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New study finds many Black communities living in a “pandemic within a pandemic”

24 May 2022

Woman with her eyes closed lying among leaves with flowers in her hair.

A Research Fellow at Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences has found a link between the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, describing it as a “pandemic within a pandemic”.

The paper, written by Dr April-Louise Pennant and published by Taylor & Francis Online, found parallels between the pandemic and the BLM movement and the erasure of Black girls and women in both cases.

In the paper, Dr Pennant highlighted the Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) report that illustrated how COVID-19 disproportionately killed Black people. It found that Black females are 4.3 times more likely to die than White ethnicity males and females.

Her paper also highlighted the English and Welsh Government’s slow response to the disproportionate rates of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) COVID-19 related deaths.

The slow response led to Ubele Initiative’s dedicated BAME COVID-19 support in England led by Yvonne Field, and Cardiff University’s Professor Emmanuel Ogbonna also chaired Wales’ First Minister’s BAME COVID-19 Advisory Group report of the Socioeconomic subgroup.

Dr Pennant said, “In the context of the murder of George Floyd and many unarmed Black people in both the US and the UK, there are failures to include the plight of Black girls and women like Breonna Taylor and Sarah Reed, who also endured the same state-sanctioned violence as their Black male counterparts without the same exposure or any justice.”

The paper drew on interviews with twenty-five Black British women graduates from her PhD research.

The graduates noted, based on their own educational experiences and journeys, that Black women and girls have had to bear an ‘unfair burden of care’ for themselves and others.

Dr Pennant commented on the invisibility of Black girls and women in both the contexts of the pandemic and BLM movement:

As a society, we all need to be checkin’ for Black girls and women, owing to the historical and continuous victimisation that they have been suffering, navigating, and overcoming in silence.
Dr April-Louise Pennant Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow

“For this reason, it’s imperative for everyone to be mindful that Black girls and women are human beings and there are limits as to how much they can endure.”

She continued, “As a Black woman, I advocate for social justice, empathy and understanding for everyone.

“I use my work to offer alternative narratives, centring the overlooked and important experiences and journeys of Black women and girls in education and beyond as there is truly so much to be learned for the benefit of all.”

Dr Pennant’s research cited the need to actively dismantle the intersectional oppression that her work demonstrates is evident within society.

The paper also recommended the need to understand and provide dedicated and appropriate mental health and wellbeing services within educational settings.

She called on policymakers, educational institutions, and staff to understand the lasting impact of the “pandemic within a pandemic” for Black girl and women students, as well as other marginalised and affected communities.

Discussing future research, she concluded, “Due to the rich insights gathered from my research when interviewing the graduates, there is so much wisdom, joy and power to share.

“I’ll continue to write papers about Black women and girls’ educational experiences as well as how these feed into the workplace.

“I’ll also present my research at conferences and relevant events. I’m currently writing a monograph to ensure that my findings are accessible to the public.”

Read the full paper: Who’s checkin’ for Black girls and women in the “pandemic within a pandemic”? COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and educational implications

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