Personal Message on COVID-19 from Eve M. Hall, President, Milwaukee Urban League

April 16, 2020

Greetings, I am sending you this personal message as President and CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League because we need each other now more than ever. It is only through unity and compassion that we will overcome our feelings of isolation and find new ways to support one another.

This week represents the first month of a city, county, state, and country being turned upside down due to COVID-19 running rampant amongst us regardless of race, gender or creed. It has changed the way we live life and connect. It has created a need for physical distancing to survive, forcing an all-time high in the major use of technology and phones to connect.

And while this crisis has unfortunately at times created divisiveness given this is an election year, the situation has also created a stronger sense of appreciation and respect for each other, and an interconnectedness that reminds us that we are in this together. Our willingness to obey or not to obey the temporary new restrictions will determine how quickly we get a handle on the virus, so consider wearing masks when going out and staying home unless you are going out for essentials.

For those on the front lines, providing essential support, on behalf of the Milwaukee Urban League board and staff, we thank you for your work and service to this community. You are risking your lives to keep us afloat and enable us to survive day by day. We don’t take that lightly and continuously pray for your safety, and we urge employers to keep employees safe with masks and gloves as they are available.

Finally, one of the hardest results of this pandemic is its impact on the African American community, especially men in their 50s and 60s with pre-existing health conditions along with other communities of color. Marc Morial, the President of the National Urban League mentioned today on his Facebook Live, the virus has put racial and economic equities in the spotlight, of which we cannot ignore.

Here in Milwaukee County, as reported on the cover of today’s Journal Sentinel, African Americans have accounted for nearly half of the more than 1,300 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Milwaukee County, while making up only 27% of the population. Of the 45 confirmed to have died, 33 have been African American.

The historical socioeconomic inequities of lower-wage jobs, jobs of which one cannot work from home (a disadvantage in today’s climate), underinsured, health insurance with high deductibles and co-pays or no benefits play a huge role in the vulnerability of underserved communities. In just one week, unemployment requests have skyrocketed with over 115,000 applications submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and 1.5 million calls being made to the department.

While we war with the growing effects of this virus, we’re prepared to show everyone there is still hope. Every day as the Milwaukee Urban League team works remotely, we are assisting job seekers on employment, exploring new ways to interface and support students, families, and educators while schools are closed, and directing the public to community resources on our website.

Encouragement and faith are key during this time; therefore, at the Milwaukee Urban League, we have made prayers and words of encouragement a formal part of our day. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 12:15 p.m. for 15 minutes, those on our staff who want to share favorite scriptures or simple words of inspiration and encouragement participate. The call is optional for staff, but it is the reservoir of hope and encouragement made available to those who desire to regularly connect on that kind of platform.

We invite other organizations and individuals from across the city, county, and state, to gather at 12:15 p.m. on your virtual platforms to share encouraging words or prayers with each other. These are not easy times, but consider the 12:15 p.m. encouragement touch base on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as an opportunity for us to all come together to sustain hope, faith, and encouragement across our communities!

Dr. Eve M. Hall
President and CEO
Milwaukee Urban League