The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc worldwide and, in this country, highlighted implicit bias in health care between white Americans and Black and Latino communities.
Eight months into the pandemic, COVID-19 has infected nearly 7 million people in the United States, killing more than 200,000. Though the virus doesn’t discriminate against its victims, it has disproportionately affected people of color. The statistics paint a frightening picture:
- People of color are nearly 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than whites.
- Blacks and Latinos are nearly 5 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 as whites. Indigenous peoples have an even higher hospitalization rate, at 5.3 times that of white people.
- Blacks are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as whites, and Latinos are 1.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19 as whites.
- More than 35,000 Blacks have died from COVID-19; the virus has killed more than 33,000 Latinos.
It is precisely these disparities that have led Queen Latifah to partner with the American Lung Association to host the first-ever livestream benefit, #Act4Impact, to raise money for the organization’s COVID-19 Action Initiative.
“The American Lung Association is one of the oldest organizations fighting for lung health, studying it and advocating for it,” Queen told Black Health Matters in an interview. “They recognized this virus was coming. They recognized how it started to attack Black and Latino communities and highlight our disparities. I am more than happy to partner with them to raise money because I know they’ve been fighting for lung health for over 100 years.”
In April, the organization, seeing the dire financial straits of underserved communities being most impacted by the disease, earmarked $25 million to go toward the COVID-19 Action Initiative, and Queen, who understood from her own experience the difficulties of navigating the health care system, knew this was something with which she had to get involved.
“Because of what my mom went through before rising to heaven,” she said, “it was really tough. And you’re talking to someone who had a little money in her pocket and who had access to health care. I can’t imaging what people are going through who have no health insurance. This system is tricky for the best of us. Seeing what happened through my own family story made me realize we need to advocate for ourselves when it comes to COVID-19. It’s not going to stop. It’s only going to get worse as we go into flu season.”
#Act4Impact, live-streaming on Facebook Live on Saturday, September 26, 2020, at 7 p.m., will raise funds to aid the ALA’s efforts to:
- Provide free education and cloth masks to those in need.
- Protect public health by advocating for accessible and affordable COVID and flu vaccines in underserved communities of color.
- Prevent future outbreaks by investing in respiratory virus research. “We’re talking about prevention, as well as investing in the research that will discover a cure,” Queen said.
The telethon will feature musical performances, comedy sketches and a few surprises from a growing list of celebrities, including Ruth B, Common, Harry Connick Jr., Affion Crockett, Laura Dern, Jimmy Fallon, Fitz of Fitz and the Tantrums, Whoopi Goldberg, JoJo, Joshua Jay, Kelis, Katharine McPhee, MILCK, Monica, Bob Odenkirk, Keke Palmer, Questlove, Adam Rippon, Luka Sabbat, Scarypoolparty, The Second City, Rob Thomas, Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade and X Ambassadors. “I brought together 1,000 of my friends,” Queen joked.
But perhaps the component of the live event Queen is most looking forward to are the coronavirus stories from regular people. “We need to hear from people about what their experience has been—not just watching it on TV,” she said. “Their own families and how they’ve been impacted. What they’ve had to do to protect their children, their parents, themselves.”
And all of it designed to drive the audience to the website, lung.org/act4impact, to help staunch the deep gap in resources and support.
“We’re going to have some serious fun while we raise serious money over a serious issue,” Queen said. “It will be a wonderful event people will enjoy while at the same time donating whatever they have. But people don’t have to wait for September 26 for the live event. They can go right now and start donating. Every little bit helps, because this is really affecting us.”