Louisiana advocacy organizations and nonprofits release comprehensive list of policy demands and ideas to help guide Gov. Edwards, state legislators, local officials, and other public and private stakeholders to develop a racially and economically equitable COVID-19 response and recovery.
NEW ORLEANS, LA | April 13, 2020—According to a recent article in the Advocate newspaper, Black people accounted for 70% of Coronavirus deaths in Louisiana through early April, while only making up 32% of the state’s population. Sadly, this type of outcome is the standard, not an anomaly. When disaster strikes, Black folks and other people of color always bear the disproportionate brunt of the devastation.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Gov. Edwards has announced plans to establish a task force to study the racial disparity in Coronavirus deaths. While that is a nice gesture, we don’t need another task force to tell us what we already know.
“Life in this neighborhood is an underlying condition: hard jobs, long hours, bad pay, no health insurance, no money, bad diet,” Burnell Cotlon, a grocery store owner in New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward wrote in a recent piece in the Washington Post. “Before I opened, this part of the city was a food desert… We were made more vulnerable to this virus down here because of what we’ve had to deal with. Wearing a mask won’t protect us from our history.”
We already know how to center racial and economic equity in our COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, and how to begin to fix the underlying structures and systems that have allowed these inequities to persist.
It was with those goals in mind that the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice (PCEJ–http://powercoalition.org) brought together dozens of advocacy organizations and leaders (see list at end of release) to develop a list of policy demands and ideas that could serve as a roadmap for a racially and economically equitable response and recovery effort. These organizations and leaders have spent years working on the issues this document addresses, including housing, criminal justice, workers’ rights, and more. You can find the full list of demands and ideas here: http://powercoalition.org/Downloads/PolicyDemands-Comprehensive.pdf.
“The scope and scale of this disaster cannot be ignored,” according to PCEJ Executive Director Ashley Shelton. “But this crisis also gives us an opportunity to rebuild our systems from the ground-up, in ways that serve everyone equally. This document is one of the most important tools we have to seize that opportunity.”
Some of the most pressing demands include immediately releasing elderly and medically vulnerable incarcerated people, keeping people securely housed, and giving local governments the freedom to set their own labor policies. The full list of demands and ideas addresses the underlying inequities that are baked into our current systems.
“This document is intended for the Governor, state legislators, and local elected officials, as well as nonprofits and other private sector actors who will be leading our state’s response and recovery work,” said PCEJ Census Director and Program Manager Janea Jamison. “We hope these leaders will see this list as a guide to greater racial and economic equity.”
“Social distancing can never exist inside an incarcerated environment,” according to Norris Henderson, Executive Director of Voice of the Experienced (VOTE). “Everything is communal. We joined these powerful organizations in developing this set of solutions to our immediate needs because this pandemic is exposing the racial and economic disparities in Louisiana, especially in our jails and prisons. This is our chance to undo a lot of that.”
“This document also lays out long-term reforms that will allow us to thrive as a state and be better prepared for future disasters,” said Melissa Fluornoy, a former state legislator and the current Board Chair of Louisiana Progress. “When we confront the deeply ingrained problems in our state, we can build a better Louisiana. We looked at all of the factors that have made this public health crisis so painful and inequitable in Louisiana, and created real pathways to reduce or even eliminate the broken systems that allowed them to happen.”
“This disaster, and our response to it, will determine how resilient we are as a state,” said Shelton. “However, if our leaders choose to ignore these policies and ideas, they will learn what communities of color have always known about resilience; while it is supposed to be short-term, if leaders refuse to change the systems that require resilience, then it is just another form of oppression.”
The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice works to build voice and power in traditionally ignored communities, with a focus on communities of color. We are a coalition of groups from across Louisiana whose mission is to organize in impacted communities, educate and turn out voters, and fight for policies that create a more equitable and just system in Louisiana.
Who: Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ), Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA), Louisiana Budget Project (LBP), Step Up Louisiana, Louisiana Policy Institute for Children (LPIC), Women With A Vision (WWAV), VAYLA, Southern Poverty Law Center, Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families, Healthy Gulf, Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, Louisiana Appleseed Center for Law & Policy, Oxfam America, Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC), Agenda for Children, Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana, Center for Planning Excellence, Louisiana Progress, Orleans Public Education Network, Fair Districts Louisiana
What: Louisiana advocacy groups release list of policy demands and ideas that lay the foundation for an equitable, just, sustainable response and recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic: http://powercoalition.org/Downloads/PolicyDemands-Comprehensive.pdf
When: April 13, 2020
Ashley Shelton, Executive Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, (225) 802-2435, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Robins-Brown, Communications Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, (504) 256-8196, email@example.com
*This release was originally published by Power Coalition for Equity and Justice here