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Equity Amid Crisis: Two-day seminar focuses on seeing the world through a new lens

Megan Holmes



There’s an oft-repeated saying in the African American community, “When America catches a cold, black people get the flu.” There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has thrown health inequality into the forefront of the public consciousness.

A two-day workshop centered around equity, inclusion and diversity, “Equity Amid Crisis” hosted by Inclusivity LLC, will shed light on the public health crisis, the gaps in the systems that underlay it and provide next steps for the community to begin to look at the world through a lens of equity.

The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg defines health equity as “the attainment of the highest level of health for all people, free of avoidable and unfair differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or by other means.”

The racial disparities associated with COVID-19 are stark. Across the United States, African Americans are more likely to test positive for COVID-19, be hospitalized with COVID-19, or die a COVID-19-related death.

In Pinellas County, African Americans account for 9.9 percent of the population and are 16 percent of COVID cases, 14 percent of hospitalizations and 7 percent of deaths. Statewide, African Americans make up 15 percent of the population and 22 percent of the COVID-19 deaths.

In other areas of the country, the disparities are even more stark. In Michigan, African Americans make up 14 percent of the state population but represent 41 percent of people diagnosed with COVID-19. In Louisiana, African Americans make up 32 percent of the total state population, but accounted for over 55 percent of COVID-19 deaths.

African Americans are also more likely to employed in “essential worker” service roles, and alternatively, to be unemployed due to the economic crisis created by the pandemic.

“Equity Amid Crisis” will break down numerous topics, from health to employment, to civic engagement and mental/behavioral health. The first day of the conference will lay a foundation for what equity means, where the COVID-19 situation currently sits, and where the gaps currently are right now in the many systems associated with equity.

The conference is open and free for registration for anyone interested in participating. The goal of the conference is to bring together a wide variety of community members from multiple sectors to provide different perspectives.

Bianca Mieses, a consultant for Inclusivity LLC, will moderate the panel called “Where Are The Gaps” with Dr. LaDonna Butler, executive director The Well for Life; Alison Barlow, executive director of St. Pete Innovation District; Greg Holden, director of wealth management at Manning & Napier Advisors; and Bro. John Muhammad, executive director of the Community Development and Training Center.

Mieses told the St. Pete Catalyst that the panel will focus on gaps related to mental health, employment, essential workers, working from home and the digital divide.

“Everything was put to the test during COVID-19,” Mieses said. “And the system showed that it is a broken one.

“When we talk about the social determinants of health and how environments have already affected that, COVID-19 took down the curtain and we were all able to witness – at a time when we were all still – how this virus affects people of color. It’s social environment, health environment, food deserts, education, health care. I truly think those inequities were all exposed.”

Mieses said she’s looking forward to unique ways that the conference will engage people virtually, including virtual break-out sessions. Instead of a one-sided conversation, participants will have the ability to talk about where they’re personally seeing gaps in day-to-day life.

“The idea is to begin to have an equity lens when looking at all situations,” Mieses explained. “For people, organizations and leaders in our community, it’s important to understand. This is a place for the beginning of that learning. It’s a way to get your feet wet and understand that this has affected all of us differently.”

The morning of the second day of the conferences will be devoted to self-care, with Zumba, yoga, and meditation sessions.

The second half will be devoted to looking forward and understanding where to go from here with sessions that include “Working Smarter Not Harder,” “Moving The Needle,” and “Are You In or Out.”

Notable leaders participating include: Dr. Tonjua Williams, president of St. Petersburg College; Dr. Kanika Tomalin, deputy mayor and city administrator of St. Petersburg; Carl Lavendar; chief equity officer of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg; Albert Lee, CEO of the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation; Rev. Watson Haynes, president and CEO of Pinellas County Urban League; and Brian Auld, president of Tampa Bay Rays/Rowdies.

Registration is still open. Visit: http://inclusivityllc.com/

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