Leaders of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and members of the community discuss the impact of COVID-19 on Black men and boys. (Screen shot: courtesy of Congressional Black Caucus Foundation)
Leaders of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and members of the community discuss the impact of COVID-19 on Black men and boys. (Screen shot: courtesy of Congressional Black Caucus Foundation)

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its latest jobs report earlier this month to show the unemployment rate slightly decreased nationwide, but not for Blacks.

According to the federal agency’s report, overall unemployment dropped from 5.4% in June to 5.2% last month. However, during that same time it increased among Blacks from 8.2% to 8.8%.

“With increased cases and deaths from COVID-19 and higher unemployment numbers for Black workers, now is the worst time to end unemployment benefits and eviction protections for workers and families,” according to a blog from the Brookings Institute.

That’s why leaders with Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and local community representatives spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on Black fathers, men and boys during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 50th annual legislative conference.

The virtual discussion held Friday, Sept. 17 focused on how the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated mental and physical health and social injustices.

“COVID-19 has revealed some significant faults in our system. Faults in health care and its delivery. Faults in education and its adequacy. Faults in our ability to do business in real time,” said Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who hosted the session and a member of Omega Psi Phi. “These are faults that must be repaired.”

The nearly one-hour discussion noted how the fraternity conducted several programs such as a get-out-vote campaign in Georgia, a youth leadership conference in San Antonio, Texas, and a father-son talk on the impact of social media and Smartphone usage.

Delon Brennen, a physician who is international chairman for medical health affairs for the fraternity, said educating the public about COIVD-19 vaccines must continue through church events, parent-teacher conferences and other local events.

Brennen also offered another piece of advice.

“Reach out and touch at least four people on a weekly basis and let them know, ‘I’m thinking about you,’” he said. “COVID is affecting us, but use it in a way that is going to make us even stronger…as we come out on the other side of this.”

Fraternity leaders emphasized collaboration would improve the community even more.

“We cannot do this by ourselves,” said Earl Wilson, international chairman for fatherhood and mentoring with the fraternity.

Two local community leaders from the District and neighboring Prince George’s County, Md., joined Friday’s conversation.

Robert L. Johnson, executive director of My Brother’s Keeper Prince George’s Network, said COVID-19 created a decrease in unemployment, especially among Blacks who are single fathers.

“Child support payments have not stopped and there was no deferment on payments during COVID,” said Johnson, who also serves as commission vice chair for the county’s Commission on Fathers, Men and Boys. “We want our fathers to be engaged. Let’s not go backwards on that.”

Ambrose Lane Jr., chairman of the Health Alliance Network in the District, said negative mental health and trauma he labeled “average childhood experiences, or ACES,” can influence children as they age. Some of those incidents include parental divorce, domestic violence, child abuse and food insecurity.

He highlighted several initiatives necessary to assist Black men:

  • Parenting classes for first-time fathers.
  • Creation of a “Housing for All” program.
  • A re-entry program for returning citizens, or formerly incarcerated individuals, to receive financial and literacy education.

“Any child, whether you are Black or white, who experiences three or more ACES as a child, is more likely to commit an act of violence when they are older,” said Ambrose, a resident of Ward 7. “We need to care a little bit more.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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