Edited – Across California, Blacks Step Up to Help Others

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Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media  

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to change life as we know it in California and around the world, many heroes are stepping up in their communities to lend a hand to people who need help the most.

The social and political action group, the People’s Alliance for Justice (PAJ), for example, has made it their goal to assist the less fortunate during this pandemic.

In addition to giving free medical masks, gloves and food to people who need them in San Diego, the PAJ contacted Gov. Gavin Newsom to place a 180 day hold on foster youth emancipations. The young people Harris is advocating for would have aged out of the foster care system in the midst of a deadly global health crisis that is having a disproportionate impact on Blacks across the United States and here California.

So far in California, African Americans have accounted for 12% of COVID-19 deaths even though we make up 6% of the total state population, according to as-of-yet incomplete tallies by the California Department of Public Health.

The governor responded to the requests from Harris and other advocates in and out of government by allocating $42 million in aid to counties to support the extension of time children can stay in foster care during the pandemic.

“These measures will prevent what we believe to be a foster care-to-homelessness pipeline within our state’s most vulnerable communities who stand to take the biggest economic hit from this pandemic,” PAJ CEO Rev. Shane Harris wrote in a letter to Newsom. “Nationally 20% of foster youth aging out of the system become instantly homeless and the numbers get worse when it comes to data on college.”

Also in San Diego, the Jacobs Center For Neighborhood Innovation has put forth emergency relief funds to non-profit organizations to help support their efforts to take care of their respective communities.

“The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation will provide emergency grants to nonprofit organizations that have deep roots and strong experience supporting these communities. More specifically, 501(c)(3) organizations that are disproportionately affected by this global pandemic and its economic consequences, including those serving food and providing educational services, transportation, senior support, mental health services and other emergency needs,” reads the organization’s website.

In the Inland Empire, the Provisional Accelerated Learning Charter Academy (PCA) has made sure to feed students who rely on free lunches during this pandemic, as schools statewide have had to shut down.

“We have a moral obligation to make sure students and families in the community have food to eat,” said Dwaine Radden Sr., CEO of PCA.

In Sacramento, three Black chefs — Willis Webster, Mike Harris and Berry Accius — prepared and delivered over 1,000 meals to residents in the city’s Meadowview neighborhood, where a large number of African Americans live.

“What we’ve been getting is people telling us how good [the food] is,” Accius said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee. “They don’t expect to get that much good food. A lot of times, in these [situations] people make food or go get food, and just because it’s food doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a great experience.”

In the Los Angeles area, Dr. Bill Releford has distributed sanitizers and masks to communities in the southern Los Angeles region.

“My assignment is to help reduce the legacy of health disparities in this nation. Everyday I pray for strength, courage and wisdom in this effort. As a healthcare advocate, it was becoming clearer by the hour that effective and credible preventive messaging regarding the pandemic was not getting to the African American community,” Releford said.

Another advocate for people suffering during this pandemic in Los Angeles is Shirley Raines and her organization Beauty 2 The Streetz, a non-profit organization that usually focuses on providing food, showers and other grooming services for homeless people on Skid Row.

As COVID-19 ravages the homeless community, Raines decided to extend her organization’s services to providing people with food, masks and gloves.

“Although the pandemic is very scary, for three years I’ve been telling them how much I love them and that we’re there for you, that you have my word. What kind of organization would we be if we just all locked ourselves in our houses and left them alone to fend for themselves during this time,” Raines said.

The state lists several ways people who want to help out can by donating their time, money or even blood. See how you can pitch in or get involved.

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