The NAACP and BET launched “Unmasked: A COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall Series” to focus on "the health, economic, and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the African American community." In the fourth event of four in the Virtual Town Hall Series, the NAACP shared critical information in an effort to update and empower our communities.
Award-winning White House/CNN correspondent, April Ryan moderated this, the "final Unmasked conversation," which featured state-level and city representatives Senator Amy Klobuchar, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and Governor Andrew Cuomo discussing how the pandemic is affecting African Americans.
Senator Klobuchar's address ensured progress was being towards availability of resources for Covid-19 recovery; one being the change in the small business program going forward to make sure $60 billion is set aside for small lenders serving women-owned and small businesses. Klobuchar praised all frontline workers, including
grocery store clerks, and janitors... those who may not be seen fighting the frontlines; however, extremely essential, but said "cheering has to come with change in policies." This was the purpose of the townhall. Representatives supported the history of efforts by the NAACP in pointing out racial disparities, and pushing the President of United States. Klobuchar ended, stating, "We have to take the hard, horrible lessons learned from this pandemic and make sure we change our policies going forward."
Governmor Cuomo's empathy for those fighting the frontlines was clear as he appeared emotional in his address. Cuomo acknowledged that many of the frontline workers are African Americans; the same community in which the highest population of coronavirus cases have been confirmed. The very lives being lost are those deemed essential and fighting the spread of the pandemic firsthand. He suggests the Nation "use this moment to expose the cronic injustice and to resolve it...
document the facts, document the infection rate, health inequities, poor services and percent of essential workers that are a part of the African-American community." He continued, "let's use this as a pivot moment to show and expose the injustice, and show what needs to be done. Theres an opportunity to change and grow if we seize it, and this is an opportunity to seize!"
W4TC Mayor Keisha Bottoms was an integral figure during the townhall, particularly as the City of Atlanta became one of the first to reopen just days ago.
The Mayor stood firm in her support and the importance of "stay-at-home" orders at this time. She said, "Although, as Mayor of ATL, I don't have the authority to supercede what the governor has put in place, I still have the authority of my voice, and I'm continuing to use that to encourage people to stay home."
Now that states are beginning to reopen, Georgia being one, Bottoms expects numbers to increase and remains extremely concerned about initiatives to keep the numbers down. She states "it's going to be about us stepping up as leaders and making it possible for people to stay at home... we have to find a way to get laptops in the homes of people; extend wifi into our communities so people can transition to work from home. " She continued, "As leaders, it's our responsibility for people that can't work from home to make it easier for them to stay at home...make sure they have food on the table, suspend payment of water bills, parking ticket fines... for people already living on the margins eceonomically, these things can set them back even further."
Passionately, Bottoms suggested "we have to be creative. This is our now normal, and the reality is it may be our 'now normal' for the next two years." Bottoms assured, "the United States of America has faced challenges like this before, and certainly African Americans have faced generational challenges that we've been able to get to the other side of this, but it's going to require that we have the will that all of our communities get to the other side of this."
When asked ahat she would say to The President now, using her platform, Boffoms stated "leadership requires courage, and it means you will have to make tough decision. This is a war that we are facing, with an enemy that is attacking us across the globe. Face this battle in the way in which so many presidents have done before; with courage, compassion, with expectation that there are better days are to come, but it will require that tough decisions be made today so that our tomorrows will be better than our yesterday."
The coronavirus hitting communities of color the hardest is the reason Michigan Governor Whitmer believes "we have to take agressive action across this country."
The hour-long conversation ended with questions from the over 25k viewers and listeners. Although an "effective action plan" was not drawn, a clear call-to-action was made. Leaders must use their platforms to demand resources, while the community must recognize it's power, especially in the light of the upcoming Presidential election.
There is a need for volunteers, and the NAACP offers online registration at NAACP.org/engage.