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Equity means including Black Detroiters in the arts, too | Opinion – Detroit Free Press

Nate Wallace Published 10:00 a.m. ET Aug. 1, 2020 | Updated 1:13 p.m. ET Aug. 1, 2020

Patrons stop to look at and take a picture with the "Officer of the Hussars" painting by Kehinde Wiley a part of the Contemporary Art after 1950 collection a at the Detroit Institute of Arts photographed on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Kimberly P. Mitchell/Detroit Free Press (Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell, Kimberly P. Mitchell/DFP)

I remember vividly walking through the Detroit Institute of Arts six years ago and finding myself face to face with Kehinde Wileys inimitable work, "Officer of the Hussars."It is an enormous, masterful painting, in which Wiley swapped the stereotypical white Napoleonic European cavalry officer for a Black man mounted on the same horse. He sits in a white athletic tank top, jeans and Timberland boots, wielding a sabre, looking back confidently at the viewer from the rearing horse. I stood for a few minutes, taking in the painting, when a young Black boy, maybe 10 or 12 years old, and his mother walked up to the painting. I watched him as he scanned the huge piece, and looked up at his mother to ask, Why is he on the horse?

Wileys painting centers a Black man in a place hes not traditionally been depicted or included. Its a fitting metaphor for where we find ourselves now, in the middle of a historic racial reckoning following the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, which has forced many people to consider what kind of Detroit they want to live in, and how to re-imagine it.

Nate Wallace(Photo: Noah Stephens)

A new report from Knight Foundation and the Urban Institute has shown that access to the arts is a critical component in creating lasting and deep attachments to our communities. Access to the arts boosts civic engagement, raises resident satisfaction, and even encourages personal investment of money and time back into the community, which is true for Detroit. But the data also shows racial and economic disparities when it comes to who feels they have easy access to arts in their community, suggesting significant barriers to equal, shared benefits of such amenities. We see these barriers right now in our city.

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From boardrooms, to leadership, to programming, arts and culture institutions cannot seem to hire, appoint, retain or reach Blacks, who are 80% of Detroits residents. If there is an unwillingness to do the intentional work around equity, both in and outside institutional walls, it stifles the possibilities of our community. Our city has talented Black artists, curators, programmers and leaders. But soft statements of solidarity or quotable platitudes deflect from the systemic issues we must wrestle with in order to move towards real change. In order to create a more inclusive local arts community, Detroit's arts and cultural institutions must first examine their own hiring practices, boards of directors and organizational cultures.

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This Knight-Urban report, Community Ties: Understanding what attaches people to the place where they live, reminds us of what an equitable arts and culture ecosystem could look like in Detroit, and more importantly, what we deny ourselves when its not. Addressing inequity is work that has to be intentional with no room for ambiguous language and broad-stroke terminology. Hiring more executives and leaders of color, diversifying the donor base, investing in spaces that are closer and more accessible to Black communities and other communities of color, and implementing programs that integrate arts and cultural institutions with the community, is the best path forward.

Findings from the report provide opportunities for Detroits arts and cultural institutions to create a more inclusive and equitable arts community. I believe we can work towards re-imagining a city where a little Black boy is used to seeing himself not only in artwork, but as a program director, curator or museum leader.

In front of Wileys painting, the boys mother answered her sons question about why a Black man was riding a horse like that, in a painting like this. His mom looked down at him, smiled, and said, "Because hes supposed to be.

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Equity means including Black Detroiters in the arts, too | Opinion - Detroit Free Press

Watch now: In Central Illinois, a heightened focus on police agencies’ efforts to diversify – Bloomington Pantagraph

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Normal Police Department officer Jasmine Johnson says earning the badge has been her dream come true. Johnson said police agencies in general will have to look at changing their approach to minority hiring if they want their departments to reflect their communities. She said Normal was working in the right direction.

Normal Police Department Chief Rick Bleichner says recruiting qualified minority police officers has become one of his primary goals in staffing the department. Making adjustments to the process, such as doing long-distance assessments to make it easier for candidates in other cities to qualify, has helped the department.

Normal Police officer Jasmine Johnson calls for people to work together to end unjust police actions during the "United Against Police Brutality" event June 18. Johnson helped organize the event, which saw officers and protesters walk together through Uptown Normal.

BLOOMINGTON The years-long efforts of Central Illinois law enforcement agencies to diversify their forces are getting more attention in the months since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody.

Floyds death sparked protests in Bloomington-Normal and around the country. Some advocates have called for police reforms that include restructuring and defunding, or shifting resources to other positions, like social workers. Many also pointed to departments across the U.S. that dont look like the communities they serve.

You need to have people, law enforcement, going into the community that represents the community, said Linda Foster, president of the NAACPs Bloomington-Normal Branch. Thats how you learn, thats how you understand and thats how you are able to build relationships and its not seen as us against them.

Bloomington-Normal NAACP President Linda Foster addresses the topic of "change" during a rally May 31 outside the Law and Justice Center in downtown Bloomington.

Its too soon to tell whether Floyds death will make that harder, they said, but overall heavy scrutiny and negative media coverage of the profession in recent years have not helped.

It's only been a couple of months since that incident, said Bloomington Police Chief Dan Donath, who anticipates it will have an impact on recruitment of minorities and new officers overall.

In Bloomington, data provided by the department shows that 92.7% of the departments 123 officers are white and 7.3% are people of color, including seven Hispanic officers. Compare that with U.S. census data that shows the citys population is 73.4% white and 10.1% Black.

The Normal Police Department has 82 officers, of whom 90.2% are white and 9.8% are minorities. The towns population is 77.4% white, 11.2% Black and 5.8% Hispanic.

The McLean County Sheriffs Office has 54 officers, of whom 94.4% are white and 5.6% are minorities. The countys population is 79.2% white, 8.4% Black and 5.2% Hispanic.

At Illinois State University, the police force is 79.3% white and 20.7% minority officers. Roughly 71.2% of the students enrolled in fall 2019 were white; 10.8% were Hispanic, and 9% were Black.

Leaders of all four departments acknowledge the disparity and say diversity remains a high priority in recruitment and hiring. Theyre competing with departments across the region that are working toward similar goals, and several said they face an uphill battle because of the stigma surrounding police work these days.

We have not initiated a testing cycle for deputy sheriff since before the George Floyd incident, McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage said. However, we are seeing an overall decline in applicants to be police or correctional officers, I believe largely due to the anti- police sentiment that is being pushed.

Meanwhile, advocates for police reform say a focus on diversity could distract from other changes that need to be made.

As long as our policing system continues to operate the way it does now, we will continue to have problems no matter the racial makeup, said Bloomington Ward 6 Alderwoman Jenn Carrillo, who has been involved with the local Black Lives Matter movement. ... People do get stuck in this whole diversity angle of things. Diversity isn't the same as racial justice.

Black Lives Matter of Bloomington-Normal member Jenn Carrillo, also Ward 6 Alderwoman on the city council, leads the crowd in raising their fists for solidarity duringthe organization's meeting June 7 at Miller Park in Bloomington.

Recruiting efforts

By the time Jasmine Johnson joined the Normal Police Department in 2016, the department had been working for years to recruit more officers of color. Police Chief Rick Bleichner had spoken publicly for months about it as a priority, something Johnson, who is Black, said she appreciated reading in a news article.

To her, hiring a diverse workforce just makes sense. Its important for a number of reasons, but it mainly builds trust between officers and community members while placing potential victims at ease.

From my experience, it seems as though with everything thats going on, if you can see someone who looks like you, its more of a comfort thing, said Johnson, 29. They can relate to you more. I dont think its a racial thing by any means, but I think its important.

Johnson said she sometimes encounters women who are more comfortable speaking with her than with a male officer. Ive also had where Ive interacted with someone whos African-American and they feel more comfortable speaking with someone whos African-American, as opposed to someone who is Caucasian, because we can understand the experience, she said.

Normal Police Department patrolman Jasmine Johnson is the third generation of police officers in her family. She said one tip she would give potential minority applicants is to be determined in meeting the requirements for a police department's screening procedures.

Bloomington police this spring added five new officers, three of whom were people of color. But Donath stressed that they were hired for their qualifications, not skin color.

I am very adamant about hiring only highly qualified candidates to ensure we provide great service to our community, he said. In addition, we would like people of color to see working at our police department as a real possibility. Sometimes, people in general fall into a trap that any given career field is not for their race or sex, etc.

But, this is a good job that gives a person an opportunity to help others and make a good living for themselves and their family.

City Manager Tim Gleason, who also is a chairman on the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, said the city has taken measures to improve minority officer recruitment and there is still more to do.

This is definitely a priority, Gleason said. In no way am I satisfied with where we are at as an organization, but over the last two years, our minority employees have increased from 7.5 to 11.5%, and my direction to staff is let's be targeted and intentional. Lets cast a wider net on government employment, specifically public safety.

Of the 29 officers on the Illinois State University Police force, 23 are white, three are Black, two are Hispanic, and one is listed as other.

Officers Jasmine Johnson, right, and Brad Park led the Normal Police Department's "United Against Police Brutality" walk across Uptown Normal on June 18.

Hiring for diversity has been, and always will be, a primary focus for our department, said Chief Aaron Woodruff, but its just too early to say if there has been any impact recently, since we havent had any vacancies posted. Prior to the George Floyd murder, we had already seen a downturn in overall applications for police officer. We attributed that to a number of factors, including the healthy economy (prior to COVID-19); the type of work which requires working weekends, overnight, and holidays; decreasing benefits; and the continuing fallout over the previous policing issues after Ferguson.

Woodruff said the key is to develop personal relationships when recruiting.

That includes, but is not limited to, working with our local community organizations to help us find good people who still want to make a positive difference in our communities, despite the current stereotypes surrounding policing.

In Normal, the police department made minority hiring a top priority when Bleichner was hired nearly nine years ago. However, he said, the department is committed to hiring the best candidate for the job, which means attracting a diverse talent pool.

One of the most important things I think I do, or functions as a chief, is hiring people, said Bleichner. At the end of the day, I could retire, somebody else could come in and they could change every directive within the police department, but one thing they cant change very easily is the people. Thats the legacy.

The department follows a comprehensive recruitment plan that is evaluated each year. Most candidates are pulled from within an 80-mile radius of the department, and Normal actively recruits at colleges, universities and in military magazines.

We certainly arent where we would like to be, but we have made progress, said Bleichner. We dont have a specific number in place that once we get there we can declare victory. Our approach is hiring the best people that we can because theyre going to be representatives of us.

Community policing

Johnson feels the Normal Police Department has had some success in recruiting minority officers because of its commitment to creating a welcoming culture and engaging with people through programs such as the Minority and Police Partnership.

But, as conversations and opinions toward police shift, Johnson said it is more important now than ever to focus on community policing. That doesnt just mean attending events, she said; it includes getting out of the patrol vehicle and interacting with people on the streets.

I know sometimes thats very hard to do when were getting calls for service, she said. I think if we can get back to community policing, engaging with the community and hosting more events that actually engages the community, that will be a way to not only change the narrative, but show the community that we are more than what we have been in the past perceived to be.

As part of an effort to connect with the community, Normal and Illinois State University police officers held a march June 18 at which they walked alongside protesters carrying Black Lives Matter signs. Johnson came up with the idea for the event and brought it to Bleichner, who readily agreed. Officers who attended said it was important for them to show the community that they did not agree with the excessive force shown in Minneapolis.

Miltonette Craig, an assistant professor in the Criminal Justice Sciences Department at Illinois State University, said community engagement is crucial for departments.

The underlying premise is that the police are supposed to protect and serve, she said, and it is very hard for them to work with the community that views them as illegitimate.

Craig, who is Black, described growing up in a Florida community where her experience with law enforcement was different from some in other communities where most residents are white.

When it comes to those that are disadvantaged, high-crime, high poverty, then they dont see the police unless they are coming in for law enforcement purposes, Craig said. I did not see the service part of policing until much later in my life.

Bloomington city leaders in December 2017 formed a group, the Public Safety and Community Relations Board, to handle appeals from people unhappy with how the police department handled complaints about officers.

Art Taylor, who was the boards first chairman and is still a member, said the group has only had two complaints to review since it was created. But the board plays a vital role because it serves as a factor in officers decision-making while on duty and could prevent incidents from escalating, he said.

We have had no police brutality in Bloomington, to my knowledge, in the same kind of light of what is going on with George Floyd and others who have lost their lives in other communities because of police brutality, Taylor said. I think the PSCRB has created something where the police at least have some pause to think and consider, before anything happens.

More work ahead

Advocates of police reform say there is still much work to be done, both in Central Illinois and nationally. Some believe the problems cant be solved by only diversifying the force.

Theres a systemic problem in policing and putting Black bodies or bodies of color into the blue uniform is not really addressing the issue that we see within police departments nationally, said Ky Ajayi, a leader with Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal.

Efforts to increase minority recruitment are needed, but Ajayi fears a hyper focus on the former will overshadow the pressing need for widespread police reform.

There needs to be radical restructuring of policing, he said. We have seen officers of color brutalize citizens, brutalize residents of communities. Weve come to the conclusion that when we focus on diversifying law enforcement, it doesnt address the systemic problems within policing.

Black Lives Matter of Bloomington-Normal member Ky Ajayi speaks to attendees of its meeting June 7 at Miller Park in Bloomington.

The solution, he said, is police reform and decreasing the number of interactions between officers and citizens. To do this, Ajayi suggested funding social service programs and having people equipped to handle calls for service for mental health crises and homelessness.

Taylor, of the review board, has said that he felt concerned about a recent interaction with Bloomington police in his neighborhood. He and his wife, Camille, were approached as part of a complaint of disorderly conduct involving a vehicle that matched the description of their car.

Donath said last week that a review of the situation found the officer acted appropriately.

Art Taylor, of Not In Our Town, left, talks with Bloomington Police Chief Dan Donath on June 8 after a rally of the Bloomington-Normal Branch of the NAACP, NIOT and local law enforcement departments.

But Art Taylor said they were approached in a way that put them on the defensive, and he wrote to several local officials and community leaders about his concerns with the experience.

The Taylors have been active in community service projects and nonprofit organizations during the 30 years theyve lived on Bloomingtons east side; Art Taylor had been named chairman of the review board at its first meeting because of his reputation for this work.

If that can happen to us and we understand that we are known in this community and I am on the PSCRB it can happen to anybody, he said.

Whole new era

It is not enough for police departments to simply increase minority recruitment efforts, said Foster, of the NAACP. Agencies must be transparent with their efforts to recruit and hire officers.

It comes down to hiring, Foster said. Thats the proof. We need to see an intentional effort to make a difference in our community.

People need to see police departments recruiting in areas out of their comfort, and the department needs to show there are minority officers who have been promoted to higher ranks, Foster added. That means having minority officers who are sergeants, lieutenants and captains, not just patrol officers.

The Bloomington-Normal NAACP is working on a list of recommendations for law enforcement agencies to increase transparency and minority recruitment. While the list has not been finalized, Foster said the organization plans to unveil the recommendations soon.

We really do need to move forward toward a more aggressive stance on making our community a community that is inclusive of all individuals that are willing to put the work in, she said. Its going to take some work.

If law enforcement agencies are serious about increasing diversity, then they need to evaluate what barriers are preventing them from achieving that goal, said Robert Moore, a retired U.S. Marshal and police community relations consultant who chairs the Illinois NAACP criminal justice committee.

You have to know whats stopping you from being successful, he said. If you have a department that is constantly losing your African Americans or minorities, you know theres something wrong.

These barriers include not having a proper recruitment plan, not having trained recruiters, a lack of resources and tense community relations. Once the barriers are identified, Moore said, the police department can move on to developing a comprehensive recruitment plan.

Moore was lead consultant in a 2016 case study of the Springfield Police Department as it made diversity a priority. When he was first brought on, Moore and his team started by evaluating the police departments mission statement, past newspaper clippings and interviews with community members.

What we found was that mayors and city council people had been promising minority recruiting for 20 years and nothing had changed, he said, which further damaged community relations. We also found that there was no recruiting plan.

Moore added that Springfield, like many police agencies from the 1980s to 2000s, had essentially cut off the hiring process and was not actively recruiting officers.

The Springfield department has since increased its number of black officers by nearly 150%. But the issues that led to the lack of diversity will likely be felt for years to come, Moore said.

Today, the Illinois NAACP and the Illinois Chiefs of Police have developed a list of 10 principles to building trust. They include treating all people with dignity and respect, rejecting discrimination, embracing community policing and undergoing de-escalation training.

Moore travels with the Illinois Chiefs of Police to promote the 10 principles, bringing residents and law enforcement agency leaders together for dialogue. Officers need to be held accountable and disciplined when they behave badly, he said.

Were heading into a whole new era when it comes to policing and accountability, he said.

Can you help? The latest Crime Stoppers of McLean County cases

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Elizabeth A. Johnson, 39, was wanted as of June 27, 2020, on a charge of obstructing justice. She is5 feet4 inches tall and weighs140 pounds. She hasblack hair andblueeyes. Her last known address is in Bloomington.

Darius D. French, 31, was wanted as of May 19, 2020, on a charge of aggravated driving under the influence. He is6 feet1 inches tall and weighs295 pounds. He hasblack hair andbrowneyes. His last known address is in Bloomington.

Star A. Jones, 26, wasnamed as of May 15, 2020, on a warrant charging her with theft over $500. Sheis 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 115 pounds. She has brown hair and brown eyes. Her last known address was in Normal.

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Deonte K. Spates, 21, was wanted as of May 2, 2020, on a warrant charging him with robbery. He is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 135 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. His last known address was in Bloomington.

Terrell D. Moon, 33, was wanted as of April 3, 2020, of a warrant charging him with delivery of a controlled substance. He is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 150 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. His last known address was in Bloomington.

Aaron J. Fluty, 44, was wanted as of April 1, 2020, on a charge of delivery of a controlled substance. He is5 feet10 inches tall and weighs150 pounds. He hasbrown hair andblueeyes. His last known address is in Bloomington.

James L. Fields, 22, was named as of March 27, 2020, on a warrant charging him with delivery of a controlled substance. He is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. His last known address was in Bloomington.

Regina M. Evans, 43, was wanted as of March 4, 2020, on a charge of aggravated driving under the influence. She is5 feet8 inches tall and weighs140 pounds. She hasred hair andgreeneyes. Her last known address is in Normal.

Carl R. Herrman, 74, was wanted as of Feb. 25, 2020, on a charge of theft. He is 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs180 pounds. He has white hair andbrowneyes. His last known address is in Bloomington.

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Watch now: In Central Illinois, a heightened focus on police agencies' efforts to diversify - Bloomington Pantagraph

Starbird: Disinformation campaigns revealed by pandemic are murky blends of truth, lies and sincere beliefs – Chattanooga Times Free Press

The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned an infodemic, a vast and complicated mix of information, misinformation and disinformation.

In this environment, false narratives the virus was "planned," that it originated as a bioweapon, that COVID-19 symptoms are caused by 5G wireless communications technology have spread like wildfire across social media and other communication platforms. Some of these bogus narratives play a role in disinformation campaigns.

The notion of disinformation often brings to mind easy-to-spot propaganda peddled by totalitarian states, but the reality is much more complex. Though disinformation does serve an agenda, it is often camo0uflaged in facts and advanced by innocent and often well-meaning individuals.

As a researcher who studies how communications technologies are used during crises, I've found that this mix of information types makes it difficult for people, including those who build and run online platforms, to distinguish an organic rumor from an organized disinformation campaign. And this challenge is not getting any easier as efforts to understand and respond to COVID-19 get caught up in the political machinations of this year's presidential election.

Rumors, misinformation and disinformation

Rumors are, and have always been, common during crisis events. Crises are often accompanied by uncertainty about the event and anxiety about its impacts and how people should respond. People naturally want to resolve that uncertainty and anxiety, and often attempt to do so through collective sense-making. It's a process of coming together to gather information and theorize about the unfolding event. Rumors are a natural byproduct.

Rumors aren't necessarily bad. But the same conditions that produce rumors also make people vulnerable to disinformation, which is more insidious. Unlike rumors and misinformation, which may or may not be intentional, disinformation is false or misleading information spread for a particular objective, often a political or financial aim.

Disinformation has its roots in the practice of dezinformatsiya used by the Soviet Union's intelligence agencies to attempt to change how people understood and interpreted events in the world. It's useful to think of disinformation not as a single piece of information or even a single narrative, but as a campaign, a set of actions and narratives produced and spread to deceive for political purpose.

Lawrence Martin-Bittman, a former Soviet intelligence officer who defected from what was then Czechoslovakia and later became a professor of disinformation, described how effective disinformation campaigns are often built around a true or plausible core. They exploit existing biases, divisions and inconsistencies in a targeted group or society. And they often employ "unwitting agents" to spread their content and advance their objectives.

Regardless of the perpetrator, disinformation functions on multiple levels and scales. While a single disinformation campaign may have a specific objective for instance, changing public opinion about a political candidate or policy pervasive disinformation works at a more profound level to undermine democratic societies.

The case of the 'Plandemic' video

Distinguishing between unintentional misinformation and intentional disinformation is a critical challenge. Intent is often hard to infer, especially in online spaces where the original source of information can be obscured. In addition, disinformation can be spread by people who believe it to be true. And unintentional misinformation can be strategically amplified as part of a disinformation campaign. Definitions and distinctions get messy, fast.

Consider the case of the "Plandemic" video that blazed across social media platforms in May 2020. The video contained a range of false claims and conspiracy theories about COVID-19. Problematically, it advocated against wearing masks, claiming they would "activate" the virus, and laid the foundations for eventual refusal of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Though many of these false narratives had emerged elsewhere online, the "Plandemic" video brought them together in a single, slickly produced 26-minute video. Before being removed by the platforms for containing harmful medical misinformation, the video propagated widely on Facebook and received millions of YouTube views.

As it spread, it was actively promoted and amplified by public groups on Facebook and networked communities on Twitter associated with the anti-vaccine movement, the QAnon conspiracy theory community and pro-Trump political activism.

But was this a case of misinformation or disinformation? The answer lies in understanding how and inferring a little about why the video went viral.

The video's protagonist was Dr. Judy Mikovits, a discredited scientist who had previously advocated for several false theories in the medical domain for example, claiming that vaccines cause autism. In the lead-up to the video's release, she was promoting a new book, which featured many of the narratives that appeared in the "Plandemic" video.

One of those narratives was an accusation against Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. At the time, Fauci was a focus of criticism for promoting social distancing measures that some conservatives viewed as harmful to the economy. Public comments from Mikovits and her associates suggest that damaging Fauci's reputation was a specific goal of their campaign.

In the weeks leading up to the release of the "Plandemic" video, a concerted effort to lift Mikovits' profile took shape across several social media platforms. A new Twitter account was started in her name, quickly accumulating thousands of followers. She appeared in interviews with hyperpartisan news outlets such as The Epoch Times and True Pundit. Back on Twitter, Mikovits greeted her new followers with the message: "Soon, Dr Fauci, everyone will know who you 'really are'."

More recently, Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns or operates 191 local television stations across the country, had planned to air an interview with Mikovits in which she reiterated the central claims in "Plandemic." In airing this program, Sinclair would have used the cover and credibility of local news to expose new audiences to these false and potentially dangerous narratives. The company is reconsidering its decision after receiving criticism; however, the interview was reportedly posted for a time on the company's website and was aired by one station.

This background suggests that Mikovits and her collaborators had several objectives beyond simply sharing her misinformed theories about COVID-19. These include financial, political and reputational motives. However, it is also possible that Mikovits is a sincere believer of the information that she was sharing, as were millions of people who shared and retweeted her content online.

What's ahead

In the United States, as COVID-19 blurs into the presidential election, we're likely to continue to see disinformation campaigns employed for political, financial and reputational gain. Domestic activist groups will use these techniques to produce and spread false and misleading narratives about the disease and about the election. Foreign agents will attempt to join the conversation, often by infiltrating existing groups and attempting to steer them towards their goals.

For example, there will likely be attempts to use the threat of COVID-19 to frighten people away from the polls. Along with those direct attacks on election integrity, there are likely to also be indirect effects on people's perceptions of election integrity from both sincere activists and agents of disinformation campaigns.

Efforts to shape attitudes and policies around voting are already in motion. These include work to draw attention to voter suppression and attempts to frame mail-in voting as vulnerable to fraud. Some of this rhetoric stems from sincere criticism meant to inspire action to make the electoral systems stronger. Other narratives, for example unsupported claims of "voter fraud," seem to serve the primary aim of undermining trust in those systems.

History teaches that this blending of activism and active measures, of foreign and domestic actors, and of witting and unwitting agents, is nothing new. And certainly the difficulty of distinguishing between these is not made any easier in the connected era. But better understanding these intersections can help researchers, journalists, communications platform designers, policymakers and society at large develop strategies for mitigating the impacts of disinformation during this challenging moment.

Kate Starbird is associate professor of Human Centered Design and Engineering, at the University of Washington.

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.

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Starbird: Disinformation campaigns revealed by pandemic are murky blends of truth, lies and sincere beliefs - Chattanooga Times Free Press

Different Lives, Different Narratives: Messiah College Professor Drew Hart on the divisions between Black, white America – The Burg News

Drew Hart

There is more support than any time in our history, in this moment, said Dr. Drew Hart, author, professor, activist and Harrisburg resident about the current attention on racist policies in this country.

He hopes that this interest and activism are not superficial.

There is the potential that something really meaningful could flourish from this, he said.

How do we move from this cursory concern to profound change?

Not in the way one might think, according to Hart. We must start at the root and unlearn and relearn much of the knowledge we have acquired, not just about Black history, but about American history or real American history. In his book, Trouble Ive Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, Hart give readers an opportunity for this relearning.

He described historical practices like red-lining, an intentional federal government system of color-coding neighborhoods to keep minorities and immigrants out of predominantly white neighborhoods, and the withholding of GI Bill benefits like low-interest loans and mortgages from Black veterans.

There are two different narratives in America, Hart explained. Black stories include oppression, brutal policing and the constant scrutiny of whites. White stories are centered around American pride, opportunity and wealth achieved by hard work. By challenging the white narrative, white Americans challenge their identity.

If you are in a social bubble, when your narrative always gets told, then you take that for granted, he said. That becomes the instinctive way that you interpret everything that happens around you.

In other words, people begin to think that their perspective is the only perspective, and they spend little time listening to other peoples experiences.

Even though they [whites] may not have any lived experience in these [Black] communities, they dont have the meaningful, substantive relationships from a variety of people in those communities to receive these stories, and yet they have an immediate response to events in the Black community, he said.

His book described this as going with your gut, a practice that white Americans need to set aside in order to understand the struggles of the Black community.

To sustainably turn this present progress into change, people need to invest time into their neighborhoods, find ways to participate in community good, hold police accountable, and link arms with those who are oppressed, said Hart.

For those who doubt the racism and oppression against Blacks and respond that All Lives Matter to the cries of injustice, You are not listening to what Black people have been saying, Hart said.

This response to Black Lives Matter is also a result of not recognizing racism, he said. People hearken back to crosses burned on yards, segregated lunch counters and whites-only water fountains to define racism. However, according to Hart, racism is a chameleon, adapting to the current situation just as it has done throughout American history.

After slavery was abolished, Jim Crow laws took effect. These laws, which lasted into the late 1960s, allowed for segregation, decided where Blacks could work and travel, and disallowed voting rights. The war on drugs followed, which incarcerated Blacks at a higher rate than whites and provided for much tougher jail sentences for the use of crack cocaine, used more by Blacks, versus the use of powdered cocaine, used more by whites.

These racist policies are fueled by the idea of white supremacynot the skinhead white supremacy many people are familiar with, but the accepted, often unconsciously held idea that whites are superior to Blacks. Harts book points out that white people need to begin to examine their assessment of Blacks and other minorities.

Society labels white teenagers who use drugs as experimenting, as a normal part of growing up. However, it labels Black teens who engage in drug use as thugs and a threat to society.

In fact, Hart has experienced that a Black mans mere presence often labels him a thug. The book dives into these experiences and the fact that they happened in an unlikely placea Christian college.

That Christians foment racial division may seem unconscionable, but Christianity has not only participated in but has perpetuated and justified racial oppression and remained silent in its midst. Within the pages of Trouble Ive Seen, Hart calls out the church and urges it go beyond its complacency.

Christianity has racial work to do, as does Harrisburg, according to Hart. Substantial conversations regarding race need to be had and neighborhoods like Uptown and Allison Hill need more investment.

[There are] no simple answers, but until we talk about the root problems, we wont get to anything meaningful, he said.

This weighty work is what birthed Harts next book, Who Will be a Witness: Igniting Activism for Gods Justice, Love and Deliverance, due out in September. During his countrywide speaking engagements, people often ask whats next or how to we do racial justice.

I realized they need a little more help thinking through this, he said.

Even with the focus on racial matters right now, those working on the long, uphill cause of justice know this is an ultramarathon not a sprint. When asked if he has hope for the future, Hart measured his words. He said hes not hopeful in the optimistic sense but in another way.

Im hopeful in the sense that we can be the hope, he said. Im more interested in the practice of hope, of exercising hope, of living hope for others.

For more information on Dr. Drew Hart, his activism and books, visit http://www.drewgihart.com.

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Different Lives, Different Narratives: Messiah College Professor Drew Hart on the divisions between Black, white America - The Burg News

How Kaiser Permanente fights inequity in the face of COVID-19 – American Medical Association

Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put members of racially and ethnically minoritized and marginalized communities at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. With the disproportionate impact the pandemic has on Black, Latinx and other underserved communities, Kaiser PermanenteanAMA Health System Program Partnersends a clear message that the health program stands with those fighting for equity and justice.

We have a long-standing commitmentits in our DNAthat equity is important to us, said Edward M. Ellison, MD, a physician executive leading Permanente Medical Groups in Georgia and Southern California, and co-CEO of The Permanente Federation. It always has been equity, diversity and inclusion, and we recognize that there's more that we can do, and we want to do more.

In a recent call with Dr. Ellison, we discussed what Kaiser Permanente is doing to address inequities in health care. Here is what he had to say.

AMA: What inequities are driving the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Latinx communities?

Dr. Ellison: Nationally it has been recognized that Black and Latinx communities have historically had increased challenges with access to health care in generalthe availability of proper nutrition, higher rates of preexisting conditions that we know predispose you to more significant outcomes with COVID-19, like heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, and there are other socioeconomic and environmental factors.

We also know the impact of ACEs [adverse childhood events] early in life and how that contributes to lifelong challenges with health, chronic stress, and what that can contribute to in terms of overall health.

In our country we've long had inequities in health care outcomes in Black, Latinx and underserved communities. COVID-19 has just exacerbated what we've observed in the past and highlighted the need to approach communities of color with targeted interventions to help us better serve and improve the outcomes, not just for COVID-19, but in all of the other areas.

Learn about five steps physicians can take to prioritize Black patients well-being.

AMA: What inspired Kaiser Permanentes 75-year commitment to equity and inclusion?

Dr. Ellison: I've been with the organization for 35 years and one of the things that drew meand kept me hereis I am inspired by the mission, vision and values of Kaiser Permanente. If you look at our mission, we are committed to providing high quality, affordable, accessible care for our members and the communities that we serve.

We have a history going back to the early days of Kaiser Permanente when Henry Kaiser declared that our hospitals would not be segregated. We want everyone to have equitable opportunities and recognized that with all thats going on in the country today, it was important to recommit. It was important to be public and make sure that all of our patients, our people, our communities knew where we stood. It was about how we've always had a long-standing commitment to closing gaps in health care inequities. We can always do better, but we've made a tremendous impact.

AMA: How do you help physicians and other health professionals maintain that commitment?

Dr. Ellison: One of the things that we have done is to embark on listening sessions. They have been powerful. I have appreciated the courage and the vulnerability of my Black colleagues and my Latinx colleagues who are sharing their experiences of discrimination and racism, and at times violence. There's so much for us to learn and so we want to use those learnings to help inform the actions that we take.

We participate in something called Hippocrates Circle, which includes our own physicians who have come from underserved populations and minority groups who found their own path through medicine to become physicians and overcame many obstacles. We affiliate with middle schools in underserved communities and students who self-identify as being interested in a career in medicine.

Kaiser Permanente sponsors fellowships for physicians to go into the community, identify need, and then help to address that need. There are many ways in which we try to help support our physicians and staff to stay connected to and understand how they can contribute and give back to the community.

We have something in Southern California called the Watts Counseling and Learning Center. It was founded in 1967, two years after the civil unrest in Watts and it started with just going out and meeting with mothers in the community.

We opened another facility, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw, in an underserved area in need of revitalization. We learned what they needed in the community and so when we built this facility, part of this almost nine-acre campus includes two and a half acres of green space and a two-mile walk.

They have this motto that health care is interwoven into people's daily lives, meeting people where they stand, and I think that's the philosophy that you take into making a difference in the communities. That particular facility was intentional40% of the contracts for building the building were to diverse businesses and companies owned by women, minorities, or veterans.

AMA: Are there different solutions for Latinx and Black communities, or does a broader solution work for all vulnerable communities?

Dr. Ellison: There are approaches that would be beneficial to all communities, including appropriate use of language, being culturally sensitive and responsive to different needs that different communities that we serve have, and understanding the impact of socioeconomic differences.

The cultural values for many Latinx patients and their families are gathering together, celebrating together, living in multi-generational households. But we know that is an added risk for COVID-19. We know that for the African American community, we have to work harder at building trust in the health care system because of past history.

We have to understand that there are actions we can take that are helpful, but it's not one size fits all. There are attributes beyond race that are impacted in terms of culture, socioeconomic conditions and educational background.

Learn about eight steps Kaiser Permanente is taking to suppress COVID-19.

AMA: During the COVID-19 pandemic with concerns about physical distancing, what ways have physicians continued to be involved in those communities?

Dr. Ellison: We've seen a tremendous acceleration of virtual care delivery of telemedicine both in terms of video and telephone, so understanding how you can meet the needs of the patient, even if it's virtually is really important. And those same cultural and language issues are just as important, if not more so.

Establishing a trusting relationship between the patient and the person providing care is really important and providing education to our physicians and other providers about how you can do that effectively, virtually. Then recognizing that not all of our members have access to virtual care.

Providing appropriate face-to-face care is still important but doing it in a safe way. Many of our patients want their care virtual right now for obvious reasons. And for those who need or desire face-to-face care, it's important that it's provided.

We worked hard to do outreach to our patients with communication about what's going on to reduce fear and uncertainty about the COVID virus, to get facts, to be as fact-based as possible, and to provide that in different languages so that we can make it easier for different communities to have the information that they need.

Learn more about helping patients put essential care ahead of COVID-19 fears.

AMA: Regarding staffing, how is Kaiser Permanente improving inclusiveness and diversity now and in the future?

Dr. Ellison: We're looking at how we recruit, how we develop individuals, how we provide opportunities for advancement. All of those are part of the work that we do, but I would say I'm very excited about the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine.

In just a few weeks our first class of 50 students will be arriving. We took a very holistic approach in recruitment, so that we will be welcoming a class that does bring a diverse background and lived experiences.

We train a larger number of residents so after medical school, in a wide array of specialties, we have physicians being trained within our system and they're being exposed to the same vision, values and commitment in our organization.

It's also working with the communities and providing opportunities for minority-owned businesses to succeed. When we're contracting for services, were being intentional about providing opportunities from the communities that we serve.

AMA: Do you have any tips for other organizations that want to make a commitment to equity and inclusion?

Dr. Ellison: It starts with having a passionthat this is the right thing to do. I believe that it starts with the leadership of any organization. You have to create intentionality, be explicit in declaring what you value and why you value it. Create a safe space to execute on those values and create infrastructure that supports it and remove barriers to it.

The more of us that lean in together, the more successful that we'll be. But I do think it comes from also a place of humility knowing we don't have all the answers. It means listening to your peoplethey have the answers.

Whatever impact you can make, where you are with your opportunity, start there. Its about starting where you are and then reaching out and connecting. The more of us that do that, the more successful we'll be.

The AMA continues to compile criticalCOVID-19 health equity resourcesto shine a light on the structural issues that contribute to and could exacerbate already existing inequities. Physicians can also access the AMAsCOVID-19 FAQs about health equity in a pandemic.

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How Kaiser Permanente fights inequity in the face of COVID-19 - American Medical Association

Representative Bud Williams & Senator Nick Collins introduce Reparations Bill – BayStateBanner

Last week, legislators from opposite ends of the state filed a bill establishingthe Commonwealth Health, Economic, Education and Equity Recovery and Reconstruction Fund or CHEEERRS. Even before we learned of the economic and health inequities suffered by the Commonwealths Black and Latino residents exposed by COVID-19, we had ample evidence of the impact of yearsof systemic racial disparities that have been endured for far too long. This national and local reckoning presents a unique time for a reset. We begin the process with the filing of this bill.

State Representative Bud Williams (D-Springfield) and State Senator Nick Collins (D-Boston), have joined together to file this most bold piece of legislation. This bill supports close to $1 billion, identifies the source of funding, and establishes a separate independent bureau to oversee a comprehensive collection of services and programming directed to the targeted communities.

Even before the pandemic, our children, families, and businesses were struggling in what most would describe as a strong economy for everyone else. Its hard to imagine it could be worse when youre already hanging on by a thread. Yet, the pandemic has stretched the pain even further; our children are falling so far behind in school,were on pace to lose permanently much more than the projected 40% of Black and Latino business and weve represented more than 60% of the COVID-19 cases. stated Rep. Bud Williams. If there ever was a case to be made for a reset, for reparations, the time is now.

Among the highlights of the bill creates an independent bureau, support for families and children; a small business stabilization fund; support for returning citizens; a first in the nation resiliency service corps; and a process to review all the policies in the Executive Branch through a racial and social justice lens with an eye towards leveling the playing field.

After numerous conversations and listening sessions, I bear witness for those suffering due to the results of systemic racism, said Senator Nick Collins. It is impossible to miss and it is frightening to think as the dust eventually settles on the pandemic, it will likely be worse. It is clear, we must be intentional and bold in our efforts to tackle racial and economic injustice. This bill presents a real opportunity to address longstanding injustices, while providing assistance to communities who have been impacted the most by this pandemic. Stated Sen. Collins.

Weve seen corporate, spiritual and government leaders across the state posting Black Lives Matter signs on websites and issuing public statements of commitment to dismantle systemic racism, stated Horace Small, Founder and Director of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods. This bill is a huge step to making those words real.

Its no mystery to us that whether youre standing in Nubian Square in Roxbury or Mason Square in Springfield, the story is the same, our communities suffer the worse in nearly every health category, our children continue to learn in understaffed and under resourced school and our businesses are struggling stated Bishop Talbert Swan, President of the Springfield NAACP. Its unbelievable to think, as we begin to think about post pandemic life, that it could be worse. Its time to make the promise real.

There are also plans and activities happening across the state to create an external, sustained fund to complement and support the work of this bill. Were committed to a sustained effort stated Priscilla Flint Banks, Convenor of the Boston Black COVID-19 Coalition, a group of more than 70 organizations, businesses and individuals whove waged a fierce battle to ensure that resources are committed to Black and Latino neighborhoods, including contracting opportunities to for Black and Latino businesses. We spent 8 weeks to get mobile COVID-19 testing done in one neighborhood even after the state identified it as a hotspot! Black and Latino businesses got less than 2% of Bostons contracts and even less of the states contracts over the last 3 months. An extraordinary failure given that all bidding processes have been suspended since the Governor declared the health emergency in March! Weve earned a reset. The time is now. The CHEEERRS bill is a real first step!

Rep. Williams and Sen. Collins hope to move this bill on an expedited schedule.

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Representative Bud Williams & Senator Nick Collins introduce Reparations Bill - BayStateBanner

NJBIZ panel: Diversity is organic, but inclusion is intentional – NJBIZ – NJBIZ

At the intersection of the COVID-19 pandemic and the national conversation on systemic racism brought on by the killing of George Floyd and protests thereafter, awareness and acknowledgment brings credibility to an organization, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Delta Dental of New Jersey and Delta Dental of Connecticut Claude Richardson explained during an NJBIZ webinar panel discussion on diversity in the workplace on Tuesday.

If you appear to be tone-deaf to whats going on, if you appear to be tone-deaf to the plight of others in your organization, youre going to lose credibility of your workforce that you understand what it is that theyre going through, what their needs are, and that you perhaps even have their best interests at heart, Richardson said.

Agudosi

Richardson was joined by fellow panelists Amy Flynn, human resources specialist for HR business Insperity; Hackensack Meridian Health Director Diversity and Inclusion Avonia Richardson-Miller; and Genova Burns LLC Partner Rajiv Parikh to discuss how diversity and inclusion have become centrally important in todays business world.

New Jersey Office of Diversity and Inclusion Chief Diversity Officer Hester Agudosi moderated the discussion.

D&I is at the forefront of everything and at the core of everything right now, more than ever, Richardson-Miller said, noting the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, specifically Black communities; and her and other CEOs responses to the killing of George Floyd.

Richardson-Miller

HMH Chief Executive Officer Robert Garrett put out a statement on Floyds death, unarmed at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, shortly after it happened. His statement was compassionate, Richardson-Miller said, and really acknowledged what was going on and [had] a level of empathy and cultural intelligence around what the team members within the organization were feeling. His statement wasnt just a statement, she said, importantly, he also made a commitment to action going forward.

Parikh noted that an organizations leadership team should have goals with their D&I work, rather than just conversations; and that the goals arent one size fits all.

Parikh

Everybody knows you have to have them and you should have them, but at the end of those conversations, what do you want to have as your goal? Do you want a more communicative workforce? Do you want less tension, he said. Theres a question [in the Q&A] about internal staff division Do you want to try to alleviate that type of staff division? I think that all of those goals can be accomplished just, you know, by creating kind of a custom methodology for your organization.

Flynn noted that, with COVID-19, it may seem hard for organizations to put a timeline to the implementation of D&I policies and programs.

I know some of our clients are overwhelmed and thinking, this is massive. How am I going to accomplish all of this? she said. Her advice? Start somewhere.

Be able to start with a couple of initiatives that we think, okay, I can start with this and then we keep growing, she said. But really being able to make that commitment.

Part of D&I is managers or employers making sure theyre amplifying diverse voices.

In the age of the perpetual Zoom meeting, Richardson noted that while someone might have something valuable and constructive to offer, being reserved and having others chime in might dissuade them from doing so. Richardson recommends managers go around the squares of any Zoom call, giving participants the opportunity to share what they wanted to but didnt get to.

Richardson

Especially if they know in your meeting thats a routine of yours on and they definitely dont miss the opportunity to contribute, he said. [It helps them] not to be tone-deaf whats going on and helping them to express kind of where do we stand as an organization? and making sure that we dont lose the voice of those that may not otherwise speak up in this type of environment is really important.

As many companies continue to work partially or fully remote, keeping employees connected to one another is a challenge. Flynn suggested that employers offer their employees the chance to come together for varied discussion groups, and shared that one of the employers she works with has started a book group.

After all, the business case for focusing on diversity and inclusion is manifold: According to census data, Agudosi noted that New Jersey is on track to be majority minority in 20 years, banks that had a higher percentage of women on their boards fared better than their peers during the financial downturn of 2008, and diverse companies are more adaptive and innovative than their counterparts.

Flynn

According to Flynn, close to 70 percent of job seekers now are seeking out employers that make D&I a priority.

A webinar attendee from a mid-size conservation-based nonprofit told the panelists during Q&A that his or her organization was having trouble recruiting Black and Latinx people, and asked what could be done to attract that talent.

Richardson-Miller asked them if they were reaching out to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutes, and Black MBAs or Latino MBAs.

What are your intentional efforts in going after this talent? I think that there just has to be a very thoughtful methodical and intentional approach and making sure that your recruitment efforts are targeting agencies and organizations where that talent exists and where you can connect with that talent, she said.

Everyone matters. Diversity is organic, but inclusion is intentional, Agudosi said.

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NJBIZ panel: Diversity is organic, but inclusion is intentional - NJBIZ - NJBIZ

Creating a Tournament of Roses that celebrates the diversity of Southern California – OCRegister

History can be a powerful teacher, even when it involves a Rose Bowl queen.

Back in 1957, the Tournament of Roses named Joan Williams as Miss Crown City, the predecessor to the current Rose Queen. Then officials learned that she was African American and suddenly the city curtailed official duties of the honoree, according to an obituary for Williams, who died last year at age 86.

She was not invited to ride on a parade float. In fact, that year Pasadena decided against entering a float in the parade at all.

But in 2015 58 years later the city extended an apology and offered Williams an invitation to ride in the first float of the storied parade.

For 130 years, the spectacle on the first day of every new year has captured the attention of millions of people around the world. The parade was started as a showcase of sorts of the abundance provided by California weather, and also of its benefactors, the stalwart Pasadena scions who created it. For most of its history, the Tournament of Roses, which includes a foundation and committees that consist of volunteer members, reflected the epitome of Pasadenas old guard the white and male establishment.

In recent years, the organization has moved forward in fits and starts on its way to reflecting the Pasadena of today diversifying the ranks of volunteers, committee members and staff who keep it going. Its membership has grown to include more African Americans, Latinx and Asians, according to numbers provided by the organization.

As the community has become more diverse, so have the efforts to make the membership reflect that, says Tournament of Roses CEO David Eads.

Those efforts include adding at-large committee members who are ethnically diverse, says Laura Farber, the organizations immediate past president. Farber was the organizations first Latinx president; her term ended with the most recent festivities in January. She now chairs the committee that oversees football game management, a position never before held by a woman.

The committees are the pipeline by which executives, officers and presidents are promoted. All those who have served as president have come up through the committee system after years of service. The at-large members are chosen for their diversity.

I think that was intentional, observes Farber, an immigrant from Buenos Aires. We can at least make sure we are providing an opportunity to people from a variety of viewpoints. I credit the at-large positions for diversifying the organization.

The Tournament of Roses 935 members now number more women than men and are younger 43 is the average age of the latest class, Eads says. Its members are 11% African American, 20% Latinx and 20% Asian. Pasadena residents overall are almost 10% African American, 34.4% Latinx, 16% Asian and 36.5% white.

The committees oversee all the activities and the foundation that donates $200,000 to local nonprofits annually. They are what helped promote the Tournament of Roses first Asian American president in 2014, the first African American president two years ago and Farber one year ago.

An attorney with Pasadena law firm Hahn & Hahn, Farber says she first learned of opportunities to volunteer with the Tournament of Roses from other attorneys at the firm. She had never thought about it because she had the impression she would not be welcome.

Of course I would have never envisioned people like myself getting involved, she says. Im glad that I was encouraged to do so.

Farber has served on nine committees over 26 years and believes its important for young people from all walks of life and all socio-economic backgrounds to see people of color in prominent positions. With that in mind, she made a point to visit all of Pasadenas public schools and different community groups to invite them to visit the Rose Bowl headquarters while she was president.

You need experience to lead, she says. It took time. It took an investment. We are reaping the fruits now of the work we did over many years to bring this change.

Farbers notable contributions to the organization included bringing on three Latinas as grand marshals of the parade, something that had never been done before. Actresses Rita Moreno and Gina Torres joined Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez for the festivities this past January.

Farber also opened up the parade entries to a more global audience, which brought in bands and floats from countries that had never participated before.

Farber and Eads made it their goal to broaden the organizations membership, to bring in many different groups within the community, not just ethnically diverse groups and women.

Farber says she wants people from all economic classes to feel welcome to the festivities and to Wrigley Mansion, the Tournament of Roses headquarters. She has joined committees with the local NAACP to help businesses during the current economic downturn.

Farber wants to encourage participation so that more people who represent the community at large move into executive positions. Many members of the Tournament of Roses committees come from nonprofit organizations that work to support the community and create an overlap of interests.

The foundation grants $200,000 annually to nonprofit groups offering programs in education, sports and recreation, and the visual and performing arts. It offers a scholarship for high school football players nationwide and funds local nonprofits in their fundraising efforts.

To increase participation, Eads says the organization has participated in community parades and events, such as the Black History Parade, the Latino Heritage Parade and the San Gabriel Valley Pride Festival. It has been a deliberate effort, he says.

We continue to evolve. We try to keep a balance between holding on to our values. The joy and excitement of the Tournament of Roses and our traditions are only enhanced when we have an inclusive membership, Eads says.

But while there has been progress in reflecting the community, that progress should not be taken for granted, says former Pasadena developer Jim Morris, who once protested the lack of diversity of the Rose Bowl with an actual roadblock of the coronation festivities. He and other activists persisted in efforts to bring awareness to what they saw as stagnation in getting the organization to better reflect the community.

Morris fears there are efforts to eliminate those at-large positions that helped elevate Farber, Gerald Freeny, the first African American president, and Richard Chinen, the first Asian American president.

Morris also believes the foundation can do a better job of supporting local communities of color rather than donating to organizations in economically well-off cities such as San Marino and La Caada Flintridge.

Along with the encouraging changes brought on by diversifying the membership, Morris hopes that diversity broadens and that more history of the event be known that, for instance, the land on which the Rose Bowl and the Wrigley Mansion reside was once owned by an African American.

Morris is encouraged, however, to see the recent demands for structural change in the country and believes it will benefit all people if these changes are enacted.

Theres a hope that this change is going to be meaningful, he says, adding that when more people are included in organizations such as the Tournament of Roses, everybody benefits.

Eads too looks forward to seeing the tournament continue to embrace and reflect all people of Southern California today. It makes for a better organization. We are stronger for it.

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Creating a Tournament of Roses that celebrates the diversity of Southern California - OCRegister

The difference between conspiracies and disinformation – Fast Company

The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned an infodemic, a vast and complicated mix of information, misinformation, and disinformation.

In this environment, false narrativesthe virus was planned, that it originated as a bioweapon, that COVID-19 symptoms are caused by 5G wireless communications technologyhave spread like wildfire across social media and other communication platforms. Some of these bogus narratives play a role in disinformation campaigns.

The notion of disinformation often brings to mind easy-to-spot propaganda peddled by totalitarian states, but the reality is much more complex. Though disinformation does serve an agenda, it is often camouflaged in facts and advanced by innocent and often well-meaning individuals.

As a researcher who studies how communications technologies are used during crises, Ive found that this mix of information types makes it difficult for people, including those who build and run online platforms, to distinguish an organic rumor from an organized disinformation campaign. And this challenge is not getting any easier as efforts to understand and respond to COVID-19 get caught up in the political machinations of this years presidential election.

Rumors are, and have always been, common during crisis events. Crises are often accompanied by uncertainty about the event and anxiety about its impacts and how people should respond. People naturally want to resolve that uncertainty and anxiety, and often attempt to do so through collective sensemaking. Its a process of coming together to gather information and theorize about the unfolding event. Rumors are a natural byproduct.

Rumors arent necessarily bad. But the same conditions that produce rumors also make people vulnerable to disinformation, which is more insidious. Unlike rumors and misinformation, which may or may not be intentional, disinformation is false or misleading information spread for a particular objective, often a political or financial aim.

Disinformation has its roots in the practice of dezinformatsiya used by the Soviet Unions intelligence agencies to attempt to change how people understood and interpreted events in the world. Its useful to think of disinformation not as a single piece of information or even a single narrative, but as a campaign, a set of actions and narratives produced and spread to deceive for political purpose.

Lawrence Martin-Bittman, a former Soviet intelligence officer who defected from what was then Czechoslovakia and later became a professor of disinformation, described how effective disinformation campaigns are often built around a true or plausible core. They exploit existing biases, divisions, and inconsistencies in a targeted group or society. And they often employ unwitting agents to spread their content and advance their objectives.

Regardless of the perpetrator, disinformation functions on multiple levels and scales. While a single disinformation campaign may have a specific objectivefor instance, changing public opinion about a political candidate or policypervasive disinformation works at a more profound level to undermine democratic societies.

Distinguishing between unintentional misinformation and intentional disinformation is a critical challenge. Intent is often hard to infer, especially in online spaces where the original source of information can be obscured. In addition, disinformation can be spread by people who believe it to be true. And unintentional misinformation can be strategically amplified as part of a disinformation campaign. Definitions and distinctions get messy, fast.

Consider the case of the Plandemic video that blazed across social media platforms in May 2020. The video contained a range of false claims and conspiracy theories about COVID-19. Problematically, it advocated against wearing masks, claiming they would activate the virus, and laid the foundations for eventual refusal of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Though many of these false narratives had emerged elsewhere online, the Plandemic video brought them together in a single, slickly produced 26-minute video. Before being removed by the platforms for containing harmful medical misinformation, the video propagated widely on Facebook and received millions of YouTube views.

As it spread, it was actively promoted and amplified by public groups on Facebook and networked communities on Twitter associated with the anti-vaccine movement, the QAnon conspiracy theory community, and pro-Trump political activism.

But was this a case of misinformation or disinformation? The answer lies in understanding howand inferring a little about whythe video went viral.

The videos protagonist was Dr. Judy Mikovits, a discredited scientist who had previously advocated for several false theories in the medical domainfor example, claiming that vaccines cause autism. In the lead-up to the videos release, she was promoting a new book, which featured many of the narratives that appeared in the Plandemic video.

One of those narratives was an accusation against Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. At the time, Fauci was a focus of criticism for promoting social distancing measures that some conservatives viewed as harmful to the economy. Public comments from Mikovits and her associates suggest that damaging Faucis reputation was a specific goal of their campaign.

In the weeks leading up to the release of the Plandemic video, a concerted effort to lift Mikovitss profile took shape across several social media platforms. A new Twitter account was started in her name, quickly accumulating thousands of followers. She appeared in interviews with hyperpartisan news outlets such as The Epoch Times and True Pundit. Back on Twitter, Mikovits greeted her new followers with the message: Soon, Dr Fauci, everyone will know who you really are.

More recently, Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns or operates 191 local television stations across the country, had planned to air an interview with Mikovits in which she reiterated the central claims in Plandemic. In airing this program, Sinclair would have used the cover and credibility of local news to expose new audiences to these falseand potentially dangerousnarratives. The company is reconsidering its decision after receiving criticism; however, the interview was reportedly posted for a time on the companys website and was aired by one station.

This background suggests that Mikovits and her collaborators had several objectives beyond simply sharing her misinformed theories about COVID-19. These include financial, political, and reputational motives. However, it is also possible that Mikovits is a sincere believer of the information that she was sharing, as were millions of people who shared and retweeted her content online.

In the United States, as COVID-19 blurs into the presidential election, were likely to continue to see disinformation campaigns employed for political, financial, and reputational gain. Domestic activist groups will use these techniques to produce and spread false and misleading narratives about the diseaseand about the election. Foreign agents will attempt to join the conversation, often by infiltrating existing groups and attempting to steer them toward their goals.

For example, there will likely be attempts to use the threat of COVID-19 to frighten people away from the polls. Along with those direct attacks on election integrity, there are likely to also be indirect effectson peoples perceptions of election integrityfrom both sincere activists and agents of disinformation campaigns.

Efforts to shape attitudes and policies around voting are already in motion. These include work to draw attention to voter suppression and attempts to frame mail-in voting as vulnerable to fraud. Some of this rhetoric stems from sincere criticism meant to inspire action to make the electoral systems stronger. Other narratives, for example unsupported claims of voter fraud, seem to serve the primary aim of undermining trust in those systems.

History teaches that this blending of activism and active measures, of foreign and domestic actors, and of witting and unwitting agents, is nothing new. And certainly the difficulty of distinguishing between these is not made any easier in the connected era. But better understanding these intersections can help researchers, journalists, communications platform designers, policymakers, and society at large develop strategies for mitigating the impacts of disinformation during this challenging moment.

Kate Starbird is an associate professor of human-centered design and engineering at the University of Washington. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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The difference between conspiracies and disinformation - Fast Company

Women in Hip-Hop Cannot Thrive While Misogynoir Exists – HarpersBAZAAR.com

It was just the worst experience of my life. And its not funny. Its nothing to joke about. It was nothing for yall to start going and making fake stories about, said Megan Thee Stallion on Instagram Live, holding back tears as she addressed her shooting injuries. I didnt put my hands on nobody. I didnt deserve to get shot.

The men in the hip-hop community have failed Megan Thee Stallion. On social media she was mocked and memed, diminishing the gravity of violence enacted upon her. It points to a larger problem: the sadistic nature of misogynoir in hip-hop, an industry stained by the blood of violence against Black women by its forefathers.

Hip-hop, a genre born from the overt abuse and brutality Black communities have suffered by law enforcement, upholds the patriarchy. Its one of the few spaces where Black men can emulate the power ideals of whiteness. It's a developed framework that justifies Chris Browns existence on Billboards chart despite his physical assault of Rihanna in February 2009; instead of being held accountable by his peers, he was welcomed into a fraternity of success and masculinity built on the dehumanization of Black women. Its often said that Black women are fighting two wars based on the intersections of race and gender. Misogyny is institutional oppression against women at large, but misogynoir is the dehumanization of Black women perpetuated through individual, societal, and cultural violence toward Black women. Until men in hip-hop show genuine support and investment for Black women in hip-hop, the latter will never be granted justice, not even in death.

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As Black women took to the streets to protest the death of Breonna Taylor, social media and blogs reduced their calls to justice for Taylors death to a superficial meme, a trend void of the richness and complexity of her life. When news broke about Megans attack, Twitter erupted with misogynistic memes from Black users centered on her ass, boobs, and knees, implying that the loss of her sexual appeal mattered more than her actual life. Her face was superimposed on Ricky Bakers (played by Morris Chestnut) when he is shot in the film Boyz N The Hood and Madame Vera Walkers (played by Della Reese) when her pinky toe is shot in Harlem Nights. The migration of memes across social media platforms reinforces the devaluation of Black women in celebrity and hip-hop culture, where their full humanity is reduced, sexualized, and rendered as one-dimensional.

One of the most compelling emcees and lyricists of her generation, Megan Thee Stallion is hip-hop's biggest star. She has accomplished world-wide success and renown for her explicit lyrics that put women in power, catering to their satisfaction and fulfillment as she raps about her player ways and skimpy clothes. Shes the Houston hottie with a model body, yet through a patriarchal lens, men in hip-hop seek to reconstruct her lyrics of empowerment as justification for objectifying her body as a holding place of male desire, rage, and violence.

Who hears a Black womans cries of fear and pain if their personhood is stripped away?

Who hears a Black womans cries of fear and pain if their personhood is stripped away? If Black women are no longer regarded as human, then their bodies are deemed deserving of disproportionate amounts of pain. If Black women are no longer granted femininity, then their bodies are subjected to transphobic attacks in an attempt to validate the violence they endure. Camron responded to Megans attack by reposting an Instagram post that said her shooter "saw that dick and started shootn..IDC what no one say. His commentary reflects a double standard in hip-hops misogynistic framework, one that awards male rappers for protecting themselves against an aggressive assailant but blames women for their hostile behavior that results in gun violence. 50 Cent, who survived being shot nine times (he references the attack on his hit Many Men (Wish Death) from his debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin), posted a meme about Megans injury, which he later apologized for and deleted after her Instagram Live session.

Megan Thee Stallion didnt deserve to get shot. Liza Rios didnt deserve to be hit by Big Pun. Dee Barnes didnt deserve to be attacked by Dr. Dre. Steph Lova didnt deserve to be harassed by DJ Funkmaster Flex. Linda Williams didnt deserve to be punched by Damon Dash. Lil Kim didnt deserve to be in a violent relationship with The Notorious B.I.G. Drew Dixon, Sil Abrams, Sherri Hines, and others didnt deserve to be sexually assaulted by Russell Simmons. (Simmons has denied the allegations.) Misogynoir is an intracommunal pandemic.

Its not the responsibility of Black women in hip-hop to address the racialized and sexual violence towards their community.

Oppressive structures are maintained by the erasure and intentional neglect of individuals who are disregarded and marginalized. In a white supremacist society, hip-hop is unique because of its existence as one of the few influential structures where cisgender heterosexual Black men can be in positions of power, but their silence toward Black women is reflective of the patriarchal systems they have upheld. Hip-hop has provided a space for Black men to build empires and legacies; Def Jam Recordings, Roc-A-Fella Records, and Bad Boy Records have affirmed Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, and Diddys places as worldwide ambassadors for hip-hop culture. Where was Jay-Z following Megans attack? She signed to Roc Nation management and collaborated with Beyonc on the Savage'' remix, but he said nothing. Where was Diddy? He featured her on his COVID-19 Dance-a-Thon, but he also said nothing. Though some men like Wale and 21 Savage showed their support, the majority of voices in hip-hop who displayed comfort and support for Megan Thee Stallion were Black women, who historically have shown up for themselves when no one else would.

Before the age of 25, Megan Thee Stallion had publicly lost her mother and grandmother. Yet during her ascension to stardom, and through her grief, she still continued to reach out and support Hotties with engagements on social media, charitable donations to her hometown of Houston, and a CashApp campaign. On her July 27 Instagram Live, her first appearance since the shooting, she continued to show that resilience, assuring us, A bitch is alive and well. Strong as fuck. Im ready to get back to regular programming with my hot girl shit.I cant keep putting my energy in a bunch of you motherfuckers.

Its not the responsibility of Black women in hip-hop to address the racialized and sexual violence towards their community. Black men in hip-hop need to participate in the disinvestment of misogyny in the culture, instead of silence. In order for Black women in hip-hop to live and thrive, the structure of misogynior must be abolished.

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Women in Hip-Hop Cannot Thrive While Misogynoir Exists - HarpersBAZAAR.com

State hears testimony on closure of Holyoke Medical Center’s birthing center – GazetteNET

HOLYOKE When Jane Frey began working as a midwife in Holyoke in 1985, the citys infant mortality rate was the highest in the state.

As part of the Holyoke Infant Mortality Task Force, Frey and others worked with the Department of Public Health, or DPH, to take steps that significantly lowered that mortality rate. However, after Holyoke Medical Center recently announced that it intends to close its Birthing Center by Oct. 1, Frey is concerned that history might repeat itself.

I fear we are back to the beginning, Frey said Tuesday, speaking in front of the same state agency whose work with the task force led to the creation of the midwife practice at Holyoke Medical Center.

Freys comments came at a DPH hearing mandated as part of an essential service closure process that hospitals must complete before closing a unit. Holyoke Medical Center announced on May 29 that it planned to shutter its 13-bed obstetrics unit and 10-bassinet infant nursery services it had already temporarily ended in early April when it agreed to house patients from the Holyoke Soldiers Home during a massive coronavirus outbreak at that facility.

Beginning the hearing, HMC CEO Spiros Hatiras said that the medical center had previously closed birthing services in 1974 due to a low volume of births and that it only re-opened in 1993 because the hospital had lost contracts with two HMOs that insisted hospitals provide birthing services.

It was widely acknowledged that the reopening would be a risky move and would be unpopular with other providers in the area because there was no unmet need in the community for birthing services, Hatiras said.

Hatiras said that birthing volume has been below the hospitals target for nearly three decades and that a low volume does not allow providers to maintain their professional competencies. Hatiras also said the hospital has not received reports that patients, who are now being sent to Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, have had issues with accessing birthing services since the unit closed in April.

Holyoke Medical Center is only discontinuing birthing services at our facility, not all maternal services, Hatiras said. We have been and will continue to provide prenatal services, family planning services, GYN services and postpartum care.

Hatiras said the hospital has a transportation system for patients. He also said the hospital will continue to provide education, care and support for mothers and babies before and after birth, which he said are the most important factors for keeping infant mortality low.

Many speakers during the public hearing, however, expressed outrage over the decision to close the Birthing Center, the way the closure was handled and the effects they said it would have on the community.

I urge Mr. Hatiras and (head of womens services Marc) Zerbe to walk the two-mile climb from the Flats of Holyoke to the OB-GYN offices at Holyoke Medical Center, pushing a baby carriage or with other children in tow to see what it is like if you had no transportation, Frey said.

Frey added that when she recently called HMC to inquire about prenatal care, she was told there were only two OB-GYNs and one nurse midwife on staff, none of whom speak Spanish. She also said she was told obstetric care would be provided at HMC and that deliveries will be done at Mercy with providers patients have not met, she noted.

Many took issue with the way they said Birthing Center staffers were treated, which they said pointed to a systemic and intentional dismantling of midwifery and birthing services.

If the hospital had these concerns, never once did they truly share them with us, the people on the front lines, said Nina Kleinberg, a nurse midwife who worked at the practice from 1988 until 2019. Instead, they created a toxic atmosphere that made us want to leave, and thats why I dont trust their rationale.

Kleinberg was one of five former employees who spoke on the record for a Gazette investigation into the closure. The five women alleged that higher-ups engaged in bullying, intimidation and micromanagement of midwives and other staffers, pushing out many longtime employees in the process.

Despite what is being stated as low numbers, actually for our community hospital we were doing quite well and maintaining our numbers despite a plummeting birth rate in the nation as well as in the state of Massachusetts, said former HMC nurse midwife Vanessa Ross, who worked at the practice from 2006 until 2019. That administration systematically brought about the low numbers that you now see.

Ross and former nurse Lisa Pack Kirschenbaum, who worked at the Birthing Center for 26 years, challenged the assertion that a lower volume of births led staff to be less prepared for emergencies.

During his testimony, HMC Chief Medical Officer Simon Ahtaridis said that a low volume also meant the hospital only kept a small number of physicians on staff, which he said caused problems if somebody took time off for any reason.

Our patients and providers deserve better for that, and in partnering with Mercy our remaining two physicians will be able to join the Mercy team of nine physicians and provide more sustainable and stable coverage for urgencies and emergencies, Ahtaridis said.

For many speaking Tuesday, the closure of the Birthing Center represented a larger problem with health care in the region and country.

My concern is that the public health of individuals of our community, particularly in Holyoke, its always been considered due to revenue, said Ward 1 City Councilor Gladys Lebron-Martinez.

Patricia Duffy, who is running for the citys state representative seat, said city residents expressed concern that local control or other services may be lost at the hospital. Current state Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke, expressed frustration with a system that he said leaves the community hospital reliant on care packages from the federal government and last-minute bailouts by MassHealth to keep it afloat.

DPH now has 15 days to determine whether the services being closed are necessary for preserving access and health status within the hospitals service area. If deemed necessary, the hospital will have 15 days to submit a plan for assuring access.

However, that is the extent of the powers DPH has under state law. The state has no power to stop the closure or penalize the hospital for closing services, even if they are deemed essential. State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, noted that fact in her comments Tuesday.

We see consistently programs taken apart piece by piece until they are no longer deemed essential, and that seems to happen more often than not in poor communities, it happens in communities of people of color and it seems to be real easy when women are involved, she said. And that is something that DPH along with the Legislature really is going to need to take a hard look at.

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State hears testimony on closure of Holyoke Medical Center's birthing center - GazetteNET

Monterey County joins in suing Trump administration over exclusion of undocumented immigrants in census. – Monterey County Weekly

The census happens every 10 years and is the federal government's process of data-gathering that guides all sorts of decisionssuch as how federal funds are allocated, and how congressional district lines are drawn and how much representation a region gets in Washington. And given those high stakes, President Donald Trump's efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count have drawn immense backlash.

First, there was a proposal to include a new question:"Is this person acitizenof theUnited States?" Dozens of cities counties and states sued, arguing the question was contrived just for the purpose of intimidating non-citizens and discouraging them from completing the census. In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the plaintiffs' favor, and the question was dropped.

Fast-forward to July 21, 2020, with the census in full swing.Trump issued a memo that would alter the definition of "whole persons" used in census-based calculations, excluding undocumented immigrants.

Cue another round of lawsuits, again filed by a large coalitionnine cities and six countiesagainstPresident Trump, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Census Bureau, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Census Director Steven Dillingham.

On July 28, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted to join that lawsuit.

As we continue to work hard to get an accurate count in the 2020 Census, we want to send a clear message to our communities: if you live here, you count, Chris Lopez, chair of the Board of Supervisors, said in a statement. Intentional and unconstitutional efforts to deter legal participation in the census will not go unchallenged. Our fair representation and equal access to funds depends on the census, we encourage every person living in Monterey County to stand up, log on, and get counted.

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Monterey County joins in suing Trump administration over exclusion of undocumented immigrants in census. - Monterey County Weekly

Not Everyone in Philly Has Access to Pads and Tampons. Thats a Problem. – Philadelphia magazine

Q&A

No More Secrets, a Mount Airy-based nonprofit, is doing the work to combat Philadelphia's period poverty.

Founder Lynette Medley (right) and her No More Secrets team are working to end period poverty in Philly at a grassroots level. | Photos courtesy No More Secrets.

I realize Im getting my period when I go to the bathroom with cramps and find that quite suddenly, Im bleeding heavily. I grab two Midol, a tampon that Ill have to change soon, and, depending on the pain level, a heating pad, and get on with my day. Some days, the pain is debilitating, and my body feels weak and woozy. Some days, I can tolerate it well. Regardless, I never have to worry about blood leaking everywhere. I can afford the tampons I prefer, the size that works for me, and pads for extra lining when I need it.

For much of Philadelphia, the reality is different.

Women all over Philadelphia wake up with their periods their uteruses contracting, often painfully, to help expel their lining and no supplies to help them manage the pain or the blood flow. Theyll miss work or school, or try to manage the bleeding in other ways, like by using kitchen towels or old rags. Theyll ruin clothes and underwear because of this. Theyll ration pads and tampons to get through. And theyll do it again next month.

This is period poverty: the inability to afford products for dealing with menstruation. Its an issue most often associated with developing countries (a UPenn sophomore won an Oscar last year for her work depicting the issue in New Delhi), but its actually common throughout the United States.

One local organization is trying to change that reality here in Philly. No More Secrets, a sexuality awareness and counseling organization, was founded in 2012 by Mount Airy-based sexual health counselor Lynette Medley, 51, who delivers daily care packages with her daughter, Nya McGlone, 28.

Medleys nonprofit delivers almost 200 three-month supplies of menstrual products in the Greater Philadelphia area each week, undaunted by thunderstorms, 95 degree weather and COVID-19. A normal day for the No More Secrets crew means upwards of 50 deliveries of menstrual products in the city and suburbs.

And what theyre doing is sorely needed. A 2019 study of American cities found that two-thirds of low-income women didnt have the resources to buy menstrual products at some point within the past year. In Philadelphia, almost a quarter of our citizens live in poverty, with Black Philadelphians being about twice as likely to live in poverty as white Philadelphians. And, for some reason, period products which are a human necessity for health, sanitation, and attending work or school arent covered by Medicaid or SNAP. Theyre also not uniformly available in our public schools. In addition to the years of work by No More Secrets, newer organizations like the teenage-run Menstrual Equity Project have been seeking to fill the gaps in Philly schools recently, but this problem mostly continues, as it has for years, without a government solution in sight.

In July, No More Secrets launched its latest social action campaign, #BlackGirlsBleed, to help raise awareness of and end period poverty, address systemic racism in the menstrual health space, and decrease stigma about menstruation in Black communities.

I chatted with No More Secrets founder Lynette Medley to find out more about #BlackGirlsBleed and period poverty in Philadelphia and what we can do about it.

Lynette Medley delivering supplies in the Philly area. | Photograph courtesy of Lynette Medley

Philadelphia magazine: How did you decide to launch your latest social media campaign?Medley: With #BlackGirlsBleed, we are really intentional about entering a space that is not really welcoming to Black bodies and Black organizations. We are really trying to push the envelope and get donations that are actually going to do good. We are trying to ask people to be inclusive of our efforts. Its funny, because we are small very small and we have been doing a lot, because it is our passion.

How did you first become aware of the extent of period poverty in Philadelphia?Im a therapist and sexual awareness counselor. I got into this space because of a situation with a client who was referred to me for acting out sexually. This 13-year-old young lady was sent to me for help.

I asked her, What is going on that you are acting this way? She said, Its just that I will do whatever I can to get a pad or tampon for me and my siblings! My mouth dropped. I was shocked.

I said, What are you talking about?! She said she would do whatever she could everything from stealing to selling her body. I said, You are kidding me!

I said we could fix it. We could call somebody. I told her, Im sure there are resources out there let me call these people. She told me, There are no resources.

Of course, I said we could fix it. We could call somebody. I told her, Im sure there are resources out there let me call these people. She told me, There are no resources. I said, Well, lets call together.

We start calling. I start calling my friends and the city and the health department and the schools. They said they could give her one pad or tampon, but not multi-day supplies. I told her, Dont worry, I am sure there is a bank somewhere. There was no bank. There were no resources. I said Well, doesnt public assistance cover it? She said no. I started calling the government, the state, and to my surprise, nothing covered it. I was shocked. And that is how I got into this space.

So there were no government resources, and you had to take matters into your own hands?Yes. I started collecting and distributing menstrual product donations immediately. I started with saying we were gathering toiletries for teens to raise money. I was aware that there is a stigma, and I didnt want to ask directly for funds for tampons. I didnt know how the community was going to donate, you understand? I wanted to keep it soft so it wouldnt shock them.

We started small, giving out small care packages, and worked our way up to having a menstrual supplies bank that we manage. Everything is still organic. We still have dont have a corporate sponsor; we dont have brands that are funding us. Everything has been from donations and marketing what we do ourselves. When we created the menstrual supplies bank, the people that need these supplies told me that they dont have money to travel to even pick up these supplies they need them delivered. Thats how we started the delivery service.

There is a stigma, and I didnt want to ask directly for funds for tampons. I didnt know how the community was going to donate, you understand? I wanted to keep it soft so it wouldnt shock them.

That is fascinating. I think many people dont understand that this problem isnt only happening in developing countries its a Philadelphia issue.Thats very true. I get frustrated sometimes, but at the end of the day, I think there is really a lack of education and awareness about it. I feel like we arent talking about it enough. I dont think women talk about it enough in general. I started this #BlackGirlsBleed campaign because I really think there is a deficit in communities of color. The purpose was to amplify the voices of Black women, and also to reach out to different brands and suppliers and say, I see your pages, but I dont see people that look like us talking about our experiences. I really just want to decrease the stigma in the communities of color specifically.

For example, not everybody dealing with this is living in total poverty. Many women who ask for donations are hourly wage earners struggling to meet their families needs. Usually when people find me to get products, I find out that their attitudes towards their periods are generational. Theyll say, My mom did it, and my grandmother did it. We all stayed home, couldnt go to school, and we just used this or that. People are still using pieces of rag and pieces of comforter and socks and thinking that its okay. I have had parents and they work, and they are just trying to buy food, and they are trying to pay for utilities, and they and their children use paper towels because there isnt another option for them. Its so much deeper than people imagine, because we really arent talking about it. People dont have a space to talk about it.

What is period poverty, by your definition?Menstrual equity and period poverty are two different things. A lot of large organizations say they address period poverty. If you are giving someone a lunch bag with three tampons and two pads, that is not period poverty; that is menstrual equity. Its, I am giving you this for a moment until you can get other things.

Period poverty is, I dont have any pads; I cant get access to pads or tampons; me and my family need monthly supplies. Period poverty is when you are rationing pads between your sisters every month. That is a whole different conversation. But all these organizations are saying period poverty. So you give me two tampons in the little brown bag , and they are talking about solving period poverty! That is for what, one day? A half-day of my cycle?

What can change at a policy level? In the majority of the United States, these items are still taxed. I dont really get into that conversation about the Pink Tax, because the populations we serve whether its taxed or non-taxed, they still cant pay for it. A dollar or two is not going make a difference for them. These people have stood in lines all summer in the heat trying to get food. Some people would call me and say they need period supplies so they can go get food, because they are bleeding and they dont have toilet paper or paper towels. They cant go get supplies because they are bleeding.

I have had meetings with city officials and with the Department of Human Services and the Department of Public Health. I have gotten rebuttals like, This is not an issue in the community. How can you prove it? Where is the research? There does need to be more research so we have the evidence to show. I think this needs to be on the risk assessment for the Department of Human Services as risky behaviors, like housing insecurity and food insecurity.

Tell me more about the #BlackGirlsBleed Campaign this past month.#BlackGirlsBleed is a movement that we started in July of 2020 addressing the systemic racism in the practices of the menstrual space. The menstrual space is really a white space. There are not many people of color in these commercials and at these companies. We realized because of that, menstrual brands and menstrual movements have not historically uplifted Black communities or Black organizations. They dont like to give us resources even though we are on the ground doing the work. I want to highlight the disparities. I want to highlight that Black girls bleed and share their stories. We realized that women in our communities dont see people like them talking about their menstrual cycles, talking about their periods. Its not just menstrual equity its self-esteem-building, and changing the conversation and helping to empower young women to love themselves.

Their experiences are different than they might see in ads. Ill ask girls, What do you see in the commercials? They talk about people who are surfing and swimming and high-diving, but they say, That is not my experience.

We need to get to reality and be able to get to talk about these issues and not feel shame. It is really just a way of highlighting their voices and amplifying how they feel in our community. We want to get rid of the generational stigma within communities of color. I want women to start seeing more people talking about it. Women in our communities often suffer in silence.

Not everybody dealing with this is living in poverty. Many women who ask for donations are hourly wage earners struggling to meet their families needs.

Photograph courtesy of Lynette Medley.

Do you partner with schools or other local organizations?We do all the deliveries. We delivered to the School District of Philadelphia when it was open. When we delivered to them, they were called RED boxes resources for education and distribution. We would give a huge bin filled with pads, tampons, wipes, whatever the school requested. The school system only supplies feminine products to a very small number of our hundreds of schools. And, they only distributed size-one pads. Nurses who got these supplies told us, We need heavier; we need thicker; we need this size; we need variety.

Thats true. A thin size-one pad would be useless for me and many women I know.Yes. Its not like anyone is asking for a certain brand. I am trying to fit the needs of the people that I am serving. If you are giving size-one pads to a child in poverty who already has an irregular or heavy period, and they are having clots and they are in class, they cant use it. They will tell me, I am still not going to go to school, because I will be there bleeding over this size-one pad on the one uniform I have, and my mom doesnt have regular running water, so I dont know when it will be washed.

I have women who have been in the EARN program. They tell me, I get fired every time because I dont have pads. I only have one outfit to wear to work, and two pairs of underwear, and the boss will ask, Why do you keep going to the bathroom? Its because I have one dollar-store pad and I leak through it every five minutes. These are conversations we just dont have. People are really suffering, and it is actually keeping some people in poverty.

I dont feel as though it is a handout, because I feel that its a disgrace and discriminatory in nature to not address menstrual rights in our communities. I feel it is a human rights issue. Im just giving them what they need to live their lives.

Is there any ever hesitation or shame from people about receiving these boxes of pads and tampons from you?We used to be like thieves in the night and go out to deliver at night, in the dark. Then one day, one of the recipients in our community, Amirra Jenkins, asked me, Why are you not thinking business? Why are you not posting this on IG so people know what you are doing? We took a picture, and soon we started seeing all these girls posting it on social media. So now, people all want to take a picture with us. They want to change this perception.

It was so surprising to me, but the girls feel proud that this is a movement. Its a movement for these girls and women to say, This makes no sense that this happening, and to take a stand. I dont feel as though it is a handout at all, because it is a disgrace and discriminatory in nature to not address menstrual rights in our communities. I feel it is a human rights issue. Im just giving them what they need to live their lives.

To donate to No More Secrets, visit their website here. You can also follow them on Instagram here.

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Not Everyone in Philly Has Access to Pads and Tampons. Thats a Problem. - Philadelphia magazine

University System of Maryland to require COVID-19 testing this fall – Maryland Daily Record

Testudo overlooks McKeldin Mall at the University of Maryland in College Park. (The Daily Record / Tim Curtis)

The University System of Maryland announced Thursday that students, faculty and staff returning to all of its campuses must be tested for COVID-19 within 14 days prior to arrival. Students and employees must also submit official confirmation of a negative result to university officials.

USMs 11 universities, which are typically home to over 170,000 students, will also implement additional infection prevention and control protocols and work with individuals if complications arise as they attempt to get tested, according to a statement released Thursday.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 prior to arriving at a USM campus will not be allowed to return until a required period of isolation has been met, the system said. Those who test positive after arriving on campus will consult with university officials regarding medical follow-up and isolation requirements.

The announcement comes amid an intense national debate over reopening the nations schools from kindergarten up to universities.

USM policies were developed in response to increases in COVID-19s spread. Institutions engaged in involved and intentional discussions among themselves and worked closely with the Maryland Department of Health and its local jurisdictions, said Joann Boughman,senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at USM.

USM also took guidance from its professors with expertise in medicine and public health. Officials said adhering to testing, symptom monitoring and disease mitigation protocols are essential, for both safety and the ability to resume and sustain in-person instruction this fall.

Marylands cases, which started decreasing in late May and began increasing again at the beginning of July, have not been accelerating as rapidly as much of the nations. Right now, Marylands seven-day-averages total out to 873 cases and 10 deaths daily, according to data from the New York Times.

Prince Georges County has the highest rates of infection and death per capita in the state. One out of 40 residents has reportedly been infected with COVID-19. One out of 1,200 has died.

USMs largest campus, the University of Maryland, College Park, is in Prince Georges County. The university last year enrolled over 40,000 students, and it plans to welcome some of them back on Aug. 31. Population on campuses will be quite limited, a fraction of what would occur under more traditional circumstances like fall 2019, said Mike Lurie, media relations and web manager at USM.

Boughman said the system hopes students will be able to access nearby testing sites, which are often provided at no cost or covered by health care providers. Some USM campuses, like College Park, will set up testing sites on their grounds.

While were waiting for the test results, we want students to be not fully interacting and out there. In general, we want them to hunker down if you will, Boughman said. Were not asking them to quarantine in their room and not come out of their rooms, but we want them to in fact be prudent in what theyre doing until we get negative tests back. Once we get the negative tests back, we remain expecting students to do their symptom monitoring on a daily basis and follow the other public health actions.

Individual system universities will provide guidance to students and employees who have been tested for COVID-19 but are still awaiting their test results at the start of the fall semester. The schools alsowill share alternative testing arrangements with anyone who is unable to access a COVID-19 test before arriving.

Each campus will manage records of negative tests differently, said Boughman. Students living in on-campus residences must have this documentation when they move in, and they will be referred for testing if they do not. Universities will also use their campus health officials, registrars offices and general student management systems to stay organized and enforce this requirement.

All students and employees returning to a USM institution must also begin daily symptom monitoring and reporting 14 days before their arrival on campus. Individual universities will provide further evaluation and guidance to anyone reporting COVID-19-associated symptoms.

USMs statement provided a list of five requirements that employees, students and visitors at every USM institution must adhere to:

Individual universities will share with their campus communities the consequences of noncompliance with these rules.Noncompliance could lead to disciplinary measures through a universitys student conduct process, said Boughman. Still, she expects there will be flexibility for honest mistakes.

Everybody is going to be reasonable about this. There are times when people walk out of their dorm or a day they may forget a mask or something, Boughman said. It is the intentional noncompliance that we are most concerned about.

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University System of Maryland to require COVID-19 testing this fall - Maryland Daily Record

HRC and SHOWTIME launch initiative to support LGBTQ businesses during pandemic – Metro Weekly

Dog Days at Miss Pixies Photo: Rachl Davis

The Human Rights Campaign and SHOWTIME have announced a new initiative to support businesses serving the LGBTQ community particularly LGBTQ people of color, women, and transgender individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative, named Queer to Stay, will identify LGBTQ-led businesses and encourage lend them financial support so they can continue operating.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many LGBTQ-led organizations experienced a loss of revenue during the month of June, when patrons are typically more likely to frequent LGBTQ businesses as part of Pride Month.

That has exacerbated a downward trend in the number of LGBTQ-specific spaces that has continued since the 1980s, due to larger societal trends, including assimilation, gentrification of traditional LGBTQ neighborhoods, and the rise of dating apps.

Businesses who wish to receive support may apply by submitting applications by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 15. Recipients who have been approved will be notified later in the summer.

We know that businesses like bars, restaurants and coffee shops often serve as affirming and welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ people including young people who may not have supportive families or communities at home, HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement.

With a global pandemic and its economic impact threatening to shut down queer spaces, its important that we support and preserve those that have provided a place for LGBTQ+ people to express ourselves freely, find community and be our authentic selves. We are grateful to collaborate with SHOWTIME on this initiative to protect and preserve LGBTQ+-serving spaces.

According to research from the Human Rights Campaign, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted the transgender community, notably transgender people of color.

In April, polling indicated that LGBTQ respondents who are more likely to work in front-line jobs or jobs affected by closures were more likely than their cisgender peers to express concern about the pandemics impact on their finances.

And additional research has shown LGBTQ people are more likely to be unemployed or to have lost work hours compared to the general population, again with transgender people and LGBTQ people of color bearing more adversely affected.

See also: Advocates urge authorities to combat disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ community

According to a study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Black applicants who applied for Paycheck Protection Program loans were treated poorly or unfairly compared to their white counterparts.

As the nation continues to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is uncertainty as to when businesses, including LGBTQ+-serving establishments, will return to usual.

As such, the initiative aims to be intentional about supporting LGBTQ businesses owned or led by people of color, to ensure they have enough financial resources to remain viable.

We are proud to continue our long-standing relationship with HRC this year by bringing aid to beloved and crucial LGBTQ+ locations, Michael Engleman, the chief marketing officer of Showtime Networks Inc.

SHOWTIME has a history of telling diverse, complicated, authentic stories with a marked emphasis on LGBTQ+ creators, characters and storylines. Our sincere hope is that this step marks only the beginning of a focus on spaces that are key to both the history and current lifeblood of the LGBTQ+ community.

Read more:

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Dr. Rachel Levine says transphobic attacks perpetuate a spirit of intolerance

Stella Immanuel: Doctor retweeted by Trump accused gays of homosexual terrorism

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HRC and SHOWTIME launch initiative to support LGBTQ businesses during pandemic - Metro Weekly

City Council hearing highlights social disparities of COVID-19 – The Philadelphia Tribune

Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, is calling on the citys major hospitals to break down the barriers for providing coronavirus testing.

During a City Council virtual hearing on the racial and ableist disparities of COVID-19, she suggested that all Philadelphia hospitals that received millions of dollars in CARES Act funding should open their doors from 9 a.m. to midnight to make it more convenient for residents to be tested.

"The hours are 9 to 5," Stanford said. "There are no hours on the weekends. How are people supposed to get tested?"

Now, more than ever, the world needs trustworthy reportingbut good journalism isnt free. Please support the nation's longest continuously published newspaper serving the African American community by making a contribution.

Stanford also said making people show identification or obtain physician referrals can keep people from getting tested.

People retreat and recoil when they hear that, she said. Its like asking them to sign something thats 20 pages long with a vocabulary that they may not understand. The reality is you need a persons name, you need a date of birth and you need a way to contact them. When we test people on the street at Broad and Olney or at 52nd and Market, those were the only three pieces of information that we needed.

The hearing was held by the Council Committee on People with Disabilities and Special Needs, chaired by Councilman Derek Green and the Committee on Public Health and Human Services, chaired by Councilwoman Cindy Bass.

Too many of our citizens have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, not only from a public health perspective but also from an economic perspective, Green said.

That experience is not only in the African-American community, but also in the Latin community as well as the disability community. All of these communities were having major challenges in reference to public health before COVID-19. What COVID-19 has done has only illuminated the disparities that many people in our city are dealing with every day.

We as elected officials, as members of the executive branch, of the general public, those who are leaders in our community, need to do what needs to be done to address this issue, he continued.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley said current city data show marked disparities of the coronavirus impact by race and ethnicity.

As of last weekend, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health reported 846 COVID-19 deaths in African Americans, 461 deaths in whites, 146 deaths in Hispanics and 49 deaths in Asian Americans.

COVID-19 seems to following a pattern of other health problems, Farley said.

African Americans have higher mortality rates than whites for a wide range of diseases and injuries from heart diseases to diabetes to homicides. These disparities are one result of structural racism in our society that reaches back across generations.

The exact mechanisms by which this legacy affects COVID are not fully clear, but we can speculate about. People of color are more likely to work remotely and are more likely to be front-line workers and risk their exposure to the virus, he said.

The legacy of redlining in our city means that Black and Latino city residents are more likely to live in crowded housing, where they are unable to safely quarantine or to isolate if sick.

Farley highlighted the Public Health Departments new COVID-19 Racial Equity Response Plan.

Racial disparities of COVID-19 infection are representative of deep-seated problems so they will not be eliminated easily or quickly, nonetheless we will take the steps in our plan to reduce deaths and continue to look for additional opportunities to solve this problem, he said.

The plan includes increasing access to COVID-19 testing, tracking racial and ethnic disparities, conducting community outreach, preventing chronic health conditions, protecting essential workers, preventing spread in congregate settings such as nursing homes, shelters and prisons and a new contact tracing program.

Weve worked with partners across the city to expand testing access with an intentional focus on Black and Latino neighborhoods, Farley said. There is more to be done but we have made significant progress.

One of those partners is the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, which city officials have promised to pay $1.3 million to test Black residents over the next six months.

The consortium has tested 8,000 people in Philadelphia since April, through partnerships with local Black religious institutions.

I formed the organization because Black people in Philadelphia were being diagnosed and dying at a rate higher than any other group and there was not a concerted effort to decrease that death and disease on April 16 when we started, Stanford said.

As of last week, the number of Philadelphia residents tested for coronavirus jumped from 1,500 per day to more than 3,000, Farley said.

Of the people tested so far, for whom we have race and ethnic information, 54% of those tested were African American, 27% were white and 9% were Latino, he said.

During the hearing, Koert Wehberg, executive director of the Mayors Commission on People with Disabilities, underscored how COVID-19 has impacted people who are disabled.

When COVID hit, many people with disabilities were in congregate care facilities, nursing homes, group homes, personal care homes (and) correctional facilities and unfortunately over half of the people who succumbed to COVID had an underlying health condition or disability, he said.

Abrupt changes in routines have resulted in people with intellectual developmental disabilities having increased behavioral issues and issues with home care. Weve heard heart heartbreaking stories from folks who are afraid or unable to leave their homes, since this all started, as a result as their change of routine and difficulty in obtaining PPE (personal protective equipment) for themselves of their home care workers.

Originally posted here:

City Council hearing highlights social disparities of COVID-19 - The Philadelphia Tribune

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, MLK CEO Joined Cherished Futures for Black Moms & Babies Workshop for Deep Dive Discussion on Birth Inequities in Los…

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, MLK CEO Joined Cherished Futures for Black Moms & Babies Workshop for Deep Dive Discussion on Birth Inequities in Los Angeles

Keynote speaker Sen. Holly Mitchell (DLos Angeles) joined a lineup of visionary leaders to address Black infant mortality and patient experience and safety for Black mothers and birthing people.

LOS ANGELES, July 24, 2020 Communities Lifting Communities (CLC), the Public Health Alliance of Southern California, and the Hospital Association of Southern California (HASC) hosted a unique virtual workshop on addressing birth inequities in the Black community on Friday, July 24. The event was part ofCherished Futures for Black Moms & Babies, a collaborative effort to reduce Black infant deaths and improve patient experiences and safety among Black moms and birthing people in South Los Angeles, the South Bay and the Antelope Valley.

The Honorable Holly J.Mitchell deliveredopening remarks and discussed SB 464, the California Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act. Mitchell shared how she authored the bill and shepherded its passage.She also sharedher vision for respectful, equitable maternity care especially for Black mothers, and her steadfast support and call to action for perinatal care providers.

Following months of tireless advocacy, Mitchell saw SB 464 signed into law in October 2019. Aimed at improving outsized infant and maternal mortality rates that have long hurt Black families, the legislation she championed mandates hospitals, alternative birth centers and clinics that provide birth services implement implicit bias training and track relevant statistics.

Black women deserve better, Mitchell stated in 2019. Bias, implicit or explicit, should no longer impact a womans ability to deliver a full-term baby or to survive childbirth.

At the event, Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital CEO Elaine Batchlor and Perinatal Services Manager Tammy Turner shared how the facility is implementing an equity focus, and best practices that have led to improved outcomes for Black birthing women. The hospital has received statewide attention for its c-section rates, which stand at less than a third of the state average. The facility attributes its success to a unique birthing model that adds laborists and midwives to obstetrics teams.

Attendees also heard key themes from aJuly 12Listening Sister Circle that convened Black pregnant and parenting people, community advocates and birth professionals who live or work in South Los Angeles, South Bay or Antelope Valley on specific recommendations to hospital partners participating in theCherishedFuturespilot program.

We believe this work cannot be done for Black women without Black women, said Dana Sherrod, Perinatal Equity Manager for the Public Health Alliance of Southern California, and project lead forCherished Futures. We are intentional about bringing Black women, our voices, and lived experiences to the decision-making table.

In Los Angeles County, Black women and families continue to disproportionately experience higher rates of infant and maternal mortality and morbidity compared to other racial or ethnic groups. Research shows that factors such as education, income, and health status to do not fully explain the gap, but rather points to systemic issues such as racism and toxic stress throughout a womans life, which negatively impacts birth outcomes.

Through a two-year grant from Health Net and in partnership with CLC, HASC, and the Public Health Alliance of Southern California (Alliance), theCherished Futures for Black Moms & Babiespilot initiative is uniting decision-makers from local birthing hospitals, public health, health plans, community-based organizations, advocates and patients to co-design systems-change interventions at three levels: clinical, institutional and community.

Cherished Futureshas a cohort of five participating hospitals: Antelope Valley Hospital, Cedars-Sinai, Centinela Hospital Medical Center, Dignity Health-California Hospital Medical Center and Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center, Torrance.

To learn more about the work being done by Communities Lifting Communities (CLC) andCherished Futures, please visit https://communities.hasc.org/cherished-futures.

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State Sen. Holly Mitchell, MLK CEO Joined Cherished Futures for Black Moms & Babies Workshop for Deep Dive Discussion on Birth Inequities in Los...

Twin Cities Black clergy hope to seize power of the moment – Union Democrat

MINNEAPOLIS The Rev. Edrin Williams, pastor of one of the most racially diverse churches in the Twin Cities, quickly launched an emergency food distribution center when rioting after the death of George Floyd destroyed neighborhood stores. Now he's taken on another role as well: dispensing food for thought to white faith leaders grappling with how to combat racism.

"I get calls nearly every day from around the country and even one from Switzerland," said Williams, of Sanctuary Covenant Church in north Minneapolis. "They ask, 'What should we be doing?'?"

The national spotlight on racial inequities has injected new energy and placed new demands on African American religious leaders, long at the forefront of civil rights movements. Many are orchestrating their largest-ever food relief projects, fielding outreach from allies, working to quell community tensions and exploring new strategies to combat racial injustice.

A group of Twin Cities Black pastors has been discussing a proposal with Gov. Tim Walz to create a Minnesota "social compact" that would forge new investments and public policies to begin erasing racial inequities. Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church in Minneapolis is preparing to launch a project to transform one Minneapolis public school into a culturally appropriate model for Black achievement.

Minnesota's evangelical community has created what it hopes will be a $1 million fund to support African American churches. Many Black pastors are in demand for speaking and consultation. And, for the first time, their food programs are attracting armies of white volunteers.

"There's something special happening at this moment," said Williams. "People are seeing the (racial) barriers who haven't seen them before. There's a captive audience."

Bishop Richard Howell of nearby Shiloh Temple International Ministries marveled that while participating recently in a panel before largely white religious leaders, the first question directed to him was, "What is systemic racism?"

"There's an openness to hearing us finally in a manner we haven't seen before," said Howell. "I've been preaching 40 years, and I've never seen our friends listen to the facts, and the painful facts, of African American history. We have an opportunity to share what we know with those who don't."

Whether it's just a flash of racial consciousness, or something deeper, is the big question, he said.

On a recent Friday, Williams stood in front of about 90 volunteers in his church parking lot. Wearing shorts, a T-shirt and face mask, he bowed his head and said a prayer moments before hundreds of neighbors streamed in to pick up groceries and other goods.

With the Cub Foods across the street still boarded up, they stopped at tents with signs announcing what was inside apples, carrots, diapers. It's a massive undertaking created in just two months, assisted on the ground mainly by white volunteers from cities and suburbs.

How to tap that surge of support from individuals, religious groups, businesses and philanthropy and harness it to tackle institutional racism is a topic of great discussion. While grateful for the support, many Black faith leaders worry that volunteers leave with no greater understanding of the racial inequities that shaped the community they're serving.

That understanding, along with deeper personal relationships in the Black community, are needed to become strong allies for change.

"If George Floyd hadn't taken place, we wouldn't have these relations," said the Rev. Runney Patterson of New Hope Baptist Church in St. Paul. "We've had some in the past, but they fizzled out. I tell (white) pastors, 'Don't come here just to feel good.'... My hope is we can build real relationships and be intentional about it."

Bridging such divides has long been a mission of the Rev. Richard Coleman of Wayman AME Church. He oversees a monthly Bridge of Reconciliation luncheon for pastors and community leaders of different races focused on supporting north Minneapolis.

During this month's Zoom meeting, Coleman announced that his church and the Minneapolis nonprofit Hope United CDC planned to organize a network of community partners to help transform one Minneapolis school into a model for academic achievement by offering training for cultural competencies, curriculum, mentors and other services.

The project would mark Wayman's 101st anniversary.

"With the moment, the killing of George Floyd, we wanted to pick something big and significant that can really make a difference," Coleman said. "There's a lot of energy right now. To deal with the problems in the Black community requires a systemic approach, and I believe we are in that space now."

The Rev. Alfred Babington-Johnson, CEO of the Stairstep Foundation in Minneapolis, also hopes to seize the moment. He and other clergy involved in His Works United, an ecumenical collaboration of African American religious leaders, have been talking with Walz and staff about a sweeping proposal to address racial disparities in housing, health, wealth and education.

It is designed to have Black-led organizations develop the capacity to address their community's issues, he said.

Sitting at his desk, Babington-Johnson pulled up a PowerPoint slide listing about a dozen Black-led organizations behind the plan, including the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce and the Phyllis Wheatley Center in Minneapolis. Community supporters include the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, Greater Metropolitan YMCA and Minneapolis St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership.

"We're having some very hopeful conversations with government, with corporate leadership," said Babington-Johnson. "What we have is the opportunity to be of service, because the whole society is riveted" by the inhumanity surrounding Floyd's death.

Other Black clergy are forging different paths. The Rev. Stacey Smith, senior pastor at St. James AME Church in St. Paul, typically isn't orchestrating protest marches. But she felt compelled to organize a clergy march last month, during which hundreds of faith leaders prayed silently while walking the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul where violence had erupted.

The idea took shape on a Sunday night, when she began e-mailing invitations. By Tuesday morning she found herself walking past Floyd's memorial in the largest march of faith leaders in memory.

"It was an outpouring unlike anything I've seen," she said.

Smith's church already is running a food program. Now she'd like to offer counseling and support for people suffering from trauma, whether from the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty or racism. She had considered the idea earlier but is convinced now is the time.

African American churches are getting support from other corners. Transform Minnesota, the umbrella group for Minnesota's evangelical Christians, was planning to raise money to support African American churches suffering financially because of COVID-19. That idea kicked into high gear after Floyd's death. It launched the One Fund with a goal of raising $1 million before the anniversary of Floyd's death on May 25, said Carl Nelson, CEO of Transform Minnesota.

"It's one way to tangibly respond to the disparities we're now talking about," Nelson said.

As faith leaders look ahead, they remain hopeful, but guarded, about the prospects for societal change.

They recall that police killings of other Blacks nationally and locally, including Jamar Clark in 2015 in the Twin Cities, have ignited public attention and mobilized communities. But the outcry subsided.

"These things have been cyclical," said Babington-Johnson. "The difference this time is that folks are becoming aware of the inhumanity (confronting Blacks) in different and deeper ways and the need for society to change."

___

(c)2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at http://www.startribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Twin Cities Black clergy hope to seize power of the moment - Union Democrat

City Council hearing highlights social inequalities of COVID-19 – The Philadelphia Tribune

Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, is calling on the citys major hospitals to break down the barriers for providing coronavirus testing.

During a City Council virtual hearing on the racial and ableist disparities of COVID-19, she suggested that all Philadelphia hospitals that received millions of dollars in CARES Act funding should open their doors from 9 a.m. to midnight to make it more convenient for residents to be tested.

"The hours are 9 to 5," Stanford said. "There are no hours on the weekends. How are people supposed to get tested?"

Now, more than ever, the world needs trustworthy reportingbut good journalism isnt free. Please support the nation's longest continuously published newspaper serving the African American community by making a contribution.

Stanford also said making people show identification or obtain physician referrals can keep people from getting tested.

People retreat and recoil when they hear that, she said. Its like asking them to sign something thats 20 pages long with a vocabulary that they may not understand. The reality is you need a persons name, you need a date of birth and you need a way to contact them. When we test people on the street at Broad and Olney or at 52nd and Market, those were the only three pieces of information that we needed.

The hearing was held by the Council Committee on People with Disabilities and Special Needs, chaired by Councilman Derek Green and the Committee on Public Health and Human Services, chaired by Councilwoman Cindy Bass.

Too many of our citizens have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, not only from a public health perspective but also from an economic perspective, Green said.

That experience is not only in the African-American community, but also in the Latin community as well as the disability community. All of these communities were having major challenges in reference to public health before COVID-19. What COVID-19 has done has only illuminated the disparities that many people in our city are dealing with every day.

We as elected officials, as members of the executive branch, of the general public, those who are leaders in our community, need to do what needs to be done to address this issue, he continued.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley said current city data show marked disparities of the coronavirus impact by race and ethnicity.

As of last weekend, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health reported 846 COVID-19 deaths in African Americans, 461 deaths in whites, 146 deaths in Hispanics and 49 deaths in Asian Americans.

COVID-19 seems to following a pattern of other health problems, Farley said.

African Americans have higher mortality rates than whites for a wide range of diseases and injuries from heart diseases to diabetes to homicides. These disparities are one result of structural racism in our society that reaches back across generations.

The exact mechanisms by which this legacy affects COVID are not fully clear, but we can speculate about. People of color are more likely to work remotely and are more likely to be front-line workers and risk their exposure to the virus, he said.

The legacy of redlining in our city means that Black and Latino city residents are more likely to live in crowded housing, where they are unable to safely quarantine or to isolate if sick.

Farley highlighted the Public Health Departments new COVID-19 Racial Equity Response Plan.

Racial disparities of COVID-19 infection are representative of deep-seated problems so they will not be eliminated easily or quickly, nonetheless we will take the steps in our plan to reduce deaths and continue to look for additional opportunities to solve this problem, he said.

The plan includes increasing access to COVID-19 testing, tracking racial and ethnic disparities, conducting community outreach, preventing chronic health conditions, protecting essential workers, preventing spread in congregate settings such as nursing homes, shelters and prisons and a new contact tracing program.

Weve worked with partners across the city to expand testing access with an intentional focus on Black and Latino neighborhoods, Farley said. There is more to be done but we have made significant progress.

One of those partners is the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, which city officials have promised to pay $1.3 million to test Black residents over the next six months.

The consortium has tested 8,000 people in Philadelphia since April, through partnerships with local Black religious institutions.

I formed the organization because Black people in Philadelphia were being diagnosed and dying at a rate higher than any other group and there was not a concerted effort to decrease that death and disease on April 16 when we started, Stanford said.

As of last week, the number of Philadelphia residents tested for coronavirus jumped from 1,500 per day to more than 3,000, Farley said.

Of the people tested so far, for whom we have race and ethnic information, 54% of those tested were African American, 27% were white and 9% were Latino, he said.

During the hearing, Koert Wehberg, executive director of the Mayors Commission on People with Disabilities, underscored how COVID-19 has impacted people who are disabled.

When COVID hit, many people with disabilities were in congregate care facilities, nursing homes, group homes, personal care homes (and) correctional facilities and unfortunately over half of the people who succumbed to COVID had an underlying health condition or disability, he said.

Abrupt changes in routines have resulted in people with intellectual developmental disabilities having increased behavioral issues and issues with home care. Weve heard heart heartbreaking stories from folks who are afraid or unable to leave their homes, since this all started, as a result as their change of routine and difficulty in obtaining PPE (personal protective equipment) for themselves of their home care workers.

Read more here:

City Council hearing highlights social inequalities of COVID-19 - The Philadelphia Tribune

6 Steps For Law Firms Looking To Improve Their Culture – Law360

By Jennifer Johnson and Kathleen Pearson

Law360 is providing free access to its coronavirus coverage to make sure all members of the legal community have accurate information in this time of uncertainty and change. Use the form below to sign up for any of our daily newsletters. Signing up for any of our section newsletters will opt you in to the daily Coronavirus briefing.

Law360 (July 29, 2020, 3:51 PM EDT) --

Cohen went on to show how these cultural characteristics were holding law firms back, limiting their markets, and leading to client dissatisfaction.

Cohen's ideas seem even more resonant today. Because of COVID-19, we are seeing emerging changes to the very definition of "workplace," which gives firms the opportunity to examine how culture can be shaped to do things differently. We believe firms can create inclusive, client-facing and innovation-welcoming cultures if they are prepared to take on the hard work of change by examining the entire law firm ecosystem and everyone in it.

To overcome the inherent inertia, law firm leaders need to be intentional, measured and patient (yet determined) when shaping cultural change. And although leadership is essential, a culture will not change just because a managing partner demands it. It is a group journey, and there needs to be guideposts and milestones along the way.

What is culture, anyway?

A useful model of organizational culture[2] has been proposed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology emeritus professor Edward Schein. In Schein's model, culture is a combination of three factors:

We offer the following ideas for kick-starting and driving firms' cultural change programs.

1. Diagnose your current culture.

Do not assume you know what it is challenge your beliefs! Start by gathering information from as many sources as possible.

Survey clients, partners, associates, office staff, referral sources anyone who has direct experience with your firm and the way your people work. In particular, pay close attention to your people's underlying assumptions about what is important to the firm. Analyze where these assumptions may be in conflict with the inclusive, open culture that you aspire.

Once you have completed the assessment, create an honest statement of where you are today, and then be very specific about what you want to change and why.

2. Define your purpose.

This is a critical step to which many firms have only paid lip service. A purpose statement encapsulates your firm's reason for being. It needs to be short, memorable and unique. It should define what your firm aspires to be for all your stakeholders clients, employees, partners and the community. Do not be satisfied with a bland purpose statement that could be true of any firm find what is unique about your situation.

3. Determine your values.

Values are extensions of your purpose guideposts that help your people make critical choices about how they behave. For example, what is more important to your firm, satisfying a client's short-term demand or building an associate's long-term career? Your firm's values should help your people answer that question when a choice is necessary.

Your values must map to behaviors, and we recommend creating very specific statements of behaviors that will support what you are trying to accomplish, as well as those that are out of step with your values.

A powerful approach used by many organizations is to assign a cross-functional team to define their values as a set of five short, memorable guiding principles. Each principle would include a mission statement outlining the behaviors implied.

Also, consider a recognition and reward program, whereby team members could nominate co-workers who exude the guiding principles in exemplary ways.

4. Create artifacts to bring the values to life.

Organizations may choose to invest in tangible manifestations of the new culture they want to install.

For example, if a firm adopts community leadership as one of its core values, they can hire an executive-level leader to lead community-focused efforts and create a matching grants program, whereby the firm provides cash donations to organizations where their employees volunteered. The firm can also establish an internal recognition program to honor employees who demonstrated commitment to their communities. The cost of such initiatives may not be insignificant, but they can pay back huge dividends in the firm's reputation and employee loyalty.

One important component of artifacts involves the tone and manner of organizational communications. Many organizations have recognized the need to manage their "employee brands" to curate the content and format of formal communications to employees so they reinforce the values of the firm. We also advise leaders to be transparent when communicating the firm's overarching strategy, so that people understand where the firm is going and their role in bringing it to life.

Leaders who need to facilitate cultural change should also demonstrate openness, humility and vulnerability. Creating a culture where you can say "I don't know" helps to unfreeze the current culture and opens up opportunities for people from outside the leadership team to contribute valuable ideas and perspectives.

5. Align your rewards and measures.

We advise firms to look carefully at their processes related to measurement and reward ensure that the right behaviors are being highlighted. For example, a firm whose core values include community participation might consider adding this to their criteria for promotion to partnership.

We also advocate for a balanced-scorecard approach to performance management that establishes metrics and key performance indicatorsaligned with the firm's values. For example, if "delighting clients" is one of the firm's core values, each practice group would report performance against that value (this might be accomplished through client surveys). Ideally every individual professional would have their own performance scorecards aligned to the values.

6. Hire for cultural fit.

Your culture will be shaped by future recruits as much as, or even more than, your current employees. To build a truly durable culture, you must be proactive about the types of people you bring into the organization. Ensure that job specifications and role descriptions reflect the purpose and values you are trying to embed. Train those involved in recruiting to recognize candidates who can demonstrate cultural fit in equal measure to technical competence.

For example, if your intent is to create a culture where people will take initiative and go the extra mile in client service, you may wish to look for people who have demonstrated intrapreneurship in previous positions.

Conclusion

We believe that the COVID-19 crisis represents an inflection point for law firm culture. As the saying goes, "Never let a good crisis go to waste."

Law firm culture has been built around the artifact of physical office walls, which enforce the proximity of colleagues and team members. Now that firms are working virtually, the old walls are down and new opportunities for cross-functional collaboration are opening up.

Wehave seen evidence of this: Far from hindering productivity, the new virtual work environment is enabling greater participation, dialogue and collaboration, and it is encouraging people to support each other beyond their individual interests.

Smart law firm leaders will take advantage of this moment to start a journey of cultural transformation. Working in a focused, intentional manner, they will apply the techniques and tools we've discussed here to build healthy cultures that support partners, associates, business services teams and clients alike.

Kathleen Pearson is chief human resources officer at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/markcohen1/2017/07/03/goodbye-guild-laws-changing-culture/#951f96f70e80

[2] https://www.managementstudyhq.com/edgar-schein-model-theory.html

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6 Steps For Law Firms Looking To Improve Their Culture - Law360


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