Pandemic Taskforce Addresses Racial Inequities

As COVID-19 raged through the African American community in Flint in March and April 2020, the need was mounting for equitable distribution in testing. In response, CFGF leadership, along with community partners, established the Greater Flint Coronavirus Taskforce on Racial Inequities in March 2020.

Taskforce members pictured from left, Adrian Walker, Flint & Genesee Group; Monica Villareal, Michigan United and Pastor, Salem Lutheran Church; Isaiah Oliver, president and CEO; Daniel Moore, Pastor, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church; and Kirk Smith, president and CEO, Greater Flint Health Coalition.

CFGF leadership centered equity by convening a group of 27 multi-sector community partners to develop solutions to disparities that were erupting like a volcano in Flint.

“We all realized that we were going to be chained to the pandemic,” said Moses Bingham, CFGF Director of Special Projects and Initiatives. “This group of people, from all different sectors and walks of life, tried to reimagine what a new future would look like. It was profound.”

Community leaders committed to the work despite being very busy in their day-to-day lives. They met tirelessly in the beginning, then bi-weekly for over a year. Conversations focused on strategizing and planning. They tried to anticipate the challenges that would come their way, but social unrest and variants presented new obstacles that couldn’t be anticipated.

Five subcommittees were formed to address specific issues. Knowing the conversations would be tough, each group used “touchstones” as a tool to help ensure that conversations would be productive, no matter how difficult.

The Health Subcommittee focused on awareness, acknowledging the pandemic, and encouraging the use and importance of masking and testing.

Working with local churches, the Faith Subcommittee was instrumental in providing advocacy for the most vulnerable, access sites for testing, and general information on the virus.

The Government Subcommittee worked to ensure safe elections, recognizing political unrest, and voter concerns for health and safety at polling locations.

The Taskforce was formed in partnership with the Michigan State University Division of Public Heath, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, City of Flint, Flint & Genesee Group, Hamilton Community Health Network, and Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.

Philanthropic Subcommittee partners worked across all subcommittees to support and collaborate on projects big and small. They contributed an equity lens and resources to align with the overall vision.

Working diligently to support small businesses were members of the Business, Banking, and Workforce Development Subcommittee. Issues addressed included providing access to talent for employers, making connections for those seeking employment whether in-person or virtual, and providing one-on-one coaching and mentoring.

The work of the Taskforce is profound with dedicated leadership and each subcommittee bringing great value to the meetings. “We have to continue with our mission and goal to jettisoning the hierarchy of human value and promote equity,” Moses said. “Racial inequities didn’t come by way of the pandemic. It only exacerbated those realities.

“The mission and our desired outcomes are comprehensive and have staying power to help propel us into a more equitable community.”