Not many people in the world imagined World War III would be against an invisible enemy, but all will agree Americans are fighting for their lives, especially those in the African American community. A Center for Disease Control and Prevention study found that 33 percent of Covid 19 related hospitalizations are African American while only accounting for 13 percent of the US population. This inequitable dynamic is playing out in urban areas across the country as Black communities must now also contend with the fall out of an economic downturn.
Both perturbed and inspired to act by this growing body of evidence, over 20 organizations representing and serving the flat land communities of Oakland have joined forces to advocate for the Black Community’s needs. This group, the Oakland Frontline Healers, is a collaborative of non-profits, grassroots volunteer organizations, churches, and community doctors, dedicated to winning the war against coronavirus.
“In the midst of social distancing orders, our weapons are the dissemination of COVID-19 information and the sharing of our resources, networks, and influence.” says Justin Lee of the Oakland Violence Prevention Coalition. “As people stay at home, our soldiers are the 100+ staffers and volunteers providing essential, direct services to the most at risk and hardest to reach members of the community.”
Despite having formed only two weeks ago, the Frontline Healers have already made great strides in addressing the holistic needs of the community.
The Frontline Healers have organized amongst themselves to deliver care packages consisting of food, protective gear, resources, and educational material directly to families, seniors, and homeless encampments. Participant violence interrupters have been in the field keeping peace in neighborhoods.
Currently, the Frontline Healers, under the direction of Dr. Geoffrey Watson, are establishing two drive-thru COVID-19 testing centers in Oakland to address the urgent need for testing Oakland’s most vulnerable populations, one in North/West Oakland and the other in East Oakland.
The next item on their agenda is advocating for the needs of the formerly incarcerated that were recently released en masse.
John Jones III, Director of Community and Political Engagement of Just Cities says, “The parole system has notoriously lacked the resources to help folks returning home for years. There have been no plans to ensure folks coming home have access to PPE, housing, nor removing the systemic and structural barriers that exist resulting from a criminal record. Overcoming those barriers will be a major issue Frontline Healers will address.”
Daryle Allums of Adamika Village describes Oakland Frontline Healers as an agency long overdue, “ We’ve been at war to get what our people need long before COVID 19 hit and now it’s like a crisis stacked on top of another crisis. The coronavirus may be invisible, but the structural issues that make our people vulnerable are now as clear as day. The Oakland Frontline Healers are here to do whatever it takes to upend those structures both during and after this crisis. ”
Learn more and support the Oakland Frontline Healers by visiting their website at oaklandfrontlinehealers.org