In this week’s Bacon Bits, we will focus more on the response during this COVID-19 crisis.
The most important pillar in the Black community for decades has been the Black church. It’s been the first agency to provide Black people wraparound services that include mental health, basic needs support, transportation, education, workforce development, social capital and more.
In years’ past, when Black people were sick, they went to see the Black doctor (found in the church). When Black people were hungry, you know you could get food (in the church). When Black people were about to get evicted, they went to see the Black lawyer (found in the church). A conglomerate of professionals, counselors and social services, the Black church has been the mecca for provisional care for the Black community. As Black people struggled to find assistance in a world where systemic racism was supreme, we had to look to the hills for our help (in the church).
Additionally, the intersection between Black churches and philanthropy can’t be denied. The aggregation of Black churches in Central Indiana raise millions of dollars yearly through tithes and the generosity of churchgoers and donors that want to see their dollars go directly toward the support and safety net for Black communities. That donorship is down as Black churches scramble to help a disenfranchised community from falling through the cracks. Navigating COVID-19 is a colossal challenge. Like most nonprofits and community-based organizations, we were not equipped well enough to sustain an environment where our communion (with churchgoers) was forced to fragmentize.
Organizations like United Way of Central Indiana and donors and funders across our region have recognized the importance of the Black church as the single most important support system for our community. Churches are now being invited to competitively bid for these precious grant dollars that can help ease the suffering that’s disproportionately affecting their communities, caused by not only the current COVID-19 pandemic but also historical neglect. This is seismic and an innovative moment, as funding decisions are now broadening to acknowledge the key role of the Black church.
The efforts don’t stop there. As you keep hearing the overtones of:
“Funders don’t care about Black people”
“Funders don’t care about Black people”
“Funders don’t ca…”
(in my Kanye West voice)
Jay-Z said, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.”
So let’s look at some numbers.
The Indy Chamber recognizes that the small business community faces an existential threat with the impact of COVID-19. As a result, in partnership with the city of Indianapolis and several private and philanthropic partners, through its Business Ownership Initiative (BOI), has created a Rapid Response Loan Fund to help entrepreneurs fill the gap until additional help arrives.
Stacia Murphy, project manager for the Indy Chamber, explains, “Our focus on inclusion and equity is reflected in early outcomes of this loan product, with more than half of loan recipients being entrepreneurs of color and/or women-owned businesses, and one-third Black small business owners.”These numbers are consistent and mirror client breakdown since the inception of the BOI micro-lending program that began in 2012.
Are our systems of support perfect? No. But is there progress? Yes.
The needs of the Black community are not falling on deaf ears.
There are countless meetings of people and groups advocating and addressing the needs of the Black community, and there are many other organizations such as Local Initiatives Support Corp (LISC), Forward Cities, Kheprw Institute, the Indy Black Chamber and Black-owned Halo App, a tech-startup based in Indianapolis, that are answering the calls for economic relief.
The numbers are staggering. The disparate impact of COVID-19 on the Black community is heart-wrenching, but “we’ll understand it better, by and by.”
We’ll understand how more and accurate data can help inform decision making. We’ll understand better where help is needed the most in the Black community. We’ll understand that even though the Black church and many Black businesses have been hit hard, that we will survive and thrive during COVID and beyond.
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (Romans 6:8-9)
My call to action is to give, to tithe and sacrifice more abundantly. Let the church say!?
Alan Bacon is a humanity advocate, community leader, musician, and innovator. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.