“When white folks catch a cold, black folks get pneumonia. Many of us are familiar with this phrase, which sums up the level of inequity black communities face in comparison with others in times of crises. Whether we are speaking of an economic downturn, environmental disaster, or a health pandemic, the disparities we face — on every indicator of well-being — means that the impact on black communities will be far worse.” Susan Batten, CEO, ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities.
These words opened Batten’s letter to The Chronicle of Philanthropy reminding all of us that philanthropy’s response to COVID-19 cannot be complicit in reinforcing historic underfunding and inequitable support of Black communities. The facts are in: when and where racial data is reported, African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately hospitalized and dying from the virus. And the economic impact is staggering.
The question is this: are we applying an equity lens as emergency relief is organized and distributed? Knowing the impact is inequitable, how do we ensure equitable relief and rebuilding? How do we as individuals, community leaders, government offi cials, and philanthropists ensure that Black communities, businesses, families, and nonprofi ts can secure the fi nancial support needed to meet immediate and long-term needs. Think about it: infrastructure within Black communities has been consistently underfunded. We need now to support and strengthen Black community organizations that reach into Black mainstream and marginalized communities.
This support is happening through funds that explicitly target Black-led and Blackserving organizations, and those that include the specifi c needs of the Black community within their larger strategy.
BET’s COVID-19 Relief Fund provides emergency support to African American communities that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Donations will be used to support relief and recovery programs administered by local community-based organizations in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and New York City.
The East Bay Community Foundation in Oakland, CA just made their second round of grants from their COVID-19: A Just East Bay Response Fund. To date they have made $1 million in response grants, working to help ensure community-based organizations can respond to needs related to loss of employment, hunger, school closures, healthcare costs, and more. They are reaching marginalized and highly impacted communities including undocumented immigrants, unsheltered, those that work in the cash economy (day laborers, domestic workers), uninsured, youth, victims of domestic violence, low-income seniors, and formerly incarcerated individuals.
Likewise, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis has established the Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund. They are allocating 60% of available funds to immediate needs and are saving 40% for recovery and resilience funding in the future. To date, the Fund has deployed $1,340,000 to 63 organizations to help people impacted by novel coronavirus and the economic consequences of the pandemic in West Tennessee, eastern Arkansas, and northern Mississippi.
We all can do something. Give to Black-led and Blackserving nonprofi ts. Ask your community foundation how it is responding to the needs of the Black community. Join a Black giving circle. Read ABFE’s Call to Action Regarding COVID-19.
Copyright 2020 – Mel and Pearl Shaw
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