As the African American community in the Twin Cities and  across Minnesota continues to mobilize to keep our community strong during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to address systemic racism in policing, the African American Leadership Forum (AALF) remains committed to responding to both the public health crisis and the epidemic of racism as it impacts the lives of African Americans in the state.

We partnered with Insight News, NorthPoint Health & Wellness, Minnesota Community Care, The Spokesman Recorder, and Children’s Minnesota to create the We Good? Virtual Townhall on COVID-19 & Minnesota’s Black Community. This bi-weekly town hall, hosted by 2020 Leadership Academy fellow Brittany L. Wright, considers the health, economic, educational and family & culture impacts of COVID-19 on Minnesota’s African American community and includes a panel of African American leaders, healthcare providers, educators, and others to keep you and your family healthy and informed throughout the public health crisis.

You can find all previous segments of the town hall on our website and YouTube account.

Here are some highlights from previous segments compiled by Jazmine Ngu, 2020 AALF Intern:

First Town Hall on COVID-19 & Minnesota’s Black Community

The Importance of Showing the Faces Behind the Numbers: Representation is crucial, especially for communities of color. In this town hall panelist Stella Whitney-West said, “If people don’t see themselves, they don’t believe it impacts them.” During the early stages of Covid-19, there were a lot of misconceptions about who was at risk. A lot of black people believed that since the data didn’t show that black people were being affected, that the black community was somewhat “immune” or “not at risk”. This shows that not being properly represented in data can be detrimental to how people take care of themselves and their families.

Compassion and Care: In the town hall, the panelists discussed how this pandemic has gotten people to start paying more attention to our vulnerable communities, as well as how it’s important to show compassion to those in the community who need it most. We must be the ones to take care of our community because no one else understands us like us.

Skepticism of the Medical Field in The Black Community and How It Affects the Overall State of Our Health: There was a point presented in the meeting that talked about how black people are often skeptical of a lot of things especially having to do with the health and that if a vaccine is developed and mandated by the government, how some black people may not take the vaccine. This is an interesting point because although the health industry hasn’t always been protective of black patients, the skepticism of the health industry may impact how our people survive this pandemic.

We Good? Why Black MN is Vulnerable to Covid-19

Health Disparities in The Black Community and Who Has Access & the Importance of Community-Centered Media Platforms Being Vocal About COVID Guidelines: In the conversation, the panelists talked about how they would like to see more masks being worn in areas like North Minneapolis and how it would be nice to see platforms like KMOJ using their space to communicate the importance of protecting ourselves against COVID. This brings up an interesting point of how communities trust and are willing to listen to community-centered media platforms. It’s important for platforms and businesses like KMOJ to provide important tips like the importance of masks to get our community to be more aware.

Educating Our Communities on the Diseases that Affect Black People the Most: In the conversation the panelists were discussing how a lot of common diseases for the black community like asthma and diabetes are high risk for COVID and how we need to be better on educating ourselves on how we are affected.

Preventive Healthcare in the Black Community: In the conversation, the panelists talked about how the black community has a history of not going to the doctor regularly and only in cases of emergency. We view healthcare as only going when absolutely needed and that’s not good because we could catch a lot of diseases early if we consistently got checkups. Black people don’t do a lot of preventative healthcare. Institutional Structural Racism has affected how black people trust the healthcare system.

Diversity in Healthcare Professionals and How that Increases Comfortability for Patients of Color: The panelists talked about how there is a lack of diversity in healthcare professionals and that communities of color would be more comfortable if they saw people who looked like them. We need to help communities find healthcare providers that they are comfortable with and can communicate with. We need more black and brown nurses and doctors and we must be more intentional when looking for job candidates.

Criminalization of The Black Community: In their conversation, the panelists talked about how for black people it was important to remain aware of how we might be perceived by others. Dieudonne Asambang suggested black people should not wear black masks, but to wear colorful masks so they are not seen as a threat. When it comes to masks black people must be cautious of what we wear so we won’t get criminalized.

We Good? The Financial Impacts of Covid-19 on Black MN

Technological Divide in The Black Community: In this town hall, the panelists discussed how a lot of black people don’t have access to these online systems like Zoom or google hangouts, as well as not having access to certain technologies to support these systems like laptops, computers, or Wi-Fi.

Historical Financial Trauma: The panelists talked about how black people don’t have the same cushion as our white counterparts have. We follow three main stages: survive, recover, and thrive. Were used to having the mindset that nothing out here is for us or to help us. We’re also used to doing things on our own and we’re so used to being told no.

Lack of Support from Government Programs: The panelists discussed how a lot of black businesses don’t have the proper documentation to qualify for some of these government programs. It shows that when these programs are in the works, they don’t consider how black people and black businesses are structured and that amplifies that financial trauma.

Using COVID To Create Different Opportunities: The panelists talked about how during this time it’s important to create the vision that’s on the other side of the storm. Even though this is a scary time we must come up with a plan to get through it financially, and professionally. We must start creating ways to make our brands relevant after this pandemic is over, and we must find where the opportunities are.

We Good? Covid-19 & Black MN: Education

How Online Learning Has Affected Black Students: The panelists talked about how distance learning isn’t as effective for black children due to a lack of resources and devices. A lot of black families don’t have access to the internet or a laptop so online classes are significantly harder for black students.

Education Equity: In the meeting, the panelists talked about how it’s important to make sure those who are struggling don’t get left behind. There are people who not only have to think about being an online student but who are also juggling unemployment and other challenges. So, it important to make sure everyone is getting the support they need.

The responsibility put on black teachers and faculty to teach their white counterparts: They talked about how the responsibility put on black faculty and teachers to teach white educators how to teach black children or children of color. “Children can’t show up if they don’t know how to show up”. It’s important that black kids are being supported and protected in these educational spaces.

Opportunities COVID Has Created in Our Education System: The panelists talked about how this pandemic sucks however it has created new opportunities. There are so many partnerships being made, the opportunity to impact education in ways we haven’t before. We have the opportunity to not just think outside of the box but to create a new box. It’s important to be thinking about how we can make the most of this pandemic.

We Good? Mental Health in the Black Community

Knowing the signs of anxiety and depression: the panelists talked about ways to tell if someone in your household is developing mental health strains. They talk about watching for shifts in behavior and how it’s important to understand the signs: “If you don’t have the language it will come out in other ways and that’s how it develops into anxiety and depression.” Mental health is taken very lightly in the black community and it’s important that people receive the proper help they need.

Taking time to invest in yourself: In the conversation, the panelists discussed how it’s important to invest in ourselves, so we don’t burn out giving so much to everyone else; this is an effective way to relieve some of the daily stresses that come from working from home that can prevent anxiety and depression.

Parents Becoming Overnight Educators: Parents were starting to have a bunch of added stress due to having to adjust to online classes. A lot of families didn’t have access to Wi-Fi or a laptop, which can be very overwhelming. Speaker Lolita King spoke about her advice she was giving to mothers was to just do the best you can and that’s all you can do.