With some states reopening in May, many people are wondering what this may mean for our country and particularly the black community. Ivy McGregor, CEO of IVY Inc, a strategic consulting company focused on social impact (https://theivinc.com/about-ivy/) hosted a town hall to discuss these concerns in the areas of faith, government, and healthcare to move from reopening to rebuilding with an expert panel consisting of Dr. Olajide Williams, Bishop TD Jakes, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Here are a few points that the panelists shared to help our communities build among adversity:
During the town hall, Ivy McGregor spent time discussing the impact that COVID-19 could have on the current Census and what we can do differently to ensure that we are counted and heard. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee discussed the importance of continuing this work.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: The work of the Census must continue. When the Constitution was written, African-Americans were considered three-fifths of a person. Even in these times, we must remember that each person is unique. The Census is embedded in the Constitution. In the past, African-Americans have been sadly undercounted. ‘I don’t want to be counted-they’ll call me for jury duty’-none of that is true. If we are undercounted again, we lose out on healthcare, education, environment resources, infrastructure in our communities. The Census dictates where those dollars go. What we can do is set up our own census committee-now we can do it virtually through faith organizations, fraternities, and civic clubs and remind our neighbors to get online and fill out the Census. You can be your own self liberator by getting online to do your Census.
Ivy McGregor also discussed the importance of people taking on the responsibility of healthcare behaviors and how hip-hop and the power of music can help with Dr. Olajide Williams, a neurologist at Columbia in New York and Founder and CEO of Hip Hop Health:
Dr. Olajide Willaims:: I have never in my career where the wrong behavior can not only kill you, but kill your entire family. It is often asymptomatic disease. Personal responsibility over these safety precaution behaviors is critically essential. Often, public health communication has often failed to effectively penetrate a lot of our communities and resonate with our communities to bring about changes in community behaviors. We try to leverage the pillars of persuasion in our interventions. Messages need to be credible and need to come from a trusted source. Messages need to make sense to people, and it needs to be compelling enough to create a favorable cross benefit analysis. And finally, these messages need to be able to motivate individuals. We have found that using music, especially with youth, is a very powerful influence. Music has more neural estate than language. We found that using music can help improve behaviors. Just hand washing alone has the probability of reducing respiratory transmission by 21%. People need to be responsible by hand washing. There are other things we need to do like social distancing, staying at home. Individuals rarely use proper handwashing techniques. We use music to tell people to wash their hands for at least twenty seconds. These are the kind of creative public health announcements that we need to explore moving forward.
Ivy McGregor also spoke with Bishop TD Jakes about his foundation and how faith and business can come together to help displaced workers and help our economy in general:
Bishop TD Jakes: I started the TD Jakes Foundation because there is a gulf between the CEOs and the everyday people. The foundation is a bridge to those who need the services and those who have the services. We are working to make sure that this connection is made so that there are appropriate opportunities allocated equally among all people. I have also had a deep concern about workforce housing because of regentrification. We are saying wonderful things about first responders, but they need better pay. So the greatest thing that we can give them is fair opportunities and equitable pay. That’s the best way that America can say thank you. Faith without works is dead. It’s more than words; it has to be in deeds and actions.
Ivy McGregor: When do you think we can gather in churches again?
Bishop TD Jakes: I think we allow the decision of the elected official over that area to determine what to do. I am not comfortable with opening my church right now, based on vulnerability. People are going to come because the pastor said to come. I think every pastor needs to take that responsibility seriously and make a decision based upon your ability to provide adequate spacing, etc. Right now, streaming has been highly effective for us. We are uniquely reaching the world. This is a global crisis, and God has allowed us to outreach to the world. But you have to be guided and be a leader. You have to give an account before God for those people.
During the virtual town hall, Ivy McGregor gave each panelist a moment to provide a few final thoughts to the audience. Here are a few of their messages:
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: Let us not rush to make judgments. Let us not rush to make decisions based on the eagerness of the economic haul. Because we are not a poor country and I think we can withstand this a little longer to make sure our people, whoever they are, are well enough to be able to face another surge of this very contagious disease.
Dr. Olajide Williams: We need to make sure that the tests that we are administering are valid. There are false negatives out there. So I think it is very important to focus on communities that have been hit the hardest. And we have to have a plan for folks who may not be able to self-quarantine. We have issues that need to be worked through before we reopen, but I do have hope. We have discharged over 5000 patients at our hospital alone. One thing that I do have confidence in is our resilience and our ability to overcome.
Bishop TD Jakes: First, we need to recognize that faith has been at the underbelly of our culture. We tend to run towards God [during challenges]. I am challenging faith leaders to create a greater sense of humanity. Faith is paramount here. As a Christian, God never hid suffering from the tenants of our faith. Suffering is not the absence of faith, but faith sustains us in the midst of our suffering. More now than ever, we need to cleave to what we believe.
To find out more about Dr. Olajide Willaims and Hip Hop Health, please visit, www. Hhph.org.
More information on Bishop TD Jakes foundation can be found at www.tdjfoundation.org or tdjakes.org.
To learn more about Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, please visit, www.jacksonlee.house.gov.