NAACP and BET Concludes Virtual Town Hall Series with Senator Klobuchar, Governor Whitmer, Governor Cuomo and Mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms
Washington, D.C. (April 29, 2020) – The NAACP hosted the fourth installation of its virtual town hall series with state and local legislators from across the country. The final in a four-part series, the town hall focused on the detrimental impact COVID-19 is having on communities of color, specifically Black Americans. The virtual town hall series, the brainchild of a BET and NAACP partnership, created a space for communities of color to hear reliable information from policymakers and ask relevant questions to government officials about recovery efforts.
The series concluded with Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP; Senator Amy Klobuchar, United States Senator, MN; Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan; LT. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, Michigan; Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York; Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta; and April Ryan, CNN Commentator. Wendall Pierce, an actor from the hit show, The Wire and the award-winning movie, Selma, made a guest appearance to give remarks about the devastation COVID-19 is having in his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. As residents and legislators from hardest-hit places, the call centered on the fact that African Americans are at the epicenter of this virus.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, United States Senator, MN said:
"This pandemic is putting into focus some of the glaring racial disparities that the NAACP has been pointing out for generations. When you look at the numbers right now, African Americans account for 70% of the deaths, but 30% of the population in Louisiana during this pandemic. Alabama, 44% of the deaths, but 20% of the population, and so far, we limited racial data that so many have been calling for from the CDC. We need data. That can sometimes sound hollow to people, but we have to have it to make a case for resources to go to specific states and municipalities."
Wendall Pierce said:
"Lessons can be learned from the tragedy of what Katrina was and the tragedy of post-Katrina. There was a pandemic of poverty and racism long before there was a pandemic of COVID-19. We are all aware of the president's negligence and his complicit actions of calling it a hoax and dismantling the pandemic team. The disparity we see now is because of the access to healthcare for African Americans in New Orleans and across this country."
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York said:
"The African American community has shouldered an unbelievable burden throughout this crisis. The people on the front lines are often African American. The healthcare worker, the firefighter, the bus driver, the grocery store clerk who gets up every morning and goes out. While they are doing this, they are simultaneously bearing the brunt of the virus.
Let's use this moment to expose the chronic injustice faced by African Americans and solve it."
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said:
"In Georgia, we've seen the governor open the state back up, even though our numbers continue to rise. We know in the African American community, barbershops and hair salons are preparing to open for business; these are our frontline workers who will go into these places of business, and then possibly take COVID-19 back into their homes. This is a crisis in Atlanta and throughout our state.
As the Mayor of Atlanta, I don't have the authority to overrule what the Governor of Georgia has put in place, but I do have the authority of my voice, and I'm using that to tell people to stay home."
Governor Gretchen Whitmer said:
"The experience of COVID-19 has been dramatic in Michigan. It increased quickly. To this date, we've lost 3,567 souls in our state. We need to realize what is at stake here. We can't move and not address the healthcare crisis we're facing. COVID-19 doesn't recognize state lines, party lines, or color lines, although it has affected the African-American community at more significant numbers. 14% of our residents are African American, yet over 40% of COVId-19 deaths are African American. This virus is holding up a mirror to our society and reminding of the deep inequities."
LT. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II said:
"For many people, this pandemic has made it clear that we need to have more support for people. There is a conversation needed about how we need to expand the safety net in this country. We need to talk and think about how we can expand access to healthcare, unemployment, food assistance, and other forms of income. As we continue to live in this "Now Normal," we need to think about how things like universal assistance programs can be better supportive of communities of color, Black communities to have what they need to thrive."
The call concluded with a rallying cry from Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, for callers to get civically engaged and ensure elected officials are held accountable to the communities that they serve, especially in times of crisis.
For more information about remedies and measures, the NAACP is taking to bring attention to this pandemic, visit naacp.org.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP's work and our "Game Changer" issue areas here.