COVID-19, Black Community, a Crisis and Opportunity

Black people are dying at a rate of two–three times our population share from COVID-19. In Los Angeles County, the rate of Black death is twice our population share, which is 9%, but 17% of the COVID-19 deaths. With nearly 900,000 Black residents in the County and just over 60,000 of them in Long Beach, COVID-19 related hospitalizations for Black people constitute 19% of them, while we are just 12% of the population. Long Beach has yet to release information detailing the death rate by race, but given the numbers we have, the trend is obvious; Black folks are affected at rates far above our population share.

What happens in our city and with it’s Black residents is of serious significance to the health of everyone. We know that COVID-19 both affects the Black community at a higher rate because of a neglencence to act on underlying conditions, caused by a prolonged history of racism, specifically anti-Blackness and exacerbates these same conditions. These underlying conditions impact all areas of life, including: policing/criminal justice, housing, health, pollution/environment, education, life expectancy, employment status, income, entrepreneurship and so much more. The following statistics come from the Long Beach Equitable Growth Profile, released in 2019: Black women lead households are more likely to be rent-burden than their counterparts. Black people have higher levels of unemployment, even with higher levels of education. One out of every four Black people live below the poverty line. Homeownership for Black people is lower than all other races. Black entrepreneurs earn less than other racial groups, per their annual receipts. Black students are twice as likely to be suspended compared with all other students.

A failing education system that results in 35% and 36% reading proficiency for math and reading in 3rd grade later leads to only 32% of Black residents meeting a job requirement of an Associate’s degree. Which makes sense when only about half of Black students are college ready. Black residents have one of the highest mortality rates. Residents in North West and South West Long Beach are burdened with the highest rates of pollution, which is also where the most affordable housing is located. Black households are two times more likely to be without a vehicle compared with all other households combined.

All of these conditions create circumstances that make Black people more susceptible to hospitalization and death from COVID-19 and the economic impacts of the shutdown have worsened these conditions that exist because of a history of structural racism and anti-Blackness.

Every level of government is aware of the problem and while several initiatives have been launched nationally, state-wide and locally, none speak to the particular needs of the Black community. The disproportionate and deadly impact of COVID-19 on the Black community magnifies what we have known, that these “underlying conditions” result from an enduring system of racial apartheid and oppression. Interlocking economic, environmental, political and social injustices collide with long-standing patterns of medical racism to make COVID-19 a Black issue that demands an immediate response specific to the needs of the Black community.

In an unprecedented show of vision, unity, and solidarity, more than 50 Black community leaders from around Los Angeles County have crafted a set of 55 demands to respond to the immediate and long-term needs of the Black community made abundantly clear because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 20 Black Long Beach leaders are among those who also participated in the development of these demands and stand firm with them. These demands are immediate- meant for emergency implementation during the COVID-19 crisis as well as long-term and necessary to eradicate the underlying conditions at the root of the disproportionate impact of the public health crisis.

The drafted demands respond to the urgency of the moment in light of the COVID-19 crisis and related fallout. To address the demands, a significant share of stimulus and public funding must be earmarked as grants for the Black community and ongoing program funding should be redirected from police and law enforcement budgets to provide resources that bring real public safety. While the list is substantial, it was written under severe time-constraints and is not exhaustive or inclusive of the total set of Black community needs.

We urge our Long Beach city leaders and elected officials to remember and acknowledge the tumultuous, yet striving 100 year plus history of its Black residents. Let that acknowledgment guide actions that will see the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to respond to the long-standing systemic needs of the Black community with well-led and funded purposeful intent. Let this process and the demands that come from it be truly driven by the community. Now is a prescient moment to get it right.

In Love and Duty,
Black Lives Matter - Long Beach


While the list is substantial, it was written under severe time-constraints and is not exhaustive or inclusive of the total set of Black community needs.

Immediate Demands:

Testing, Public Health, and Patient Rights-

  1. Complete collection and release of Los Angeles County and California data on COVID-19 cases and deaths, with particular focus on areas with large Black populations.
  2. Universal access to non-invasive testing in Black communities throughout Long Beach especially North West, Central and South West areas.
  3. Any COVID-19-related testing or future vaccinations must be voluntary, not mandatory or conditional for employment, education, access to public resources, or any other economic, political, or social functioning.
  4. Prohibit sharing non-COVID-19-related medical information and required destruction of COVID-19-related medical records held by entities other than direct healthcare providers, including government and private parties, to preserve patient privacy rights.
  5. Collection of self-identified racial, gender, income, age, occupation, employment status, geographic residency, and housing-status data at first point of medical contact.
  6. No forced removal of people from their homes under the guise of quarantine, or for any other reason.
  7. Allowance for a support partner and medical advocate of patient’s choosing during any procedure or treatment, and, if needed at time of death.
  8. On-demand, free medical care for Black residents of Los Angeles County during the COVID-19 crisis.

Education and Families-

  1. Adoption of both all Students Deserve education demands and Black Lives Matter in Schools curriculum by Los Angeles and Long Beach Unified School Districts and all districts County-wide.
  2. Continuance of visitation and reunification programs (in distance-learning format as necessary) for parents with children under the authority of the Department of Children and Family Services, and freezing of reunification timelines.
  3. Divest in school police departments altogether and invest instead in health services, arts and culture programming, and student supports.
  4. No criminalization of youth in Long Long Beach related to COVID 19 precautions such as wearing a mask, etc.

Support for Black Workers and Small Business Owners-

  1. Public contracting with Black-owned restaurants and stores for healthy food and supply delivery during the pandemic and beyond.
  2. Resources, not “enforcement,” for Black-owned businesses that have not been able to shut down during the crisis.
  3. Guaranteed, timely assistance filing for economic resources, including unemployment and small business loans and grants.
  4. Support for Black essential workers, especially those who are underpaid (including gig economy workers), by providing hazard pay, protective equipment, hotel rooms to mitigate the possibility of passing the virus to family members, and an ongoing livable wage and paid sick leave.
  5. Income supplement of $2000 per month per adult and $1000 per month per child for all Black residents for the duration of the pandemic and economic fallout.

Public Safety-

  1. Employ properly-equipped, non-violent, community care workers as neighborhood resources, instead of expanding patrols by funding police and law enforcement.
  2. Funding for neighborhood-based community care plans in Black communities throughout Long Beach especially North West, Central and South West areas.
  3. Moratorium on all non-violent arrests.
  4. Dismissal of all non-violent criminal warrants and citations.

Housing-

  1. On-demand, safe housing and supportive resources for unsheltered people and those fleeing unsafe conditions in unused hotel and motel rooms and vacant housing units.
  2. Cancellation of rents and mortgages, and replacement of rental income to non-corporate Black property owners until the pandemic and economic fallout subsides.
  3. Stop all sweeps of houseless settlements and provide bathrooms, showers, hand washing stations, soap, water, laundry vouchers, dumpsters, vermin abatement, and cleaning supplies.

Criminal Justice Reform-

  1. Immediate release of all people who are pretrial, bail-eligible, elderly, youth, pregnant, infirmed, immuno-comprimised and those held on parole/probation violations or infractions/non-serious misdemeanors from jails or detention.
  2. Immediate release of all people who are parole-eligible, parole-suitable, elderly, youth, pregnant, infirmed, immuno- comprimised and those held on parole violations or non-violent felonies from prisons.
  3. Provision of free housing, healthcare, food resources, and community reintegration support (including help acquiring documents like legal identification) for all people returning from prison, jail, or detention.
  4. Continuance of rehabilitative programs offered by community-based organizations to incarcerated people who will not be released through distance-learning to allow them to continue to earn time off their sentences.
  5. Mandatory usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) by all correctional staff in jails and prisons and provision of PPE to all incarcerated people.

Transportation-

  1. Free public transportation for all for the duration of the pandemic and economic fallout.
  2. Cancellation of fare evasion citations on public transportation.

Other Resources-

  1. Funding to provide free, culturally-competent funeral and burial/cremation services for COVID-19 deaths.
  2. Resources for culturally-competent community education on safer-at-home practices led by Black organizers and educators, with a corresponding prohibition of arrests, fines, and citations in response to safer-at-home violations.
  3. Provision of free face-coverings and gloves at all COVID-19 testing sites, food distribution centers, open public facilities, grocery stores, restaurants, and essential businesses.

Long-Term Demands:

Reparations-

  1. Reparations for all Black victims of COVID-19 (or their families in cases of death), who were unable to get support due to the lack of testing, access to healthcare, and/or overall medical racism.

Healthcare-

  1. Universal, quality, accessible healthcare.
  2. Funding for Black-led, culturally-competent, free exercise and wellness classes in Black communities throughout Long Beach especially North West, Central and South West areas.
  3. Funding for free culturally-competent counseling and mental health resources for Black residents of Los Angeles County.
  4. Medical education that centers cultural-competency, and interrogates implicit bias and anti-Black racism and ongoing retraining of medical professionals in these areas.

Environment-

  1. Funding for organizations that address and work to remedy overarching environmental racism in Black communities.

Food Security-

  1. Weekly farmers markets in Black communities throughout Long Beach especially North-West, Central and South-West areas.
  2. Vouchers for fresh produce for Black residents of Los Angeles County that are universally accepted at all places that sell food.
  3. Funding for culturally-competent healthy eating and food preparation classes run by Black-led organizations.
  4. Creation and maintenance of urban farmland and urban farming education throughout Black communities in Long Beach and LA county.
  5. Funding for Black organizations to start and support maintenance of home-based gardens in Black communities throughout the County and Long Beach especially North-West, Central and South-West areas.

Education-

  1. Recruitment of and scholarships for Black students to pursue careers in healthcare, including naturopathy and holistic medicinal practices.
  2. Funding for Black scholarships, student recruitment, retention, and graduation initiatives at CSULB and Charles Drew Universities.
  3. .Guaranteed admission, scholarship, and support programming for Black students to all public colleges and universities, namely CSULB.

Housing-

  1. Declare housing as a human right and provide universal permanent housing for all.

Criminal Justice Reform-

  1. Automatic diversion services for all arrests of those under age 25, covering all offenses
  2. Funding for and prioritization of alternatives to incarceration

Public Safety-

  1. Prioritization of culturally-competent community solutions and resources to address public safety, including livable wage jobs, mental health services, after school programs, and community care workers, instead of police and law enforcement.

Transportation-

  1. Free public transportation for all, beginning with K-12 youth and seniors.
  2. Double the Long Beach Transit schedule and make service available 24-hours-per-day and 7-days-per-week.

Other Resources-

  1. Free, quality, universal childcare.
  2. Provide ample high quality, safe, accessible recreational spaces and cultural services including: parks, facilities, programs, and special events.
  3. Financial incentives to create and maintain worker-controlled cooperatives.