According to the CDC, about 33% of people who’ve been hospitalized with COVID-19 are Black, yet only 13% of the U.S. population is Black. In a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing on April 27, Dr. Anthony Fauci ’66 noted that the pandemic is “shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is, because yet again, …[Blacks] are suffering disproportionately.”

On April 27, the Cornell Black Alumni Association hosted “A Community in Crisis: The Impact of COVID-19 on Black People in America.” CBAA President John W. Rawlins III ’06 kicked off the discussion, saying that one of the alumni association’s goals is to “strengthen our network and community through intentional dialogue.”

What followed was a broad-ranging conversation about the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on the nation’s Black community. The six panelists represented diverse perspectives and areas of expertise, from mortgage banking to emergency medicine, and from politics to psychology. These distinguished Black alumni considered the complex socio-economic, historical, political, and health issues that make Black community members so vulnerable to COVID-19.

The conversation concluded with each panelist sharing one takeaway from the current pandemic, to inform future planning. Here are a few of their thoughts:

Americans tend to be historically illiterate. Our policies have advantaged some groups and disadvantaged others… forcing Blacks into vastly unequal communities.
—Anthony Browne ’88 PhD, Africana Studies, Hunter College, CUNY
We shouldn’t tie our health insurance to our job. Everybody needs to be insured.
—Valda Crowder ’86 MD, MBA, Emergency Medicine Physician
We need a better social safety net that enables us all to optimize our health… I know it can be done.
—Sonja Hutchins ’79 MD, MPH, DrPH, FACPM, Professor and Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine Residency Program, Morehouse School of Medicine
What are our priorities and how are we going to spend the dollars? We have to decide what we need more of and what we are willing to give up.
—Senator Adam Hollier ’07 MUPL, Michigan State Senator, District 2
There are relief packages coming down the line allocating $100 billion in rental assistance and $75 billion in mortgage assistance… We must remain politically engaged.
—Ernie Jolly ’09 JD, Lobbyist, Mortgage Bankers Association

We need to educate ourselves within Black communities about mental health… Our first goal is to survive and get through this.
—Christine Sainvil ’06 PhD, Licensed Psychologist, Coupet Quality Clinic and Florida International University

Watch the full conversation now.

Members of CBAA and CLAA gather during Reunion 2015

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