Bloomberg and Dr. Frederick Address the Disproportionate Toll of the Pandemic on the Black Community and Highlight Need for More Initiatives Focused on Equity
Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Continue Virtual Convenings for Local Leaders
New York, NY: Mike Bloomberg and Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, President of Howard University, addressed 324 city leaders, including 138 mayors, from 222 cities at the fourth session of the Leading Social and Economic Recovery Series on September 17, the latest offering for cities as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies COVID-19 Local Response Initiative.
The Leading Social and Economic Recovery Series virtually convenes global city leaders monthly through the end of the year. The sessions focus on equitable recovery, building and maintaining resident trust, crisis budgeting and fiscal recovery, and supporting city workforces during a period of profound change and uncertainty.
Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick began by acknowledging Bloomberg Philanthropies’ recent $100 million commitment to reduce student debt at the nation’s four historically Black medical schools. He noted the impact it would have on improving the health and economic outcomes for Black Americans, which the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a harsh light on, saying “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you [Mr. Bloomberg] again for the transformative gift of a hundred million, which was donated to the nation’s four historically Black medical schools… The students that this gift will benefit are beyond grateful as we know that this will change the trajectory of their lives. The coronavirus pandemic has made it clear how the health and economic futures of Black Americans are intertwined, however, the lack of diversity of doctors in the medical pipeline also plays a significant role. Studies have indicated that patients experience better health outcomes with caregivers of similar ethnicities, and yet only 5% of practicing physicians are Black. Howard University, in its history, has produced more Black physicians than any single institution in this country. The fact that Black Americans are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as white Americans can, in part, be attributed to the lack of Black doctors available to treat them.”
Dr. Frederick then called upon mayors to use their positions to advance social justice and help American communities heal: “Mayors occupy the unique space, where directors from the federal and state government meet the day-to-day realities of your constituents. As mayors, you all have a sacred responsibility to protect and advocate on behalf of the citizens of your communities, regardless of their ethnicity, religious values, party affiliation, gender, or cultural values.”
“Like all Americans of goodwill, I am saddened by the images broadcast over the news of these past few months. The sight of a Black man being held down on the ground begging for air to breathe at the hands of someone sworn to protect and serve is unfathomable to think we are witnessing still in 2020,” Dr. Frederick continued. “Along with many of you, I had to wonder when will this constant attack change? However, despite these tragedies, I am still very encouraged. I believe that as elected officials, you are in your roles for such a time as this. If not you, who? If not now, when? And now is the time to stand up for social justice through equitable initiatives that you will bring to your communities to foster a safe environment for listening, learning, and healing.”
Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and three-term Mayor of New York City, also recognized the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on communities of color and the efforts underway to combat this disparity, saying, “One thing has been clear since the beginning of this crisis and that is that the pandemic has hit low and middle-income communities harder than anywhere else – both economically, and from a public health perspective. It has been particularly devastating, as we all know, for Black communities… And we know from data that – due to a number of factors – Black patients have better health outcomes when they’re treated by Black doctors. And in general, Black doctors are more likely to treat minority patients and to practice in medically underserved neighborhoods and communities. So by helping to train the next generation of Black doctors, we can save Black lives and reduce health problems that limit economic opportunity in Black communities.”
“You’re navigating schools being back in session, planning your budgets, trying to find a way to boost your local economies, and keep people separated and safe. Meanwhile, you’re still dealing with even more basic problems – like getting everyone to wear a mask,” said Bloomberg. “Partisanship and conspiracy theories and misinformation are out there. We have to deal with it every day, they make our jobs so much harder than they need to be. I think it’s just unconscionable that certain politicians have prioritized their reelection chances over public safety, and you’ve been left to deal with the fallout in more ways than one.”
“I just want to say: You’re doing a great job. At the City level, mayors are the ones that are really providing common sense and leadership,” Bloomberg continued, praising mayors’ resilience. “Stay strong, you’re not alone even though sometimes you may feel that way.”
Bloomberg and Dr. Frederick were joined by Harvard Business School Professor Rawi Abdelal, the faculty co-chair of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, Karen Gordon Mills, Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School and former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Dr. Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH, Doctor of Infectious Disease and Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, MD, Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative.
Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the COVID-19 Local Response Initiative in March to help cities combat the devastating impact of coronavirus on the wellbeing of residents and local economies. Working with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the network provides mayors with the most up-to-date information on the virus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and leadership guidance from experts across Harvard.
Karen Gordon Mills, a leading authority on the economic health and well-being of the nation’s small businesses, advised city leaders to act urgently and use their convening power to support their local businesses.
“Small businesses, which account for half of jobs in the United States, are in big trouble. The cascading effects of closures and job losses could be devastating,” said Mills, “But city leaders can have an impact by convening their economic advisors, local banks, business representatives, and non-profits to first identify the specific needs of their commercial centers and second, to ensure that credit continues flowing through their local market.”
Since launching, hundreds of city leaders have joined the virtual convenings While the aim of the first series was to provide cities with the tools to understand, respond and manage a dynamic public health crisis, the second series addresses social and economic recovery.
The program has featured President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Chef José Andrés, Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in more than 570 cities and over 160 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3.3 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok.
About the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative
The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is a collaboration between Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School, and Bloomberg Philanthropies to equip mayors and senior city officials to tackle complex challenges in their cities and improve the quality of life of their citizens. Launched in 2017, the Initiative has worked with over 1000 mayors and senior city officials in 350 cities worldwide. The Initiative has also advanced research and developed new curriculum and teaching tools to help city leaders solve real-world problems. For more information, please visit the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative or visit us on LinkedIn and Twitter.