New state equity task force holds first meeting

New task force will tackle racial disparities in NC exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A newly formed task force created to address COVID-19 disparities in communities of color held its first virtual meeting Wednesday.

Gov. Roy Cooper appointed community leaders from across the state to The Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental and Health Equity Task Force last month.

The goal of the task force is to “address the social, environmental, economic, and health disparities in communities of color that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Margaret Weller-Stargell, president and CEO of Coastal Horizons Center in Wilmington was one of 35 people selected to serve on the task force--the only appointee from Southeastern North Carolina.

Margaret Weller-Stargell, president and CEO of Coastal Horizons, has been named to the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental, and Health Equity Task Force.
Margaret Weller-Stargell, president and CEO of Coastal Horizons, has been named to the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental, and Health Equity Task Force. (Source: WECT)

Weller-Stargell said the group talked about how to help bridge the gap that creates the inequities for people of color as it relates to the coronavirus--a conversation led by the Secretary of the NC Department of Administration, who heads the group.

“Secretary Machelle Sanders said, and I hope resonates with more and more people, ‘when we help the least of us we help all of us,’ and I really do believe that,” Weller-Stargell said. “I hope that we are all on board to help each other because in the end it’s about human rights--it’s about human lives and we all should be in this together.”

Black residents represent 22 percent of the population of the state but make up 33 percent of the COVID-19 deaths.

Weller-Stargell says the task force is ready to address the problems and look for solutions.

“We also understand it is going to take a lot of courage and grace to get us through this because it’s going to require some difficult conversations,”she said. “It’s going to require looking into those areas where things just are not right in regard to health inequities. It’s not right in regard to racism and so it’s tough work but I’m honored to be a part of it.”

The equity task force is scheduled to meet again September 2.

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