PictureKaren Benke.

In a lengthy, deeply informative thread today, Dr. Bob Wachter, the Chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine, took a deep dive into the COVID-19 data that’s trending in the wrong direction all over the country right now and how it should affect our decision-making in an economy that is increasingly reopening.

He also gave us the CliffsNotes: “Importantly, for all activities, mask-wearing slashes the risk.”

Despite being state law, to wear or not to wear a mask has been an oft-debated subject for weeks. After Mill Valley Lumber Yard co-owner Jan Mathews planted the seed, longtime local writer and teacher Karen Benke, with the help of her students and a few Bay Area peers,  has taken a more selfless approach to the mask debate.

Benke, whose Writers Nest workspace is at MVLY, had her students, spanning from fourth to ninth grade, along with writers like Albert Flynn DeSilver, Michael Vogel and Maxine Flasher-Duzgones write poems about mask-wearing not just as behavior in support of your own health, but specifically as an empathetic gesture to those around you.

Megan Acio of WIGT Printing turned those poems into the imagery you see above. They appear in the form of a broadside, a sheet of paper that’s printed on only one side. It’s a medium with a long history and a name derived from the cannon broadside from a ship. A broadside was when all cannons (called guns when on a ship) fired all at once, usually devastating an enemy. Historically, printed broadsides conveyed a charged political message, one that usually devastated the “enemy” of the opposing side — hence the name.

“These broadsides work through both design and function,” Benke says. “‘MASK = LOVE’ is designed and printed around student and adult poetry, written with the intent to change the reader’s perspective of life. The broadsides themselves are an action to help people understand that we are wearing masks because we care about each other.”

You’ll start seeing the ‘MASK = LOVE’ broadsides around town in the coming days.


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