Photo of a beautiful Black multigenerational family

COVID-19 and the Black Community

In Front Page, Healthcare by Allen West

I find it necessary to address the topic du jour: the Wuhan coronavirus having a greater effect on minority communities, especially the black community.

Being a 59-year-old black man who grew up in the inner city of Atlanta, Georgia, who takes prescription Nifedipine and Losartan blood pressure medications, and has a heart pacemaker implant, this subject is applicable to me. As well, I lost my mom and dad relatively early in their lives. My dad passed away in 1986 at the age of 66 due to a massive stroke. My mom passed in 1994, after succumbing to liver cancer. She was just 63. Growing up down south, I knew all about the health crises of blacks: high blood pressure, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, sickle-cell anemia, and obesity.

COVID-19 is not the cause of deaths currently in the black community. COVID-19 has just highlighted something that many of us already knew: there is a health issue in the black community. COVID-19 is a virus that creates greater health problems for those who already have preexisting health issues, and are not trying to live a healthier lifestyle.

Yes, I am 59 years of age, 5 ft 9 inches, and this morning I weighed in at 205.6 pounds. In 2016 I was diagnosed with sick sinus syndrome, my resting heart rate never got above 41, and at night, my heart rate dropped into the mid-to-low 20s. My doctor said that he could not believe that I was waking up in the morning, albeit light-headed. I suffered regular dizzy spells during the day, but, just like a soldier, I figured I just needed to drink more water. In my life, I have done nine half-marathons, and still, to this day, maintain an exercise regimen that consists of six days of running, now no more than 5.5 miles, and good ol’ Army push ups and crunches. Matter of fact, two days after my pacemaker implant surgery, I was in Michigan to deliver a speech and did a six-mile run…Hey, I had to test that thing out!

Why do I share all of this with y’all? Simple, my healthcare is my personal responsibility. There are some things, through genetics, I cannot control, such as my blood pressure. My reading this morning was 104/68. My doctor has not been able to ascertain why I developed sick sinus syndrome, meaning that my sinus node was not sending the electrical signal to my heart to beat.

The point I am making is that it is my responsibility to maintain a healthy lifestyle. My breakfast in the morning is a bowl of vanilla almond Special K, with fat-free milk. I drink plenty of water and eat 2-3 Gala apples a day. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do have my occasional Five Guys burger or Raising Cane’s chicken tenders, but that is not an every day — or even every week  — occasion. It is more like once a month, as a treat.

So, let’s stop with the COVID-19 alarmism when it comes to the black community. We have all known that in our community, healthy eating habits have not been the case. And, folks, that ain’t got nothing to do with poverty, the white man, or any other excuse.

There is an example right here in Dallas, Texas, where one man created a sea of change, a world of difference . . . His name is Daron Babcock, and the place is called Bonton Farms.

“Here in our small South Dallas neighborhood called Bonton, you don’t expect to find a farm. You expect to see crime, drugs, and gang violence. But, all that is changing thanks to a small urban farm. Bonton is located in a “food desert” where 63% of residents lack personal transportation and the nearest grocery store is a 3-hour round-trip bus ride away.

So instead, we go to one of the three beer & wine stores where they have over-priced, outdated, processed foods. The impact on our health is devastating. The statistics are staggering….Bonton’s cardio-vascular disease rate is 54% higher than that of the city of Dallas. Diabetes is 45% higher. Stroke 61% higher. Cancer 58% higher. And, that’s not ok!

Overall, this affects the health of our community in Bonton, and impacts people and their ability to work and be productive. We believe that our little neighborhood should change from within, driven by our own people using our own hands. So, we have launched Bonton Farms…a 40-acre urban farming center.”

The last thing the American black community needs is another opportunity to make us victims. I will explain how the progressive socialist left — the Democrat Party — has done a fairly good job of that already. The original Food Stamp program was intended to ensure lower-income Americans were able to gain access to quality, nutritious, foods.  –

“The Food Stamp Act of 1964. To strengthen the agricultural economy; to help to achieve a fuller and more effective use of food abundances; to provide for improved levels of nutrition among low-income households through a cooperative Federal-State program of food assistance to be operated through normal channels of trade; and for other purposes.”

However, if one goes into lower-income inner-city communities, you will see signs everywhere stating “EBT Cards Accepted Here.” Those are the electronic benefits transfer cards that replaced food stamps, one of those dumb “gub’mint” ideas someone came up with because of self-esteem. So, now, you can go into any convenience store, beer and wine store, anyplace, and utilize the EBT card, and many are not getting nutritious foods.

Growing up in Atlanta, many blacks owned their own homes, and guess what? They grew their own vegetables, such as in our backyard. It was nothing for Mom to ask me to go and cut some fresh okra, squash, or pick some green beans from our backyard. We grew cabbage, peas, and tomatoes as well. Even though she ended up contracting liver cancer, my mom was an avid walker. She would don her hat, grab her walking stick, and take off.

This is what we need to see more of in our urban communities, individual responsibility for fitness and health, not pity and feigned alarm such as we are witnessing this moment.

Where is all of the concern with black-on-black violence? Where is all of the concern with the genocide of millions — yes, 20 million black babies — murdered in the womb since 1973? There is only one political party that has been in control of these urban centers. Sadly, young black kids cannot be in the streets riding their bikes, playing, running, exercising due to the effects of gun violence. Where is the alarm about that?

So, please, stop with all of this political grandstanding about COVID-19 and the black community. You wanna do something? Then do as Daron Babcock did, come up with a solution, an answer. His answer was a farm. And, now, the Bonton community not only grows produce, and nutritious foods for themselves, they sell their produce, and they have a cafe along with their market.

It seems to me that this is not a new idea. A fella named Booker T. Washington implemented that approach at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. Agriculture is still a viable answer to the health concerns of American urban communities.

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