PILSEN — Organizers from across the city have teamed up to deliver masks and other critical supplies to Black and Brown communities hit hard by coronavirus.
The new initiative, called We Got Us, is delivering care packages to the city’s South and West sides, containing groceries, face masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, soap and other protective items. The group also launched a zip-code specific hotline where volunteers connect callers to other community resources, like food pantries and coronavirus testing centers.
Tanya Lozano, founder of Pilsen-based Healthy Hood, said We Got Us aims to meet short-term needs in historically underserved communities where the rates of coronavirus infection are high but resources can be difficult to find.
Other organizers, including Ashley Smith, radio personality Hot Rod of Power 92, Ballinois, Babes Only and Project Swish, have also have joined the initiative. We Got Us also is working with Chicago Beyond, Youth Health Service Corps, the Resurrection Project and the Good Deed Crew to provide resources to families.
Since launching in late April, the group has distributed more than 1,000 care packages to families, Lozano said.
The group also hopes to set up nightly wellness checks in areas where they have delivered care packages.
“Let’s get organized now so that if there is a need, we will know that need before it’s too late. For people living alone, no one is checking in on them, Lozano said. “These wellness checks can save a life.”
Black and Brown communities have been overwhelmed by the coronavirus outbreak. Last month, city officials said more than 70 percent of people who have died from coronavirus in Chicago were Black.
Recent data showed Belmont Cragin, Little Village, West Lawn and Brighton Park, all Latino neighborhoods, had the highest number of COVID-19 cases.
Communities of color were already combating systemic health disparities before the outbreak, but the virus has brought those inequities front and center, Lozano said.
Lozano founded Healthy Hoods more than three years ago with the aim to cut the 20-year-year life expectancy gap between communities of color and more affluent neighborhoods.
Lozano said the current health crisis makes it even more crucial for city and state officials to pay attention to the health inequalities that have long impacted Black and Brown communities across Chicago.
“We know that COVID-19 is not the killer of our community — inequality is. That’s why we are dying more than anyone else,” Lozano said. “We are essential workers. We don’t have as much access to testing or healthcare, and the education specific to COVID-19 [has] not trickled down to our communities.”
While We Got Us looks to serve an immediate need for people in the South and West Sides, Lozano said the ultimate goal is to fix the “broken system” that has resulted in health inequities that continue to harm Black and Brown communities.
“It’s not just COVID-19 … . The pre-existing condition right now is systemic oppression and systemic racism, and we have to get to the root of it,” Lozano said.
Lozano said communities of color must be involved in the policy decisions that will impact neighborhoods like hers.
“We want to have a seat at the table” when it comes to resources and when talking about “restructuring the new normal,” Lozano said.
People who need help can call the We Got Us COVID hotline at 773-839-9782.
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