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Charlotte forum: COVID-19 as a health, economic and racial crisis
Historic links to pandemic's impact on Blacks
Published Thursday, July 30, 2020 9:46 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

A panel convened by The Charlotte Post Foundation explored COVID-19 as a health and economic crisis for Black Charlotte with roots in the city's historic racial disenfranchisement initiatives.

COVID-19 is a public health and an economic crisis for Charlotte’s Black community.

The Charlotte Post Foundation held a Black Lives Matter Charlotte conversation via Zoom tonight to discuss the pandemic’s impact of COVID-19 on the Black community. A panel, moderated by Crossroads Corporation Executive Director and foundation board member Tiffany Capers, explored the history and contemporary context of why COVID-19 is more of a struggle for Black people. Panelists included Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett, journalist Melba Newsome, Post editor-in-chief Herb White, Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris and Novant Health’s Dr. Jerome Williams

As of July 26, Blacks made up 16% of the total cases, which was second to Hispanics at 29.2%. However, African Americans account for 31.4% of deaths related to COVID-19 compared to 13.3% in the Hispanic community. The county has 20,229 cases with 202 related deaths as of July 30.

“We saw a huge spike in the African American community early on in the April-May range of this pandemic,” Harris said. “That percentage has dropped, and we’ve seen more in the Hispanic community.”

Yet African Americans remain more impacted by the disease than white people.

“What we are seeing with COVID-19 is it is shining a very bright light on the health issues that we already know we have in our African American community,” Harris said.

Hanchett spoke to Charlotte’s history, particularly the role of Brooklyn and urban renewal in the disenfranchisement of Black residents.

“Understanding how the playing field got set up is really powerful,” Hanchett said.

Hanchett spoke to the role Brooklyn, the Black Second Ward neighborhood razed in the 1960s as part of urban renewal, is a precursor of today’s Charlotte.

While Hanchett provided framework for how Charlotte got here, Newsome and White spoke to how history reveals itself in current stories.

Numerous diseases are more prevalent in Black people than white, for instance, kidney disease, which is three times more prevalent in Blacks. Newsome, a Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting grant recipient, is exploring COVID-19’s impact by telling the stories of the people affected by the disease to show how disparities plaguing African Americans are compounded by the virus. Everything from access to healthcare and housing to incarceration and policing is exacerbated by the pandemic. She is examining housing as a public health issue as part of a series of articles appearing in The Post, North Carolina Health News and the Charlotte Observer.

“With the moratorium on evictions ending, we are going to see a lot of people lose their housing,” Newsome said.

White has been exploring health and economics in Black Charlotte, particularly when it comes to how COVID-19 impacts a person based on where he or she lives.

“When you look at the health side of it, there’s all kinds of data out there about underlying conditions, preexisting conditions, and how COVID-19 basically uses that as a trampoline to wreak havoc on bodies,” White said. “In some of the reporting I’ve done, there’s a director correlation between where you live and industry and how sick people are. In Charlotte, there are neighborhoods, specifically in urban neighborhoods on the westside where air quality is the worst in North Carolina. These are where a good chunk of the neighbors


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