YOUNGSTOWN — City council declared racism a public health crisis in Youngstown in a virtual special meeting Friday.
The resolution was approved on Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
Youngstown joined Columbus, Akron, Cleveland, Dayton and Cincinnati to declare racism a public health crisis in Ohio. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus also introduced state-level legislation to declare racism as a public health crisis on June 2.
Councilman Julius Oliver, 1st Ward, said now that the resolution has been approved, it’s important for people to educate themselves to know the real history of the Black community.
“When we educate ourselves about each other and get to know each other, I think that will produce a love for each other rather than the hate,” Oliver said.
Erin Bishop, city health commissioner, said during the COVID-19 pandemic, her department investigated issues involving the disproportionate impact on minority communities.
“By declaring racism as a public health crisis, we can do that” as well now, she added.
Leigh Greene, director of minority health, created the first draft of the resolution for city council.
Greene said there has been an awakening in people of color and marginalized communities, partially Black Americans that have been impacted with more hospitalizations and deaths per capita than any other population.
“It is my hope that funding will be designated to even the playing field so that Black residents and other marginalized groups are given the same opportunities to have healthy and productive lives,” Green said.
Greene said participants perceive that programs and services available in the community are successful, but economic, administrative and systemic issues cause a lack of equities and resources available, such as healthy food options, difficulty with local transportation systems and cost perceived barriers to healthcare.
“Youngstown will send the message that the city of Youngstown will begin to remove barriers that every citizen has the same advantages and access to essentials to sustain a healthy change,” Greene said.
Councilwoman Samantha Turner, 3rd Ward, said the resolution is a necessary change for the growth and improvement of the community.
“We don’t want to be sitting here in 20 years with my kids or my grandkids having to do this again,” Turner said. “All the hard work that we’re doing today is laying the groundwork to make changes tomorrow.”
Turner also shared a list of local businesses and residents that have shared their support for the resolution since it was introduced at the city council meeting on June 3.
Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said there must be action plans as a result of the resolution and people need to work with one another to eradicate racism in the community.
He hailed the resolution as a first step.
“I think that it’s constructing a great building point for us that we are all going to become a team, because this isn’t just one of our problems. It’s all [of] our issue,” Brown said.