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LGBT Detroit’s Executive Director Curtis Lipscomb said that when he learned that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was putting together a Task Force on Racial Disparities to help fight the novel coronavirus pandemic he was thrilled. But he was honored when he was asked to contribute his thoughts on curbing the virus’ spread in an official capacity as a “community action stakeholder.”
“I’m really proud that LGBT Detroit is a chosen voice,” Lipscomb said. “… It’s flattering, and it feels as though we are a part of the solution.”
For over 20 years, LGBT Detroit has been a fixture of support in Detroit’s greater LGBTQ community. Through advocacy and education, the nonprofit organization has worked to carve out a #SafeBraveSpace for LGBTQ people on its campus, provided dozens of community-based initiatives like HIV-prevention and youth leadership programs, and hosted its annual Hotter Than July Black LGBTQ Pride celebration. Lipscomb said that because of the unique struggles LGBTQ people have faced in combatting HIV and AIDS, the inclusion of the community’s voice — particularly LGBTQ people of color — will be especially valuable.
“My interest is multi-faceted. So, as an African American gay person, I’m truly impacted in two ways. One: that the COVID-19 virus has impacted African Americans disproportionately. And two: I’m highly concerned about another virus impacting gay, lesbian, bi and trans people as we are a known group of people connected with HIV,” Lipscomb said. “With HIV still being a problem among LGBT people in Detroit, this new added harm makes our lives even tougher.”
As Lipscomb mentioned, a major reason behind the Task Force’s necessity is due to the huge disparity in COVID-19-related deaths. At this point, African Americans have contributed roughly 40 percent to the number of deaths related to the disease despite only making up 14 percent of the state of Michigan’s population. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II is the chair of the Task Force, and he noted that “generations of racial disparities and inequality has a detrimental impact” that has contributed to that staggering statistic.
“The coronavirus pandemic has shown this inequity to be particularly true, especially in the Black community, where the health of our friends and family has been disproportionately impacted,” Gilchrist said in a press release. “That’s why we are taking immediate action to assemble some of the greatest minds to tackle this racial injustice now and in the future.”
At this stage, the Lipscomb said that the Task Force has met only a handful of times, but he has already seen plans in development for tackling COVID-19’s effects on people of color.
“I am not a medical expert, but there is a connection between poverty and these deaths,” Lipscomb said. “It is truly an honor that the governor thought of the LGBT voice as a solution. There are a number of people throughout the state who are doing great work to make sure we are safe — particularly our front-line people, our first responders. I’m very proud. But I’m honored that our voice is able to contribute in a meaningful way, and so we have a history of [helping each other in a medical crisis], so let’s help our fellow person in combatting a viral attack.”
To see a full list of Task Force members and learn more about its structure click here.