Across the entire county, Black Americans have been crying out for specific data on the impacts of the coronavirus on their communities due to high rates of contraction and mortality.
In Oakland, coalition of Black-led organizations was convened to address the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 and its evisceration of the Black community.
The resulting effort is The Black New Deal, a platform of short, mid and long-range goals crafted to address the immediate needs of Oakland’s Black residents.
Black New Deal advocates are requesting, amongst a suite of other equity shifts, that the Oakland Unified School District Board of Trustees and the City of Oakland work together to provide internet access and computers to OUSD students who do not have this privilege.
In addition, the Black New Deal advocates for deeper investment from the County of Alameda to:
• Provide free testing for all of Oakland’s 400,000 citizens;
• Utilize FEMA funds to immediately shelter every unhoused person in hotels;
• Release all Black people incarcerated in Alameda County, and upon their release they be tested, provided with medical care, housing, and other services by through funding to community organizations
The Black New Deal, which is also moving in Sacramento and Los Angeles is already having an impact in Oakland as legislators are making changes to address the platform demands.
“President Roosevelt’s New Deal, the programs and reforms enacted to stabilize the United States during the Great Depression, left Black Americans out of the recovery and in many ways, exacerbated existing racist injustices and state-sanctioned discrimination,” said Carroll Fife, director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). “It deepened the divide between white and Black Americans in areas of educational achievement, job quality and a living wage, and access to safe and affordable housing. As a result, the Black New Deal was created for those left behind by the first New Deal as a way to say, never again.”
According to Fife, “We have to do more than just say Black people are dying disproportionately from the coronavirus. We must dig deep into the why and do the work to change the systems that are killing us. We must also change the narrative: we are not just dying of a disease, we are dying because of structural racism and benign neglect.”
“My goal is for Black people to know it’s OK to center Black health and wellness,” Fife said.
Fife urges community members to find its own solutions for the challenges here and create their own systems to take care of each other. The self- love and desire for the ‘best good’ does not mean that African Americans in Alameda County don’t want the same for others.
“Our blood, sweat and tears have fertilized the ground in America and we are still fighting for space and equity,” Fife said. “It is our responsibility to build our people, and we should also hold accountable those in positions to affect our lives to do their part.
If this pandemic is an emergency, we should act like it and move with urgency to halt the existing trend of Black disposability and do everything in our power to right the wrongs of history so we do not continue to duplicate its failures.