President Marcheta P. Evans today addressed the New Jersey Black Issues Convention (NJBIC) as a keynote speaker during its 38th annual conference delivered virtually. The conference theme was "Responding to the New Abnormal: Overcoming the Impact of COVID-19 on Black Families." View video.
In her keynote address, Evans described a highly complex issue saying, "We knew early in the pandemic that people of color, and more so, Black Americans and their families, were contracting COVID-19 at a much higher rate than their white counterparts, and experiencing greater rates of morbidity from the virus as well. The phenomenon involves socioeconomics and more than two centuries of systemic racism in our country - we see it across healthcare, housing, education, jobs and more."
Citing a study by the Commonwealth Fund on how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting historically and economically challenged populations, Evans discussed its findings that nearly 50 percent of Black survey respondents reported experiencing an economic challenge because of the pandemic as compared with 21 percent for white respondents. And, both Black and LatinX respondents reported pandemic-related mental health concerns at a rate approximately 10 percentage points higher than whites.
Evans went on to say, "The racial unrest we see being created in our main streets and cities alike, and coinciding with the reported racial disparities of the COVID-19 pandemic, have amassed together to engender the deepest awareness and interest to date in the Black Lives Matter movement - with activism, marches, and even the words enormously painted onto our city streets. Acknowledgement of the problems has never been greater, making this present time the best time within this movement to enact change, and introduce and pass the policy changes we have been longing to bring to create the equity that has for so long evaded the African American citizen in our country."
Among the challenges discussed facing African Americans were low-paying essential jobs, food insecurity, chronic health conditions and sobering health statistics specific to African American women and infant mortality.
In her closing remarks, Evans stressed, "One of the most practical questions arising from this moment is: How do we move forward? One of the first ways is that I hope you all vote!"
The NJBIC is a strategic alliance of organizations in the state of New Jersey, established to address the concerns of the Black residents of New Jersey. Member organizations represent various religious, civil rights, labor, business, professional, social, fraternal, educational, foreign affairs, urban and rural policy, youth, and senior citizen groups throughout the Garden State.