As the Black community's coronavirus cases and deaths numbers continue to climb, community leaders are joining forces and taking action with a direct and focused response to the pandemic.
“We are crafting a black emergency supply chain,” says Rev. Michael McBride, pastor of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley, California, and one of the lead coordinators of Mask for the People, a black faith community effort to reduce the number of black people dying of the coronavirus. “The ground also serves to provide and distribute accurate health information to hard-hit, predominantly black neighborhoods and jails around the country,” according to NBC News.
“It is, quite frankly, a sign of utter privilege to be shocked by what has happened,” McBride said. “What is astounding to me and I think some of the organizers I know is that as we are hearing that our loved ones are not only at the highest risk of infection and death but that in many places we are also having a hard time getting access to care, access to basic preventative tools.”
With $1.5 million raised, Masks for the People was able to secure a shipment of 20,000 masks, with more expected by week’s end. Taking it a step further, the organization will soon be distributing masks and hand sanitizer at transit stations, as well as near stores around other hard-hit neighborhoods across the country. Helping distribute the product will be people who are “working as violence disruptors and black churches with assistance programs, such as food banks.”
“The numbers are really only a concrete indictment of the leadership of the federal government, the leadership of Donald Trump and the lack of preventative care that African Americans have at all times in this country,” McBride said. “What we are going to do is leverage the existing infrastructure of black religious communities and existing anti-gun violence networks to help the places and people who need it most. If we don’t, who will?”
Why are black Americans’ coronavirus cases increasing?
Health issues and concerns related to high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and heart disease - all of which officials claim are contributing factors - are conditions that make them more vulnerable to dying from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“Even now that this data is out there, so much of the conversation has been, ‘Wow, look at these numbers,’ and, ‘Let’s analyze these numbers,’ and ‘Well, African Americans suffer disproportionately from pre-existing conditions or live in more dense communities which make them vulnerable to this disease,’” said Dr, Crystal Cené, a physician and associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “It’s the language of individual behaviors and individual conditions, of symptoms rather than a diagnosis and plan of action to address what I see as the core disease: white supremacy.”
It comes to no surprise that Black and Latino Americans are more likely than white and Asian Americans “to be uninsured, to receive little to no preventative health care and to receive lower-quality care when they do see a doctor.”
When the president said, “we need to look more into the reason,” Cene’ mentioned that “we know the reason.” But having this information, what are the president and other public officials going to do about it.
Cene’s list of actions includes: “a mass expansion of testing and deploying students in a number of disciplines — sociology, social work, medicine, public health and others — to call and educate or check in with people with pre-existing conditions that make them vulnerable, potentially putting them in touch with doctors via telemedicine.”
However, funding those actions will require government assistance and support.
It’s not to say that nothing is being done at all, but more is definitely needed.
The New York City public hospital system will open up five new testing sites on Friday in mostly black and Latino neighborhoods, while Chicago is trying to keep their case number low by instituting a curfew and more strict enforcement when it comes to social distancing.
Frederick Joseph, an author and marketer, is doing his part to help those that need it most. He has raised and donated $40,000 to New York’s City’s food bank since the coronavirus-related layoffs began.
“And for those who do need it, you know that you have probably already applied for all the things you can, but unemployment, cash assistance, none of that is designed to put money in the bank to help you feed your children today.”
So far, Frederick and a group of volunteers have given away around 900 grants, averaging $200 each to people who have made direct requests to him on social media.