“We losin’ our loved ones, young and old”

J. Ivy, the African American spoken-word artist, and other influencers of color are delivering deadly serious messages to those of us who face the highest risk from COVID-19.

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Chicago Chapter Nominee Reception

J. Ivy

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“Now I don’t know what you’ve been told, but we losin’ our loved ones, young and old.” 

J. Ivy’s wordsmithing comes to you via radio, TV and social media channels to remind African Americans and Latinos what we grieve all too well.

COVID-19 is killing our mothers, fathers, aunts, nephews, grandbabies, friends and neighbors.

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J. Ivy, a Chicago-born, African American spoken-word artist and NAACP award winner, is a hip “influencer.”

“It’s not a game, it’s not a joke,”the rapper expounds, sporting a baseball cap and hoodie.

He and other influencers of color are bringing deadly serious messages to those Illinois residents at the highest at risk of COVID-19.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration has tapped black and Latino voices from around the state for the audio and video spots. They were produced pro bono by Burrell Communications and are airing on TV, iHeartRadio and Univision, social media and more.

“The goal was to share a message of the seriousness of this and to really try to bring some of the credible messengers who have connections and relationships in black and brown communities throughout the state,” Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton told me Thursday.

“By now, almost all of us who are black and brown, I can certainly speak for myself, we all know someone who has contracted the virus and has died,” said Stratton, a Bronzeville resident and the first African American woman to serve as lieutenant governor of Illinois. She is spearheading the public awareness campaign.

Blacks and Latinos suffer heavily from the underlying chronic health conditions that enable COVID-19. We live in communities that for decades have lacked adequate medical care, healthy food options, affordable housing and economic opportunity.

We represent the army of “essential workers” in this pandemic war, as we head out every day to keep all of us from falling off the COVID-19 ledge.

Hospital and home care workers. Those who serve in cafeterias and laundry rooms. Who mop the floors, drive the buses and garbage trucks, who check out and deliver our groceries.

We go to work to serve. We go to work to survive. 

“You don’t know who’s carrying or what you carrying home.”

At home, we share the danger in multi-generational households.

Before her mother died, Stratton, her mother and her daughters shared the same roof. “It was a wonderful arrangement,” she said. “And I see it throughout our community.”

Now it can be deadly.

The public service messages remind us to take all the precautions. Social distance, wear masks, get tested.

The influencers can silence the misguided.

“ITS WHY BLACKS ARE DYING AT A GREATER NUMBER THAN WHITES, THEY WONT SOCIAL DISTANCE.” a reader wrote the other day.

“ITS NOT RACISM, ITS THE BIGGEST STORY OF THE YEAR.”

“There are people who would try to make the claim that the reason our black and brown communities are hit hardest is because — I have heard the statement — ‘you all are not doing what you’re supposed to be doing,’ ” Stratton said.

“And that’s simply not true.”

Ignore the racist victim-blaming. Stay away from the few who flout Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. Eschew the demands that Illinois reopen now.

Listen to the science. “Especially in this climate, Laura, where we see people who are clamoring, ‘Hurry up, hurry up, open the state, open the economy,’” Stratton said.

We will die.

“We all wanna kick it, but until this thang stop killin’ our folks, we need to pass on that toast.”

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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