June 10th Virtual Town Hall: Racism as a Public Health Crisis


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Thank you to everyone who participated!

About the Town Hall

Areas with large populations of black and brown people have suffered disproportionate, devastating death rates caused by Covid-19. Our panelists are in the trenches, fighting alongside marginalized communities under siege by this novel virus and lack of adequate financial and health resources. Explore how COVID-19 has exposed the health disparities in America caused by racism and discuss possible solutions that will bring more equity to the people who need it the most. #EquityFlattenstheCurve

To have a deeper understanding of the topics discussed, we recommend reviewing the following article and podcast.

‘A Terrible Price’: The Deadly Racial Disparities of Covid-19 in America

Podcast: Why is the Pandemic Killing so Many Black Americans?

About the Hosts

Focus for Health was founded by Barry Segal and originally focused on preventing chronic illnesses in vulnerable children. Since 2015, its mission expanded to include fighting racial injustice, income inequality, and ending child sex abuse. Focus for Health funds grass-root organizations that are effecting real change in the areas of systemic racism, protecting children from abuse and changing the environments that prevent marginalized populations from achieving health, stability, and safety.

Middle Collegiate Church and The Collegiate Church of New York is co-affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Reformed Church in America. Middle Church is where therapy meets Broadway; where art and dance meet a gospel revival; where old time religion gets a new twist. We are Bach, Beatles, and Beethoven; we are jazz, hip-hop, and spirituals. We are inspired by Howard Thurman, Ruby Sales, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Martin Luther King. We are on-your-feet worship and take-it-to-the-streets activism. We feed the hungry and work for a living wage; we fight for LGBTQ equality and march for racial/ethnic justice. We stand up for the stranger and the immigrant; we care for women’s lives and Mother Earth.

Middle Project’s mission is to prepare ethical leaders for a just society. Crises test our values and exercise our leadership muscles. The global crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity to reflect upon our individual and collective behavior.

About the Panelists…

The Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Ph.D. is Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church, a 1,300-member congregation in New York City. An activist and public theologian, Jacqui leads her welcoming, artistic, multi-everything congregation to work for racial, gender, economic, and LGBTQIA equality, and against gun violence, preaching “Love God, Neighbor, and Self; Love. Period. Everything else is commentary.” She is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and earned her Ph.D. in Religion and Society/Psychology and Religion at Drew University. Believing faith communities can lead the way to racial reconciliation, Jacqui and her spouse, The Rev. John Janka, co-founded The Middle Project which trains leaders to create a more just society. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Jacqui hosted “Just Faith,” an on-demand television program on MSNBC.com and is a frequent media commentator. Her books include The Power of Stories: A Guide for Leaders in Multi-racial, Multi-cultural Congregations, Ten Strategies for Becoming a Multiracial Congregation, and the children’s book, You Are So Wonderful! She is currently at work on a book on how to heal souls and our world.


Linda Villarosa is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, covering race, health and inequality and a former executive editor at Essence Magazine. Her 2018 Times Magazine cover story on infant and maternal mortality in black mothers and babies was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Last year she contributed to the ground breaking 1619 Project. Her essay examined physiological myths, based on race, that have endured since slavery. Most recently, her April 29 cover story examined race, health disparities and covid-19 through the lens of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club of New Orleans. Linda teaches journalism at the City College of New York and is writing the book Under the Skin: Race, Inequality and the Health of a Nation, which will be published by Doubleday in 2021.


Anu Gupta is a lawyer, scientist, and the Founder & CEO of Be More America. Be More is building a movement of wise and compassionate people who are driving equity and belonging by addressing the root causes of racial and gender bias. Anu is a sought-after expert in breaking bias, adult learning, and psychosocial well-being. He has logged over 10,000 hours of meditation and developed Be More’s novel data-driven methodology after conducting decade-long research on the causes of and solutions to racial and gender bias. Anu has brought Be More’s methodology to over 200 companies such as Amazon, Northwell Health, and IBM reaching over 16,000 professionals – from corporate executives, doctors, and engineers to rabbis, Buddhist monks, and frontline activists – impacting over 10 million lives. He’s spoken about this work on the TED stage, SxSW, American Heart Association, the NYC Bar Association, among other venues. He served as the Principal Investigator on an NSF-funded study that developed “Be More Lite,” a mobile app that aims to personalize Be More’s breaking bias methodology for healthcare workers and other professionals. Prior to Be More, he worked as an attorney, a research scientist, and a middle school teacher. Anu has a JD from NYU School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar, an MPhil in Human Development from Cambridge, and a BA in International Relations & Islamic Studies.

Todd Belcore is a six-time national award-winning lawyer, mediator, advocate, law lecturer and non-profit co-founder with over 20 years of experience fighting for economic, social, and racial equity worldwide.Todd is the Executive Director of Social Change-a national non-profit committed to amplifying community voices and disrupting the legacy of systemic injustice through organizing, legal and technical assistance, empowering communities, policy advocacy and storytelling. In addition to the disruptive liberation work Todd engages in at Social Change, Todd also consults organizations, businesses, and government entites on ways to ensure their modus operandi promotes economic, social, and racial equity inside and outside of the workplace.Todd also makes an impact in the equity space by mediating disputes (resolving everything from small claims in the courts to claims of discrimination against large financial firms) and teaching students how to engage in equity work on the systems level via a class entitled, “The New Jim Crow” (taught at Northwestern Law and University of Chicago Law School). As a result of Todd’s commitment to transforming lives and communities, he has received 22 honors, including the ABA’s National Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year and the White House’s Champion of Change.To date, Todd has been able to:

– Lead or assist in efforts to pass 23 measures in multiple states relating to entrepeneurship, jobs, equity in the cannabis industry, increasing government transparency and accountability, police and community relations, business ownership, housing, and justice, sentencing, prison and reentry reform;
– Provide legal assistance to over 1,000 men and women;
– Train over 1,000 attorneys, advocates, and community members nationwide on their civil rights (and how to protect them), how to impact the systems that impact their lives, and how to access the new legal remedies advocated for by Social Change and beyond that increase access to justice, opportunity and business ownership; and,
– Write various works relating to promoting equity and increasing access to justice and opportunity that have been published in places like the HuffingtonPost and the White House blog.







Sevonna M. Brown is the Associate Executive Director at Black Women’s Blueprint, a national organization that works to end sexual violence in Black communities across the country. Her work to date at the organization focuses on the full reproductive spectrum of survivors of sexual violence, policies that impact sexual and reproductive health access for survivors, and implementing infrastructures for survivor-informed reproductive services.



Farah Tanis, LCSW is the co-founder of Black Women’s Blueprint, and has been on founding boards of transnational feminist, human rights and girls gender equity organizations. She chaired the U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission ever to focus on Black women and their historical and contemporary experiences with sexual assault. She is the national Co-Chair and lead organizer of the March for Black Women. Tanis is a NoVo Foundation – Move to End Violence Program, Cohort 3 Movement Maker, a U.S. Human Rights Institute Fellow (USHRN) and a member of the Task Force on the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).  Tanis has an M.A. in Clinical Social Work from Fordham University; a postgraduate degree in Family Therapy from Hunter College.



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