’s business, and that’s pretty depressing. I honestly am struggling with this idea of quarantine because I want to hit up some of my friends or go hang out but can’t because of how dangerous this virus is.

How are you getting food and other necessities? How often do you personally go out, or are you taking delivery mostly?

I am honestly buying food at the store and cooking some of everything. This year I’ve been moving into that groove anyway of cooking more and going out less so it’s not a problem. The only thing that’s different is that when I want to go to the store I get stressed, which is usually pretty unusual but because of all of the stores being so packed and the restrictions upon them to only have a certain amount of people inside I am frustrated and stress every single time I have to go to the store to get needed items for the house.

I have lost many speaking engagements, which is a little less than half of my income.

Aside from official local, state and government channels, how are you getting news about the outbreak? How much social media do you use?

I already spend a good amount of time on my social media, usually sharing what work I am doing but as of the past few weeks I have been on more than usual looking into other avenues and social media friends for updates on what’s going on.

I have had a few close colleagues and partners get the virus and they are currently recovering so I go on to get personal updates from them to see what their experiences have been with the virus and how they are holding up as well as to provide spiritual intercession for them.

How do you ward off negative emotions — fear, anxiety, depression? What steps are you taking to preserve mental and physical health?

I ward of negative emotions a few ways. Definitely my relationship with God helps me a lot. Prayer, meditation, my continued public service to those who are vulnerable in our communities, and mentors who have lived through various crises reminding me we will get through this.

Every morning I am attempting to hit a run early and get showered, clean up and then head to my organization’s headquarters to talk to people who are struggling and to see how I can help them. That gives me hope and keeps me active both mentally and physically. I also am utilizing this moment as the world pauses to figure out my place in the world and what’s next for me.

What else do you want people to know about your own personal response to the outbreak?

I am doing the best I can. The struggle is real as a social entrepreneur and the head of a national nonprofit. A lot of companies, businesses and nonprofits are struggling right now and even shutting down in some cases. Nobody is thinking about giving money to you because they don’t know where things are headed and they want to be prepared for wherever we are headed.

I have personal bills and all kinds of personal needs that need to be met, but I am serving people and that is the best way for me to navigate this moment I feel. I feel as though the big plans I was headed toward this year are delayed but not denied. God is speaking to my heart and the soul of this country and it’s a good moment to accept the slowdown and realize you aren’t alone in it.

Not to be selfish but to share and let God direct our paths to peace, clarity and recovery. I am responding with my faith, consistency and belief that we will overcome this together with our higher power and I’m banking on that but don’t get it twisted. I am struggling with concerns just like everyone else in this moment but lifting my head up every day and organizing my heart out for the people I believe are in worse conditions than me such as our seniors, foster children and left-behind communities who will take this hit in bigger ways both on a public health scale and definitely an economic scale.

As crazy as this sounds, I am in this moment while thinking about the aftermath.

Second in a series. We invite suggestions for interview subjects — prominent San Diegans in politics, business, nonprofits, sports and the arts. Write to Ken Stone, contributing editor, or post a comment.