Still Unbroken: Acknowledging African-American Community Leaders during COVID-19

During this incredibly difficult time, we feel that it is important to think and reflect on how much the Coronavirus has impacted our community. Not only has the ongoing pandemic affected the lives of college students but millions of people around the world. Especially for those from low-income families, minorities, and immigrants, financial resources have been hard to come by for some groups of people. It has been hard to deal with this reality for the past month and a half, wondering when things will return back to normal. For many people, we am sure they are praying and trying to stay hopeful during this crisis.

The epidemic has had a disproportionate effect on minorities in the United States and across the world. In cities and towns across America, those that continue working to provide for themselves and their families have a greater chance of being exposed to the virus. A limited study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) showed that African Americans 33% of hospitalizations from the virus nationwide, despite only making up 13.4% of the total U.S. population. 

Only four U.S. states (Michigan, Kansas, North Carolina, and Illinois) have broken down infections by race so far, but the disproportionate number of African-Americans that live in cities like Detroit and Chicago have accounted for the highest amount of deaths. Even in a state like Kansas, where African Americans make up only 6.1 percent of the population, more than 30 percent of virus deaths were African-Americans according to Business Insider

These numbers come about as health services have been preoccupied with containing the virus itself, leading to 65 percent of CDC reported virus cases specifying no race. The CDC has stated that because of the overwhelming scale of the pandemic that health departments “may not be able to gather all the information about each case,” CDC spokeswoman Kirsten Nordlund reported. States’ responses have varied widely nationwide, with some states displaying efficient responses to the pandemic, while other states like Georgia and Florida have already started to ease restrictions on movement and business operations.  

Black leaders, along with state and city officials have largely been the heroes to assume the responsibility of protecting their constituents from both the virus and federal mismanagement. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, and African Methodist Episcopal Church leaders have all decried Governor Brian Kemp’s reopening of certain Georgia businesses as “reckless” and “perplexing.” Many black owned businesses and churches have continued to abide by social distancing guidelines and leaders of major cities have started to roll out their own plans to continue with virus prevention measures, despite the state governments move to relax restrictions. 

Governor Kemp’s rapid fire move to reopen reportedly caught members of his own coronavirus task force off guard, even drawing fire from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, “Our friends and neighbors in Georgia are moving too fast, too soon” he tweeted on April 21. City leaders in Georgia are considering legal action to keep their cities safe and many business owners across the state have simply refused to open their doors. 

Black faith leaders and congregations across the country have quickly built their own network of support for their communities where the government has come up short. The Reverend Michael McBride, Director of the Live Free Campaign, has transformed his Black Church PAC to what he calls a “black emergency supply chain” that distributes masks, hand sanitizer, and health information to the hardest hit, predominately black, neighborhoods across the country. Reverend McBride has championed the existing infrastructure of black religious communities as lifelines to the country’s most vulnerable communities. The lack of response from both the federal government and some state governments has led to Reverend McBride’s retooling of existing religious, political, and communal organizations into an efficient and lifesaving social safety network that has already delivered up to 20,000 masks its first week and raised over $1.5 million dollars to fund its operations

Cash infusions to families that cannot afford to stop working in New York City have been led by author and marketer Frederick Joseph, whose small groups of volunteers raise money over social media for families who have lost their jobs. So far, Joseph’s group has managed to give away 900 grants averaging $200 to people who have made direct requests over social media. Across the country, black leaders have been continually stepping up to provide for black communities that have been outright ignored by their state government and passed over by Washington during this global pandemic. 

What does this mean? Underrepresented and marginalized groups are being severely affected. As the economy continues to tumble day after day, People of Color disproportionately lack access to food, medical supplies and money to support themselves and their families. COVID-19 continues to affect racial minorities, as there hasn’t been enough help to support them. The failures of the federal government are many and sadly not surprising, but the tenacity of the black community to once again take the place of the government in caring for members of their community should be acknowledged.