In an unprecedented show of solidarity, more than 50 of the most prominent community leaders in Black Los Angeles release a set of 55 demands to public officials to meet the urgent needs of Black people in Los Angeles County amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
In response to community pressure, last week, Los Angeles County released initial racial data on who is contracting and dying from COVID-19. The rate of Black death is twice the Black population share. Black people constitute 9% of the population, but 17% of the County’s COVID-19 deaths. While trillions of dollars are being spent on the crisis and there is no shortage of local, state, and federal initiatives, resources are not being directed to meet the particular needs of the Black community. The disproportionate and deadly impact of COVID-19 on the Black community magnifies what we have known, that “underlying conditions” result from an enduring system of racial apartheid and oppression.
“Although the coronavirus does not discriminate, government responses to it can. This is as much a social, economic, and racial justice issue as it is a public health issue.” -Jody David Armour, Roy P. Crocker Professor of Law, University of Southern California
“Interlocking economic, political, and social injustices collide with long-standing patterns of medical racism to make COVID-19 a Black issue that demands a response specific to the needs of the Black community.” -Dr. Melina Abdullah, professor of Pan-African Studies at Cal State LA and BLMLA co-founder.
The demands were developed by a coalition of more than 50 Black Los Angeles-based community leaders and seek to funnel resources to the most severely impacted communities in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. Included are both immediate demands meant for emergency implementation during the Coronavirus crisis, and long-term demands, necessary to eradicate the underlying conditions that are at the root of the disproportionate impact of this public health crisis and economic fallout.
“More than 50 Black community leaders from across a wide spectrum of organizations came together for an emergency meeting at a moment’s notice. We grappled with ideas for hours and engaged online after that. As strong as the demands are, I am just as inspired by such a resounding show of unity and solidarity.” – Pastor William Smart, President and CEO, Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California.
The drafted demands respond to the urgency of the moment in light of the COVID-19 crisis and related fallout. To address them, a significant share of stimulus and public funding must be earmarked as grants for the Black community and ongoing program funding should be redirected from police and law enforcement budgets to provide resources that bring real public safety. While the list is substantial, it was written under severe time-constraints and is not meant to be exhaustive or inclusive of the total set of Black community needs.
“Trillions of dollars are being poured into the response to the COVID-19 crisis, and rightly so. But without intervention, those resources could almost completely bypass the Black community, for whom the impact of the virus and its economic fallout is most devastating.” -Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and founder of Reform LA Jails.
Demands will be presented to the Los Angeles City Council, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education, the LAUSD Superintendent, and the Mayor of Los Angeles, and will be forwarded to the California Legislative Black Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Governor of California. They will be shared publicly via print and social media. A petition for individual and additional organizational sign-on will also be generated, along with the enlistment of non-Black allies. Additional advocacy and organizing will be undertaken until all demands are met.