COVID-19 and the Drivers of Disparity

Podcast 2 – July 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has magnified health and socio-economic inequalities that community organizers and public health experts have been grappling with since long before the virus struck. The cultural landscape of South Los Angeles has been shaped by its unique history of organizing against social and health disparities that disadvantage its Black and Brown communities. In order to disentangle COVID-19 and the Drivers of Disparity in South LA, three organizers share detailed personal and professional insights into how this health crisis has impacted the political, economic, and social realities for South LA residents. You will hear them describe on-the-ground experiences in the different communities they serve, challenges and opportunities of organizing during the pandemic, the importance of togetherness for exerting community power, and the essential role of narrative – and narrative change – for the inclusion of historically marginalized communities in formal recovery efforts. Some of the key themes these panelists discussed are:

  • The amplification of the Drivers of Disparity during COVID-19
  • Social distancing during a time of crisis
  • Mutual aid work and political power-building
  • Health disparities as a result of the industrial shaping of South LA, setting for COVID-19
  • The “Myth of Meritocracy” in our society A new economy as a result of COVID-19
  • Disaster Capitalism, “COVID Capitalism”
  • Sustaining 1-on-1 human connection
  • Securing COVID-19 resources for South LA
  • Racism, education inequity & economic division
  • Conflicting narratives about COVID-19 in Black & Brown communities

Guest Bios

Elmer G. Roldan is the executive director of Communities In Schools of Los Angeles (CISLA), a non-profit organization working in schools to help students build the social-emotional skills to graduate on time, attend college, and succeed in life. Elmer co-hosts the Hood Digest podcast. He was born in Guatemala and raised in South Central where we still lives. He is a graduate of LAUSD and Cal State Dominguez Hills. Elmer has two sons, Marcus who is 19, and Isaiah who is 13.

Janel Bailey is the Co-Executive Director of Organizing and Programs at the Los Angeles Black Worker Center where Black workers come together to increase access to quality jobs, reduce employment discrimination and improve conditions for Black workers. Bailey has organized alongside Black workers to improve our communities and win back stolen wages since 2010. Before the quarantine, Janel was most likely falling down at World on Wheels, since the quarantine, she’s been falling off her skates in Inglewood. 

Pete White is the founder and Executive Director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), a grassroots organization working to ensure the human right to housing, health and security are upheld in Los Angeles. Pete White has been a community organizer in Los Angeles communities since 1992 and has educated and organized thousands of low-income people on a multitude of issues and campaigns. A lifetime resident of South Central Los Angeles, he is committed to fight for a Los Angeles that does not tolerate racial injustice, promotes an equitable distribution of resources, and includes everyone. White believes that organizing and leadership development are essential tools needed to achieve social change and racial justice. He serves on a variety of Boards and Advisory Committees related to homelessness, organizing, and grassroots funding.

For the past 32 years, Martha has served in the non-profit sector as an advocate, community organizer, and coalition builder. She joined PSR-LA in 1998 to launch the environmental health programs, and became Executive Director in November 2007. She is committed to making the credible voice of physicians a powerful instrument for transforming California and our planet into a more peaceful and healthy place. As a coalition builder, Martha has emphasized the need for local grassroots advocacy working in partnership with statewide policy actions. She is an active board member of numerous organizations, including Californians for Pesticide Reform, the CA Environmental Rights Alliance, and Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy. She also co-founded the LA County Asthma Coalition and the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice, and was appointed to Cal/EPA’s Environmental Justice Committee and the CA Air Resources Board’s Global Warming Environmental Justice Advisory Committee.

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