Black leaders start COVID task force in New York

National Urban League Chief Executive and President Marc Morial speaks at the annual National Urban League conference in Philadelphia.
REUTERS/Mark Makela, file

Claiming that America is currently ill-prepared and ill-equipped to deliver any of the COVID-19 vaccines to Black communities, Black leaders have announced the creation of a task force in New York to ensure the vaccine is readily accessible to Black New Yorkers and to address concerns in Black communities about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The nonprofit community, as well as relevant stakeholders, will be part of this process,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, chief executive officer and executive director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA). “Our goal is to make this process and plan as comprehensive and useful as possible. Our goal here is to save lives.”

Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League, said: “We chose New York for the Task Force because it went from being the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis to the nation’s leader in demonstrating how best to combat the pandemic.

“The foresight and fortitude shown by the state’s governor and our non-profit community, who have been doing the work and out front on the issue of health care inequity, was just as critical then as it is now,” he added.

Nina Turner, former Bernie Sanders presidential campaign co-chair and Amare public affairs founder, said the task force is “going to push an aggressive campaign to spread the word about the importance of the vaccine.

“This information will be fact-based and reliable,” she said. “It is imperative that the Black community and other communities of color have prioritized access to specifically address the disproportionate effect the COVID-19 virus has had on these communities.

“This initiative is an example of future efforts to address the gaps in medical care that the Black communities have endured for generations,” Turner added.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, president and founder of National Action Network (NAN), said: “We plan to make this a national model for the country.

“We want to identify, with specificity, those NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) community rooms, churches, mosques and other places our people go, so we don’t have to drive in a car, we don’t have to go to a Walgreens, that we don’t go to get a vaccine,” he said.

Steven M. Cohen, former secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who will serve as counsel, also said, “There’s a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time. We believe this blueprint can also be utilized for other communities receiving inequitable vaccine delivery as well.”

Task Force members include: Danny Barber, chair, Citywide Council of Presidents of NYCHA Tenants’ Associations; Karen Boykin-Towns, vice chairman, NAACP Board of Directors; Kyle Bragg, president, SEIU 32BJ; Cohen; Jones Austin; Rev. Sharpton; Turner; Hazel Dukes, president, NAACP New York State Conference; Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, epidemiologist, Michigan State University; Morial; Arva Rice, president and chief executive officer, New York Urban League; and Dr. Wayne J. Riley, president, SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

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