Daytona’s Black community needs testing sites

A genocide of Blacks in cities across America is not a forgone conclusion if more Blacks don’t get tested for coronavirus.

So says  a Florida NAACP branch president who was part of a virtual meeting last week where this was discussed with other Black leaders in the state who are planning their next  move to get more testing sites in Black communities.

NAACP leaders and the Florida Legislative Black Caucus want to push for more sites in or near Black communities.

They need to know how many Blacks have tried to take the test as well as the number of Blacks who have died from the disease.

A conspiracy?

In other states, Blacks are disproportionately contracting the disease and dying from it, which is why some leaders worry there may be a conspiracy  for an extinction of the Black race.

Florida State Conference NAACP State President  Adora Obi Nweze organized the meeting that featured comments from State Senator Oscar Braynon.

Volusia County Branch President Cynthia Slater  was one of the leaders  at the meeting worried about an extinction of the Black race, especially since one of the cities she  represents is Daytona Beach whose population is estimated to be at least 40 percent Black.

The only open site to anyone for testing is at the Daytona International Speedway.

Getting things done

Florida State Representative David Santiago told me this week that had it not been for him there would not be a testing site in Daytona Beach. He was also responsible for testing sites in Deltona, which he represents, DeLand, and at the former Daytona dog track.

At a virtual news conference by the Florida Democratic Party on April 9, Rep. Shevrin Jones called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to add testing sites in Black communities throughout the state.

Since the outreach by Jones and Braynon for more sites in or near Black communities, their requests have been acknowledged. They got  more sites in South Florida.

More than half of the known COVID-19 cases are in South Florida’s four counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe. Miami-Dade continues to lead the state with the most confirmed cases and deaths.

Black leaders slacking?

Why are the Black leaders in Volusia County not doing more to  have more sites for testing? It took a Hispanic state representative  who doesn’t represent Daytona Beach to get the site they do have. Daytona Beach could become the next hotspot for coronavirus because of the makeup of its population, which is at least 40 percent Black.

It appears the Black officials are worrying that Whites will think they are playing the race card if they vote to put a testing site in the Black community. The city has a Black mayor and three Black city commissioners who don’t make decisions that obviously benefit Blacks.

From my perspective, they have yet to use a Black bloc to make decisions to better the Black citizens of the city. If so, zones 3,5 and 6 would be better off.

All must be tested

A decision was made to put testing sites at the Daytona International Speedway, far away from Midtown, the heart of the Black community.

Black people don’t need a handout but a hand up to make it easier for them to get to testing sites. Blacks are more susceptible to catch the virus because many of us have more underlying condition compared to Whites.

Many of us have incomes and jobs that do not allow us to have the health care  for preventative measures.

All must be tested. We must know if we have the virus so we are not passing it amongst each other.

Many are being released every day from jails and prisons with the virus who are people of color and returning to their communities. They will need a place to get tested.

Right thing to do

Will bikers and race car fans feel safer returning to a city knowing its elected officials did not do all they could to make the city safer? Will  university and college students  come back to  Bethune-Cookman, Embry-Riddle and Daytona State?

The real question is: Do we want all these strangers coming to town with the possibility of bringing the virus here? It’s all the more reason even more testing sites must be located in the heart of the Black community and other locations where a high percentage of  White working poor and middle class live.

Daytona’s Black elected officials must do what is right for its Black voters – not because they are also Black but because it is the right thing to do for all.

James Harper, a Daytona Beach resident, is a freelance writer.

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