By Beverly Gadson-Birch
One of my legendary orators of all times was Frederick Douglass. When a young man wanting to become involved asked him, what can he do. An older Douglass responded “Agitate, Agitate, Agitate”. And, one of my favorite responses for those wanting a better way of life is “educate, educate, educate”.
I have been writing about the Covid-19 virus several weeks for one reason—to educate. It is just that important. States are beginning to reopen. Unmask, unprotected folks are already non-compliant and are popping up around town. I suspect we will begin to see more and more of that in the weeks ahead as the ban gradually lifts. So, when is it the right time to reopen cities, states? The right time is when noted health officials have a better understanding on how the virus spreads, treatment and the best way to protect the public. It is the right time when persons in communities of color are tested in large numbers and the number of new cases is at a minimum. The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported nearly half, or 46%, of South Carolinians that have died from the virus are black, but they make up only 27% of the state’s population.
Every day the number of deaths and persons testing positive from Covid-19 continues to rise. As of yesterday, DHEC reported 52,145 tested in South Carolina, 5,613 tested positive, 142 new cases and three deaths. Charleston has 435 cases tested positive and 6 confirmed deaths. Total deaths in South Carolina 177.
Why is it so important in communities of color to tread lightly through this pandemic? History will bear me out. Factual information is never forthright. There is always more to a story than what meets the eyes. Likewise, there is more to this virus than meets the public eyes. African American communities are the last ones to receive information. And, oftentimes it’s half-truth and half-fiction. Figures are either inflated or deflated to minimize or maximize the impact of whatever it is officials do not want the public to know. Once the ban is lifted, folks cannot return to business as usual. African Americans tend to have large huggy, kissy and hand shaking funerals—not good. Kershaw county and Albany, GA are testament of how this virus can spread at large funerals. At the beginning of the virus outbreak in Kershaw County, six persons died after attending a funeral. In Albany, Ga, six siblings of the deceased, and others in attendance, became infected by an unsuspecting person attending the funeral. Afterwards, Albany became a hotbed for the virus. There is still a lot of unknown surrounding the virus, symptoms, who has it, how it spreads, testing and treatment.
Do not let your guard down!! No one will protect us from this virus but us. Continue to stay close to home. Follow the same rules of washing your hands thoroughly, wearing masks and gloves and practicing social distancing. Be careful of advice given and taken. Everyone has an opinion or advice that may be well intended but could be harmful. The ludicrous, and not well intended, advice coming from the President to ingest Lysol and bleach is certainly not good. However, some folks heeded the advice and are now in the hospital. Stay away from fools’ advice!!
Finally, judge for yourself! If something does not seem right, it is not. Go with your gut feeling. Yesterday a gut feeling group from Charleston, organized by Elder James Johnson, State President of National Action Network, and the State Conference of the NAACP, held a conference in Columbia on the State House steps to address Governor’s McMaster response to reopening the state.
Be proactive,young people! Agitate, Agitate, Agitate.