OZY's New Hit TV Show: Black Women Go Deep on COVID-19 - OZY | A Modern Media Company
SourceLeslie dela Vega/OZY

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Because the Black community's problems predate the pandemic — and they're getting worse.

By Joshua Eferighe

Check out a special edition of OZY’s Black Women OWN the Conversation focused on the impact of COVID-19 on the African American community. These episodes bring together real women and a curated panel of experts, professionals and thought leaders with host Carlos Watson for a timely discussion on how we are living during this pandemic. The specials air Saturday, April 18, at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. CT), and Tuesday, April 21, at 11 p.m. (10 p.m. CT) on OWN. Join the conversation at #BlackWomenOWN on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

She tried sounding the alarm. Philadelphia native Dr. Ala Stanford, the first African American woman pediatric surgeon to be entirely trained in the U.S., had been attempting to educate and dispel countless myths. She tried to get the word out with city and state officials and on social media, but nothing seemed to work. 

Then it dawned on her: Talking wasn’t going to do the trick. She had to act. 

“I’m hearing why this can’t happen and why that can’t happen, and basically reached out to my Black doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, medical officials and anyone who wanted to help to say: We have to test our people,” Stanford explains passionately on a special edition of OZY’s Black Women OWN the Conversation airing Saturday on OWN. Her sense of urgency about what Black Americans are facing both in her home city and across the country permeates the show. 

Normally taped before a live studio audience of 100 Black women cutting across class, age, profession and sexual orientation, these special editions were taped via Zoom. The topic, as you can guess, is the exact reason the conversation is virtual: COVID-19, and how it’s hitting the Black community especially hard

This pandemic situation is really just further exposing what was already problematic.

Bree Newsome Bass, activist

For episode 1, airing on Saturday night, host and OZY CEO Carlos Watson moderates a conversation including prominent Black women such as Stanford, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and activist Bree Newsome Bass. 

Although they constitute only 13 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans make up 42 percent of coronavirus deaths that have been reported with demographic data — and 70 percent in Cantrell’s home state of Louisiana. The reasons all point back to one thing: access. 

“It goes to the social determinants of health in vulnerable populations,” Cantrell says. “But of course in the United States, as it relates to the African American communities, it’s a question of no access to wealth, to opportunity, to quality health care — all the social determinants of health that heavily impacted the African American community for generations.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that people with heart and lung conditions, asthma and other preexisting conditions are most vulnerable to the coronavirus — and many of those conditions are particularly prevalent among African Americans.

These kinds of health disparities show how the Black community’s crisis predates COVID-19, says Bass, a grassroots organizer who famously climbed a 30-foot flagpole at the South Carolina State House to take down its Confederate flag in 2015. Having worked with populations struggling to have stable housing, living wages and access to health care, she says the “normal” many hope to return to is already harmful. “This pandemic situation is really just further exposing what was already problematic in our structures to begin with,” Bass says.

And those structures make dealing with the disease more difficult. Kelly, an audience member from Philadelphia who survived COVID-19, tells a harrowing tale about not being able to receive care. “It took about 10 days before they actually told me I was positive, and I could have infected so many other people,” she laments.

Stories like hers, where Black survival is on the line, are the stories that matter. Tune in for more.

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