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Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver-Velez

Saw this item in the news today about New York City declaring racism a public health crisis:

Today the NYC Board of Health passed a landmark resolution on racism as a public health crisis. This marks a historic occasion for the country’s oldest Board of Health to officially recognize this crisis and demand action. 🧵

— Commissioner Dave A. Chokshi, MD (@NYCHealthCommr) October 18, 2021

To elucidate the root causes of racial inequities during COVID-19, we must ask ourselves “Why?” questions: Why do some populations die from COVID-19 at higher rates than Whites? Why are there higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity in communities of color?

— Commissioner Dave A. Chokshi, MD (@NYCHealthCommr) October 18, 2021

Other cities have already done so — which health and science journalist Laurie Garrett was corrected about in response to her tweet yesterday: 

“Update: 231 Cities, Counties, Leaders Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis! – Salud America”

— ☆✌🏽Vaccinated☮Jewish🏳️‍🌈Space🤎Laser🖤☆ (@KimKaplan69) October 18, 2021

The question now becomes, in a country where forces of the racist right wing are doing their damnedest to stifle any education on, or discussions of racism, how are cities going to actually address structural racism in health care that is killing so many of us? Declarations are great, but without aggressive action on implementing changes and the funding to go with it — words are just words.

As many of you may know, as a young person I was actively engaged in both the Young Lords Party and the Black Panther Party in New York City. Many of the key issues we organized around were health care related — unsanitary living conditions, lead poisoning, tuberculosis, abysmal reproductive health care and hospitals that were little better than butcher shops. We got sick and tired of the city’s lack of response to our protests, and realized we had to take direct action. 

Back in June of this year I wrote a piece about the film “Takeover,” titled “The Young Lords’ health care fights of the 1970s rage on today” which documents one of those actions. Thanks to The New York Times Op-Docs the film has now been posted for general viewing. I hope you will take a half-hour to watch.

On July 14, 1970, members of the Young Lords occupied Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx — known locally as “the Butcher Shop.” A group of activists, many of them in their late teens and early 20s, barricaded themselves inside the facility, demanding safer and more accessible health care for the community.Originally a Chicago-based street gang, the Young Lords turned to community activism, inspired by the Black Panthers and by student movements in Puerto Rico. A Young Lords chapter in New York soon formed, agitating for community control of institutions and land, as well as self-determination for Puerto Rico. Their tactics included direct action and occupations that highlighted institutional failures.Through archival footage, re-enactments and contemporary interviews, Emma Francis-Snyder’s “Takeover” shines a light on the Young Lords’ resistance movement and their fight for human rights. The dramatic takeover of Lincoln Hospital led to one of the first Patient’s Bill of Rights, changing patients’ relationship with hospitals and doctors nationwide.

We won — for a while. Lincoln Hospital was closed and a new one constructed. However, more than 50 years have passed and what was “New Lincoln” back then is now part of the problem — again.

⚡️🏥 ‘Avalanche of failure’: Physician residents detail horrible conditions at NYC public hospitals, plead for help More than a dozen current and former residents at the NYC’s Health + Hospitals network testified at a City Council hearing

— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) September 24, 2021

The NY Daily News reported:

‘Avalanche of failure’: Physician residents detail horrible conditions at NYC public hospitals, plead for help

Physician residents in New York City’s public hospital system issued a stinging indictment Friday of conditions they and their patients face in hospitals and demanded the city intervene to fix what one described as a “recipe for disaster” and what another called an “avalanche of failure.”

More than a dozen current and former residents at the city’s Health + Hospitals network testified at a City Council hearing focused on conditions at hospital residency programs, and they delved into a wide range of problems, including low pay, shifts that last more than 24 hours and racial disparities in the care patients receive.[…]

The Council hearing, which was conducted remotely, was called after the Daily News broke the story about conditions at Lincoln Hospital’s residency program, where at least two residents took their lives. Colleagues in that program blamed those deaths — and a third that was not officially ruled a suicide — on the program’s harsh work conditions.

I am sure that what we see in NYC is replicated across America —  the list of city declarations make that clear. Perhaps activists can borrow a page from our long ago action and come up with creative solutions to turn lip-service into real service on behalf of people’s health.





I hadn’t realized how important for my mental health it was to talk with someone like me. Vox: The best $160 I ever spent: A session with a Black therapist


She was right. It was the first time I’d had a Black therapist and I’d been in therapy more than half my life. I thought about the question again.

“I feel relieved.”

With white therapists, I couldn’t talk about racism without it being a “teaching moment.” Often that “moment” would take up the entire session. It was exhausting. I would feel worse going out than when I came in. What was I supposed to do about that? Go to therapy to deal with my therapist? As it turned out, that’s exactly what I needed.

My partner and I began couples counseling at the same time I started seeing Malika. Our psychologist, who I’ll call Agnes, was nice, experienced, and white. My partner was also white. Once, after attending a party with some of his coworkers, we both came into the appointment with our grievances.

“I feel like Sarah was taking it out on me,” my partner complained.

“That guy told a joke, and the punchline was that all Black people look alike,” I said as the anger once again welled up within me. “When I told him that was racist, he actually said that he had a Black friend.”

I looked at Agnes. Even in her lily-white Long Island world, surely she knew how outrageous this was.

“Couldn’t you have avoided him?” she suggested.

So much for that. I let out a long sigh.


19-year-old Takunda Rusike refused to be denied—and the James G. Robertson and Clive Sullivan Rugby Foundation had her back. Washington Post: Howard University Didn’t Have a Women’s Rugby Team, So a Black Woman Spawned a Movement by Creating One


Rusike has long had an affinity for rugby, thanks in part to her cousins and uncles in Zimbabwe who taught her the nuances of the game (including one uncle who played for the country’s national team). And after finally playing herself at Towson High School in Maryland’s Baltimore County, after her field hockey coach pushed her to embrace her fate as a rugby player, Rusike has gone on to create the second-ever HBCU women’s team at Howard, with her eyes on making rugby a more accessible sport for Black athletes both locally and throughout the rest of the country.

“It’s growing, and there are definitely more Black women getting into the sport, but when I was playing in Maryland in high school, there was not many Black girls,” Rusike told the Post. “I would really love to create a program where years down the line there are little Black girls who know, ‘I love rugby, and I can play it at Howard.’ ”

While Rusike’s aspirations may be years away, there are others in her community intent on making that dream a reality much sooner.

Carille Guthrie enrolled in Howard over two decades ago, but never thought to start her own rugby team since one didn’t already exist. She instead joined a local club team, the Maryland Stingers, and in the years since has remained involved in the sport as a youth coach. During the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, as fans of the sport were unable to play together due to the unprecedented circumstances, she stumbled upon a Facebook group full of ruby players who were Black, Indigenous, or identified as people of color. In those groups, a master plan was hatched to develop more rugby programs at historically Black institutions and universities.


Colin Powell, First Black Secretary of State, Dies From COVID Complications NPR: Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, dies at 84


Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state during the presidency of George W. Bush and led the first Gulf War as chairman of the joint chiefs, has died at age 84 of complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed.

Powell, the first African American to serve in both of those senior posts, died Monday morning, they said, adding that “he was fully vaccinated.”

“We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment,” the family said in a Facebook post. “We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”

Powell, the son of Jamaican immigrants, grew up in a working class family in Harlem. In the Army, he found a culture where a Black man could find his own path — where race, background and income level didn’t define you, he told NPR in 2012.

“People have asked me, ‘What would you have done if you hadn’t gone into the Army?’ I’d say I’d probably be a bus driver, I don’t know,” Powell said.


U.S. Sen. Cory Booker acknowledged that without Black voters Democrats “will get decimated” in upcoming reelections, adding “We can’t let people get discouraged.” The Grio: Booker defends Biden’s Black agenda, urges Black voters to show up in 2022 midterms


U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey assured members of the NAACP on Saturday that all hope isn’t lost on the Black agenda in Washington, and made the case as to why Black voters should not sit out next year’s midterm elections despite some growing weary of President Joe Biden, and Democrats at large, amid stalled bills critical for Black America.

Booker, who was a lead negotiator on the now failed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act along with fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Karen Bass and Republican Senator Tim Scott, acknowledged the legislative roadblocks to police reform and voting rights in a very divided Congress.

Booker described the negotiation collapse on the Floyd bill as evidence of a “toxic culture” in the U.S. Senate.

The lawmaker said that he “will not stop” in his push for a pathway forward for a national standard on policing. Booker told the oldest civil rights group in the nation that he worked nine months on the bill and that he and Sen. Scott could not come to terms even as the Fraternal Order of Police supported the legislation.


Approximately  half the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, is controlled by criminals, many of whom do dirty jobs for business and politicians. The Guardian: Kidnap of foreign missionaries confirms the power held by gangs in Haiti


The kidnapping of 17 foreign missionaries in Haiti marks the latest escalation in a wave of criminality in the impoverished and politically fragile Caribbean state, which has long seen waves of gang-related crime coincide with heightened political turmoil.

According to some estimates, Haiti’s powerful gangs, numbering about 90 criminal organisations in total, control territory amounting to half of the sprawling capital of Port-au-Prince and cost the country over $4bn a year.

Often more heavily armed than Haiti’s hollowed-out police force, the country’s gangs have become more aggressive in recent years as they have become more powerful. Some have joined forces to create dangerous alliances, such as the G-9 and Family gang network in the capital formed under the aegis of notorious gang boss Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier.

First emerging as a serious threat after the “Baby Doc” Duvalier era in 1990s in poor slums like Port-au-Prince’s Cité Soleil during the ascendancy of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Lavalas movement, the gangs would over the intervening decades be used by politicians and oligarchs as muscle for everything from straightforward criminal enterprise, including involvement in drug trafficking, to street protests and assassination.

The current reach of gangs in Haitian society was laid bare in a 2020 report by the National Human Rights Defence Network – Assassinations, Ambushes, Hostage-taking, Rape, Fires, Raids: The authorities in power have installed terror in Cité Soleil – that showed how in some of Haiti’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods the criminal organisations had become conduits for assistance.


A basic income experiment in the state should teach national Democrats a lesson as they weigh a permanent Child Tax Credit. The New Republic: They Gave Black Mothers in Mississippi $1,000 a Month. It Changed Their Lives.


Tamara Ware is used to getting calls offering financial advice from her community specialist, a social worker of sorts at Springboard to Opportunities, a nonprofit that provides support to the residents of the affordable housing complex where she lives in Jackson, Mississippi, with her three daughters. But one day in February 2020 she got a call that would change her life. The woman on the other end told her she had been selected to be part of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, a guaranteed income pilot that gives Black mothers like her $1,000 a month for a year, no strings attached. Weeks earlier, Ware had completed the paperwork to be considered for the program and written “please pick me” on the margins, but still assumed she’d never hear back. “It was like a one in a million chance,” she said. “I never get anything, I don’t win anything.”

Ware’s community specialist is “sassy,” she said, which is why they get along. But it was also why Ware assumed she was joking when she said Ware was selected. It was no joke. When she realized the truth, Ware said, she screamed. When the pandemic began, she had decided to leave her job to protect her youngest daughter, who has asthma. The Magnolia Mother’s Trust money came “right on time,” she said.

The Magnolia Mother’s Trust is the longest-running basic income experiment since the Nixon era, and is among the first to try out the idea on a city level. But unlike recent programs in Stockton, California, or Newark, New Jersey, which select from a wider pool, it’s targeted at only Black mothers, acting in some ways like a child allowance. Most other developed countries have implemented a child allowance, but the United States has been an outlier, at least until pandemic politics offered an opportunity earlier this year. Biden’s Covid economic recovery bill, which Congress passed in March, has for the first time expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC) so that money is sent each month to all families up to a certain income level. Over 90 percent of families with children will receive as much as $300 a month for every child under age six and $250 for older ones. It’s an idea that started with Democrats, but some Republicans have warmed to it; Senator Mitt Romney released his own proposal for monthly direct payments for parents earlier this year.

It only took a few rounds of the new CTC payments for the country to see a marked reduction in poverty and hunger. But they are due to expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts. Democrats have proposed extending the payments for at least another four years, although no Republicans have gotten on board, and even moderate Democrats are threatening to derail it from Biden’s Build Back Better reconciliation bill. As the country considers permanently creating a child allowance, the women who have received money from the Magnolia Mother’s Trust offer a glimpse of how it could radically transform parents’ and children’s lives.

Four years ago, Aisha Nyandoro, chief executive officer of Springboard to Opportunities, a nonprofit that offers services like financial planning and childcare to about 2,500 low-income Mississippians who live in affordable housing, started worrying that, despite those programs, “we were not moving the needle on poverty,” that people weren’t able to move out and move up. So she went directly to the residents and asked what was missing. “The common denominator in all these stories we heard were about cash scarcity,” she said.





This content was originally published here.