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Gentrification Expert Explains COVID-19 Pandemic Was a Hard Hit for Black Businesses

Public speaker, filmmaker, journalist, and gentrification expert Jarrett “King” Williams has been educating the masses on the impacts of gentrification since 2007, and after spending some time interning with Spike Lee and studying at Georgia State University, has dedicated his career to separating fact from fiction as it relates to gentrification in the Black community. Since then, he’s created and produced “The Atlanta Way” a documentary on gentrification, and spoken about the subject at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the Alabama School of Journalism, Teach for America and TEDxGeorgia State, among other projects.

Jarrett “King” Williams gives a TEDx talk on gentrification. (Photo: TEDx/YouTube)

Williams spoke with Atlanta Black Star about his projections for COVID-19’s impact on lower-income families including some concerns and what we as a community can do to help.

As an Atlanta native, he’s witnessed firsthand the impact that gentrification and poverty can have on Black communities, which contributed to his interest in the topic. “From me being from where I grew up at, I grew up in Atlanta on the east side of Decatur, and I didn’t realize this until I was older, but basically, for the majority of my life I was living in an area my entire life that was either gentrifying, or on it’s way to bottoming out in order to gentrify, so I was always had that thought process,” he told Atlanta Black Star. “When I got to college I realized that East Lake [East Lake Meadows, a former Atlanta public housing project] is gone, and that kind of piqued my interest.”

Williams is watching with growing concern as COVID-19 is infecting and killing Black people at a much higher rate than other races, which health officials are attributing to a number of reasons. 

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci publicly acknowledged the disparity in numbers, citing prior existing conditions that disproportionately affect the Black community, like hypertension, obesity, and asthma. “Unfortunately, when you look at the predisposing conditions that lead to a bad outcome with coronavirus — the things that get people into ICUs that require intubation and often lead to death, they are just those very commodities that are, unfortunately, disproportionately prevalent in the African-American population,” he said during an April press briefing.

Read full story at Atlanta Black Star here.

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