Comedian W. Kamau Bell knows how to use humor to take on issues like race relations, he's made a career of it. But he also knows how to sound the alarm in a crisis, and so he's joining longtime friend and national civil rights leader Pastor Michael McBride for a campaign called “Masks for the People” to bring supplies like masks and hand sanitizer to communities of color.
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"A lot of times we highlight the sort of high-end positions in essential workers like doctors and police officers, but we're not looking at the people who actually work for those people and make their jobs possible,” Bell said via Zoom. “A lot of those are people of color and a lot of those are least protected. They're still out there on the subway, on the street trying to get the jobs we need to get done, but they're not being paid hazard pay. They're not being given N95 masks, and the can't afford to miss a pay check because they were already living paycheck to paycheck.”
There are many theories as to why communities of color appear to be taking a disproportionate hit in this health crisis.
"By every measure, when you look at economic, education, healthcare, healthcare outcomes [for] black folks are the bottom of every measure as a community, so any time tragedy happens black folks are going to be hit harder by those things,” Bell said.
Bell and Pastor Mike launched the campaign on social media with several NYC-based activists as well as support from Black Panther Writer and Director Ryan Coogler, Golden State warriors Coach Steve Kerr, Grammy winner Erica Campbell and many others.
"We're trying to get 250,000 N95 masks, one million surgical masks, and 50,000 gallons of hand sanitizer," Mcbride said enthusiastically.
Masks for the People is raising funds and working with existing organizations in undeserved communities to get safety kits to those in need.
"Black folks are disproportionately being lost to this illness and this virus,” said the pastor. “I don't believe this is war. I think this is a humanitarian crisis and in a humanitarian crisis we depend on radical generosity, radical charity."
These organizers hope it's not so radical after all. For more details go to Bitly.com/MasksForThePeople.