MADISON, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) - Doctors and local leaders celebrated Juneteenth by talking about the intersection of COVID-19 and the current protests.
The Kujichagulia Center for Self-Determination normally hosts Madison’s Juneteenth event every year. This time around, they decided to shift their Juneteenth events online, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Saturday afternoon, the center held two panel discussions. They included doctors, activists, and leaders, including Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes.
The goal was to take about the resilience of the Black community, and how to continue that resilience going forward in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Although the Black population only makes up about 6.5 percent of Wisconsin’s population, we account for 20 percent of confirmed cases, and about a quarter of Covid-related deaths,” said Barnes.
Doctors from UW Health were a big part of the discussion. They talked about how coronavirus is hitting the Black community more than most, which exemplifies health inequity.
“Because of everything going on the last three weeks, health systems are very aware racism is a public health problem overall,” said Dr. Sheryl Henderson, who’s a UW pediatrician and infectious diseases doctor. “This is a moment to enter dialogue.”
Dr. Ajay Sethi brought up the movement to defund the police. He said if law enforcement funding was shifted to public health, and public health officials had more resources, it’s possible some people wouldn’t have lost their loved ones to the virus.
“There isn’t enough going to public health,” said Dr. Sethi, who works for UW-Madison Population Health Sciences. “I think the Black Lives Matter movement is a great opportunity to think about how do we actually protect lives of the Black community? And think about where our funds are going. And how we should redirect that to actually do what matters.”
The lieutenant governor reminded Black Wisconsinites to take care of themselves. The last two months have been hard for everyone, but they’ve been especially traumatic for people of color.
“After the centuries of trauma that we’ve experienced … it’s no surprise that so many of us continue to struggle to cope,” Barnes said. “We know our communities have what it takes to survive.”
You can watch all of The Kujichagulia Center for Self-Determination’s virtual Juneteenth programming on its Facebook page.