COLUMBUS -- Gov. Mike DeWine said racism is a public health issue during the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation's "COVID-Black 911" digital conference Thursday.
The conference focused the reality that Black people and communities are facing during the coronavirus global pandemic.
The two-hour digital conference featured an appearance by DeWine, House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, and others on the front line during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Dr. John Green, former interim president of the University of Akron and head of the Ray C. Bliss Institute, went over results from the first statewide poll of Black voters conducted earlier this year in a joint project between the OLBC Foundation and the Bliss Institute.
"We were pleased that Gov. Mike DeWine took part in the digital conference and stated that racism is a public health issue. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation is committed to bringing the most critical issues facing Black Ohioans to the forefront of our daily conversations," said Alicia Reece, vice chair of the OLBC Foundation.
"Today's digital conference focused on the disproportionate negative impact the COVID-19 outbreak is having on Blacks here in Ohio and across the country. We also appreciate the other panelists for taking time to share their ideas and experiences, and to hear directly about the challenges facing Black people at this turning point in our history," Reece said.
Derrick Clay, chair of the OLBC Foundation, said Blacks make up 13 percent of the state's population, but 25 percent of all confirmed coronavirus cases.
"We know the coronavirus is hitting Black people particularly hard. We are grateful to our panelists like Leader Sykes who is pushing to pass Senate Resolution 14, which would declare racism a public health crisis," Clay said.
"There are other issues we need to address ranging from unemployment to quality healthcare that today's conversations addressed and now we need to take action," Clay said.
The lineup of panelists included DeWine, Green and Sykes, as well as Janice W. Warner, President of OURS (Ohio Urban Resources System; Dr. Beverley Gibson, President and CEO of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Inc.; and Kimberly Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.
The OLBC Foundation will hold a second digital conference focusing on voter education on Sept. 17.
The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation is a 501(c)3 that advances Ohio’s Black community through educational research, developing community leaders, facilitating public policy development, analyzing issues of social and economic importance, and the promotion of diversity and inclusion in the public and private sector.