Abstract: Black Excellence in Action: Community Response to COVID-19 and Its Impact on Black Community Leaders (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

405P Black Excellence in Action: Community Response to COVID-19 and Its Impact on Black Community Leaders

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Ann Carver, MSW, Doctoral Student, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Linnea Evans, PhD, Assistant Professor, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ
James Herbert Williams, PhD, Arizona Centennial Professor of Social Welfare Services, Arizona State University
Sabrina Oesterle, PhD, Director, Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, Associate Professor, Arizona State University
Wendy Wolfersteig, PhD, Research Associate Professor, Director of Evaluation, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Background and Purpose: On display during the COVID-19 pandemic are longstanding racial inequities that set the stage for the disproportionate impacts we are witnessing among Black Americans, including loss of life, educational setbacks, and economic instability. As the pandemic evolves and calls for a return to “normalcy” amplify, it is important to document not only the lingering effects, but also the adaptations and strategies employed by Black Americans to protect oneself, family, and community from the virus and persistent social ills. This study is part of the Arizona CEAL COVID Consortium (AC3), a statewide effort to address the urgent needs of the rapidly changing course of the COVID-19 pandemic in communities of color. A subset of focus group data was used for this present study.

Methods: Employing a purposive sample design, Black adults from 2 urban cities and 1 rural setting in Arizona were recruited to participate in focus groups. Semi-structured interviews were conducted via zoom and sampled the following domains: losses/gains during the pandemic; adaptations made to protect self and others; the role of race in pandemic-related experiences; emotional toll and ongoing needs. All recordings were transcribed verbatim and analyzed, using an inductive thematic analysis approach.

Results: Data were collected from 32 (N = 5 focus groups) Black adults, aged 20 to 78 years (mean age=53 +15.8 years). Participants were predominantly female (68%). A preview of key themes that emerged among individuals and organizations: 1) Concern for self or familial pre-existing health conditions and the “care-freeness” of others required extreme vigilance in observing one’s own virus mitigation strategies, 2) racist interactions were experienced in the context of new social rules during the pandemic (e.g., physical distancing), requiring Black Americans to adapt and armor for new microaggressions; 3) Black leaders and organizations (e.g., Greek organizations, churches, educators) have always been “essential workers” to Black communities, serving as alternative affirmation spaces and the bridge to medical and social support services, and, 4) Social networks were working in overdrive during the pandemic, and exacted a steep mental and financial toll.

Conclusions and Implications: Our findings suggest that COVID-19 required Black adults in both urban and rural communities of the Southwest to experience racism and microagressions associated with COVID-19 practices of masking and social distancing. Cultural- and community-specific protective adaptations were developed and implemented by existing leaders and key family members (e. g. those associated with medical field) in the way of emotional, instrumental and informational support. Historically, Black individuals and communities have demonstrated immense resiliency, but not without disproportionate costs to health. Resourcing these entities with equitable financial supports and community specific services may be needed. Future research on the perceived impact of added demands placed on community leaders and associated organizations (stress of the pandemic, existing health disparities, racism and the associated cultural taxation) is warranted.