Covid-19 Virus Lockdown Spotlights Race Deficit

But smart media organising can boost Black defences and strengthen community-bonding

By Thomas L Blair, 1 April 2020 ©

Black communities in Britain, mainly in underserved public housing and deprived districts of London and major cities, are in peril as the Covid-19 virus takes hold.

Failing health and ageing are common risks. Many work 2 to 3 jobs to make ends meet. Home care workers many of them women are on zero hours contracts because of the crisis in social care. The over-70s and Windrush elders are prone to infection and death.

Furthermore, the Covid-19’s economic fallout limits their already unequal chances compared with whites in the housing and labour markets.  And it’s a long wait for the government’s stimulus package to reach them.

Nevertheless, Black communities have historically recognised that just because you’re locked down doesn’t mean you have to be locked out of self-created opportunities. They don’t  have to wait silently for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s stimulus package to ease their plight.

Now is the time for community building. Innovative use of the smart media can foster mutual aid. Skype and Zoom are popular means to share urgent information and promote better life chances when the crisis ends. And here are 8 key clusters of ideas for positive action.

1. Grow stronger together

Neighbours networking amongst themselves can champion support for home-locked families on the margins of social services’ attention. They can:

Power safe medicine and food delivery services to the most vulnerable.

Urge emergency assistance to the ageing Windrush generation, already upset and traumatised by faulty government policies

Mobilise faith leader’s support during this difficult time.

Give video ‘claps’ to resident NHS health care workers – from doctors and nurses to technicians, porters and cleaners – for the incredible job they are doing.

2. Stay positive with online activities

The demands are heavy on locked down households. But you can:

Go online with your mobile phone and PC devices – look up the best Black book clubs and video streams on Netflick and You Tube

Tweet for self-responsibility in virus prevention, health care and well-being

Cheer yourself up — share your passions, photos and creative expression with TikTok videos on your mobile phone.

Google for ideas on contemporary culture from an African and Caribbean perspective.

3. Organising for mutual aid is crucial

Creating virtual tenant’s coalitions, neighbourhood assemblies and online focus groups are good ways to bring people together to fact check breaking virus news

Web pages and online chat rooms can promote action methods to reduce the health disadvantage.

Blog for funding for more Black student nurses and have their work count towards their learning.

Use the popular audio-video apps Skype and Zoom for interactive one-on-one and conference calls.

4. Teleworking

Home studios are popular tools for interactive cultural expression. Especially for budding rappers, writers, poets and artists — and citizen journalists can spread the news.

Introduce new remote learning opportunities; gain access to 100s of online courses

Google fun-filled educational apps for house-bound children that they can access on their smartphones and tablets and share with their parents, carers, and elders, too

 5. Be civic –prioritise community activity

Innovative online residents can create an Organiser’s Manual and propose fresh ideas for civic participation

Don’t Stop the Carnival: encourage children to ‘Play mas’ online with their images, costumes, masks, steel pans, lyrics and shimmering wings and dance moves

Holding virtual rallies are an essential means of bolstering spirits and confidence building.

6. Information sharing is crucial

Explore ways to replicate the classroom experience for all locked down students to ensure their learning isn’t unduly affected

Create hubs or networks of information, ideas and action across Black Britain and link with homelands in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America

Publish a round-up of Black cultural archives that illustrate community heritage, aspirations and progress

7. Support Black medical, political and labour leadership

Black tenants in public housing and under-privileged districts have an opportunity to gain allies for wide ranging crisis reforms. They can:

Mobilise virtual conversations with Black influencers on Covid-19 health policy, strategy and implementation.

Skype with experts Dame Donna Kinnair, Royal College of Nursing executive and Dr Chaand Nagoaul, chair of the British Medical Association.

Zoom with Lord Woolley of Operation Black Vote about his call to Government to look at “the negative racial disparity that could affect BAME communities and act accordingly”.

Draw youth into media conversations with David Lammy MP about “increasing diversity and transparency in the justice system”.

Video conference talks with trade unionists to support low paid precarious contract working tenants – try the TUC Race Equality Officer; the Chair of UNISON’s National Black Members Committee and Race for Equality campaigners.

8. Promote just demand for aid and assistance

As the crisis deepens, more people will realise they must press forward their own interests. Blogs to political representatives will hold them accountable for bold and inclusive solutions

Tweeters will monitor police enforcement of Covid-19 emergency social distancing laws. Disproportionate use of fixed penalties and conviction for gatherings of two or more persons outside their homes may abuse Black youth, already targets of over-zealous stop-and-search tactics.

Demand that news outlets add the Black experience to Covid-19 coverage

E-petition government to restart its community testing strategy; review its outsourcing, delegated powers and marketing policies that are reflecting the wholesale destruction of a people-focused state health and welfare  sector

Highlight the strong moral and economic case in favour of crisis intervention, aid and assistance to beleaguered Black communities. Failure could cost £billions a year in lost taxes, higher welfare payments and increased NHS and social care.

Towards a smart media aided future?

In the wake of the coronavirus Covid-19 crisis, less-privileged Black tenants in public housing and marginalised districts are hit the hardest.

Nevertheless, they have a digital opportunity to not only promote informed solidarity, but to press for crisis reforms that function in the way people want and need.


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