New initiative in Muskegon Heights hoping to address COVID-19 racial disparities

Posted at 9:57 PM, Jun 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-26 22:44:40-04

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — A new, grassroots organization is raising awareness on COVID19’S impact on the black community.

Six Feet in the Street is a faith-based organization, that formed in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in East St. Louis, Missouri, and has now grown to about a dozen other cities, including Muskegon Heights.

According toits website, people meet with faith and government leaders in their community and shut down one of its main streets on the last Saturday of each month. Wearing a mask and standing six feet away from one another, people pray then meet afterwards and learn about available resources in their community.

“Some problems need all hands-on deck, and we think, this is one of those problems,” said Pastor Toney Hines, who lives in Grand Blanc, but is from Muskegon Heights and is helping to organize Saturday’s event.

“We know that people of color, because of their underlying conditions, are more susceptible to this virus,” said Toney.

According to the Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention, long-standing systemic health and social inequities put some racial minority groups at an increased risk for developing COVID-19.

In Muskegon County, 40.5 percent of its 791 coronavirus cases are among Black residents, despite them making up 14 percent of the county’s population. Thirteen Black residents make up its 49 COVID-19 deaths.

“We are like sheep lead to slaughter during the pandemic,” said Hines. “The underlying conditions that we already had and already have makes us an easy target for this virus.”

However, Hines says by coming together like this, minority communities can begin to address those immediate and deeper issues.

“They can see what the symptoms are, where they can get free testing,” said Hines. “So many places and so many communities of color don’t even have major markets, major supermarkets in the area.”

He believes it will ultimately prepare people for their futures, especially as COVID=19 cases begin to climb in other states across the country.

“We want to give them information that after tomorrow, they can move with and be prepared with this next wave of this virus,” said Hines.

Saturday’s event begins at 12 p.m. Hines says people should meet on Hackley Avenue between Peck and Getty Streets.