Press Release

NAACP and BET Explore the Impact of COVID-19 on African Americans in Part I of Four-Part Virtual Town Hall Series

April 9, 2020

Baltimore (April 9, 2020) –In Partnership with BET, the NAACP held a virtual town hall  focusing on the health, emotional, economic toll, congressional response and how activists can apply pressure to ensure legislation is equitable. The two organizations are hosting a four-part virtual town hall series, “Unmasked: A COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall Series”. Multiple reports are confirming what our communities already knew, the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak are compounded for African Americans. Our people are dying at disproportionate numbers, and we can’t afford to sit idly and watch the death toll rise. 

The town hall included remarks from Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP; Scott Mills, President, BET Network; Oliver Tate Brooks, MD, President, National Medical Association; Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Speaker, United States House of Representatives; Congressman Jim Clyburn, Majority Whip, United States House of Representatives; Congresswoman Karen Bass, Chair, Congressional Black Caucus, United States House of Representative; Congressman Bennie Thompson, Chair, Committee of Homeland Security, United States House of Representatives; and Robert Brace, Spiritual Wellness Coach. Each expert spoke to the health, mental, and economic effects of COVID-19 and what measures African Americans can take to ensure that Congress provides an equitable pathway to recovery.

To hear the full audio of the virtual town hall, click here.

Keith Boykin, CNN Political Commentator, moderated the panel of congressional leaders and health experts.

Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP said:

“This is an extremely important time for the NAACP to continue inform our community of concerns around this  pandemic. Being someone who lived through the Katrina disaster, I know that our ability to get information to our community is crucial. 

This election will be determined based on black voter turnout. If we turn out, we get the outcome that we’re fighting for. If we don’t turnout we will get an outcome that will cause devastating effects, not only in our community but for this democracy as we know it.“

Scott Mills, President, BET Networks said:

“We all know that recent reports are confirming what we all tragically anticipated, and that is this COVID19 virus is compounding the preexisting health and financial vulnerabilities that many African Americans face. That is showing up in the infection rates and the death rates which far exceed the rest of the population.”

“I’m sure that everyone is aware of the heartbreaking death rates, but one of the things that people have less visibility to today is the financial impacts on our community… This is an extraordinary crisis, obviously globally and nationally, but particularly in the African American community.” 

Oliver Tate Brooks, MD, President, National Medical Association said:

“We must follow the recommendations. Those in the African American community who have a higher risk of bad outcomes, take it very seriously… Unlike other entities in the US, this virus does not discriminate.” In closing, Dr. Brooks citied the common phrase, “Remember, when the country gets a cold, the black community gets pneumonia.” 

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Speaker, United States House of Representatives said:

“We’re fighting everybody to participate more fully in the economic and health opportunities that exist in this (nation). We want to use this coronavirus crisis as a way to say ‘we’re realigning, it’s all different from now on.” 

This is a moment for us. It’s a moment in terms of health. It’s a moment in terms of access to capital. It’s a moment in terms of our democracy.” 

Congressman Jim Clyburn, Majority Whip, United States House of Representatives said:

“Our big challenge in this country, being made more-so by this pandemic, is making this country’s greatness accessible and affordable for all, and that’s what our challenge is with this legislation.

We’ve got to make sure that we do what is necessary to expand community healthy centers. We want to do that in the next CARES package. Our goal is for there to be a community health center within commuting distance of every person in the country.”  

Congresswoman Karen Bass, Chair, Congressional Black Caucus, United States House of Representatives said:

“In January of 2017, the Congressional Black Caucus conducted a survey to see where Black America was around the country and the number one issue they came up with was wealth creation. If you look at the economic impact, it is directly related to the health outcomes that we are seeing right now. 

We need to have focused testing and we need to have rapid testing. We’re concerned about losing our churches, our small business… the negative impacts on us economically are profound.”

Congressman Bennie Thompson, Chair, Committee of Homeland Security, United States House of Representatives  said:

“You have to make sure that all these things (public health centers, public transportation, etc)  are taken care of as you put together your civic participation… Raising hell will get you something. Sitting back hoping that something will happen won’t get it done.”

Robert Brace, Spiritual Wellness Coach said:

“Whenever African Americans have mobilized for positive change, that change has a ripple effect that uplifts all people across the world, both in the present and the future. This change, born out of love, is just as infectious as any virus, the difference being that this love has the power to heal.” 

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

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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 five “Game Changer” issue areas here.