Op/Ed: Coronavirus Response: Stay Local, Supportive & Healthy. Plant Food, Organize & Build Your Mind by Willie Flowers

(HOWARD CO., MD – March 17, 2020) – If you were able to make the NAACP National Town Hall call on Sunday night, you should be energized to activate local steps to protect yourself and your community. Now we must organize our own structure to lead the state of Maryland.From the briefing you should have heard that there are plans for the federal government to extend funding for health organizations, to enact paid leave, and to seed bridge loans for small businesses. There is also an effort to build capacity for COVID-19 testing, but as you heard, testing will start with health care workers and folks in direct contact with a lot of people. Testing for everyday grassroots people will be in order of triage. Be patient. Those most sick and then everyone else.

Such is the process. This means that our roles as grassroots civil rights organizations and others are more important now than ever. We should use our built-in information networks  to expand best practices to support the vulnerable end user or the citizens in most need or resources. This is the role we play every day. We should also collaborate and advocate to support local health agencies or first responders. The challenge of healthcare and human services agencies has always been funding community organizing and outreach. This should be a time to accept that reality as a weakness and improve it with funding moving forward.  

Let me remind you that the leaders on the call were speaking from the macro level of concern. They have done their jobs. Again, the call, for me, was a reminder that local people and local agencies have to take it from here. We have to share the message in our own voices so that the following points are heard loud and clear:

Quarantine Yourself: You don’t have to lock yourself inside your house and stay there, but you do need to keep a safe distance from anyone who could potentially have the virus. At this time, your family and those in your sphere are the most important to you.

Know Your Risk: Consider your interactions over the last several weeks and months based on the people who could be infected. Until tests are made available, everybody is at risk.

Rumor Control: Stay updated on important information, but know the difference between what is factual and what is rumor.


There is a long list of things that you can do to reduce exposure to the virus:

  • Wash your hands with soap
  • Fortify your immune system
  • Cough into your arm or into a paper towel
  • Use gloves, paper towels, or napkins to open doors
  • Practice social distancing
  • Check on seniors and people in need of care
  • Reduce traffic into your home. Remove shoes at the door
  • Distance yourself from people, but connect with nature
  • Garden and work outside

It is not the end of the world to turn inward. There are many mindfulness modalities that we all can participate in to keep our minds sharp and our bodies strong. Here are several: running, walking, yoga, meditation, tai chi, qi gong, martial arts, painting, gardening, organizing your closet, landscaping, cooking, learning a coding language. Write letters again, read a book, sew, knit, learn social media, advocate for change, create a new social media community or support group, laugh, and love. Remember that itemizing our abundance is a practice, but detaching from things can bring us more. There are many things we can do at the moment.

More importantly, during this period of assessment, recommit yourself to the NAACP. We are an organization with a long history of service. Our leaders are on the forefront of this crisis in our communities and that means a lot considering past after-the-fact discussions about the whereabouts of our leaders during Katrina and other natural disasters that are well known for neglecting Black and Brown communities.

Finally, we should applaud President Derrick Johnson for organizing the call. That shows vision. He has used his influence to hopefully inspire our members. From this point on, the micro or grassroots work is for us to do. Please work to control your environment and proceed with concern and care. We are in a different place as a community and as a state.

Get the facts. Avoid rumors and conspiracy theories. They can be more harmful than the virus itself. There are many lines of resources, so pursue with concern for your family and use sources that you trust and have connections to long term. They will not fail you.

The NAACP Maryland State Conference has an “Alert” link for information. Check us out at naacpmaryland.org. You can also find information at coronavirus.gov.

If you are a community leader at the state or county level please sign-on to the NAACP Maryland State Conference registration list so you can be added to future tele-conferences report resources, Rumor Control and for updates: naacpmaryland.org.


Willie Flowers


NAACP, Maryland State Conference