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Press Statement April 16, 2020

NAACP and BET Focus Part II of Virtual Town Hall on Trauma and Health Disparities African-Americans are Experiencing Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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Baltimore (April 16, 2020) - The NAACP hosted its second virtual town hall in a series entitled, "Unmasked: COVID-19" on Wednesday, April 15. The hour-long call focused on naming and addressing the real trauma communities are experiencing at this moment. Panelists also touched on the severe impact this pandemic has had on the prison and incarcerated population throughout the country.

The town hall included remarks from Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP; Ed Gordon, Journalist; Iyanla Vanzant, Inspirational Speaker and Author; Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, President, American Medical Association; and Benny Napoleon, Sheriff of Wayne County, Michigan. Each expert spoke to the health, mental, and economic effects of COVID-19 and what our community can do to ignite change.

To listen to the full town hall, click here.

Ed Gordon, renowned journalist, moderated the panel of community and health experts.

Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP said:

"The crisis of the moment is impacting our community more than any other community both by sheer numbers and percentage. It is the NAACP's mission to ensure that we are able to give quality information unfiltered by the mass media.

Policy is developed by policy makers. Policy makers are oftentimes elected. November is one of the most important elections that's going to be in front of us because this pandemic was created by the individuals sitting in the white house.

As leaders we need to address the current, be focused on the future, and recognize the power we have to move people to the pools because it's elections that determine the needs and interests of our community."

Iyanla Vanzant, Inspirational Speaker and Author said:

"We have to really prepare ourselves for a new normal. We have to stay present in the moment. What we can do in this moment is pray… Everything is on a reset. Everything is being reset. And if we continue to hold on to "it has to be this way," then we're going to suffer.

I really want us to be open and be willing and be ready to do everything in a new way, everything. The day will come, the time will come, when we can do our celebrations and can do our services… but right now, to stay safe, we can't do it."

Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, President, American Medical Association said:

"What is evident is the impact on the black community. We've seen the numbers in Wisconsin, Chicago, DC, New Orleans… We certainly have to make sure that we are looking at these alarming numbers. One important piece of that is we don't have the numbers we need nationwide.

You can't solve a problem unless you have the data to tell you where to target your interventions. We need the data and we need it at all levels."

Benny Napoleon, Sheriff of Wayne County, Michigan said:

"And much to my dismay there was no playbook for this so we had to kind of invent it going along. Since my appointment as Sheriff, I've looked at ways to reduce the jail population. I operate under the premise that 'if you're mad at them find someplace else for them, if you're afraid of them then you incarcerate them."

For more information about remedies and measures the NAACP is taking to bring attention to this pandemic visit


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.



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