We reached out to Wichita’s Vice Mayor Brandon Johnson after he called accusations from a Wichita Eagle investigation “disrespectful.” In their October 28th edition, The Eagle questioned how the City of Wichita got a $4M grant to help the Black community fight COVID-19.
Click here to see the Eagle’s story.
” Initially I wasn’t going to respond to this sensationalized political hit piece, but I feel I owe it to those I serve to respond.
Over the last 24 hours I have received so many messages, calls, and e-mails of support from community members who saw right through this story for what it is.
Honestly, I am still shocked that an award winning journalist would even entertain anything from a local shock jock who is on record demanding poor kids prove that they are poor before feeding them, but alas we are here.
Let me start by reminding everyone of this actual work. The Wichita Black Alliance formed in April of 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic. Black community leaders, elected officials, activists, and organizations began meeting virtually every week to stay up to date on the latest information regarding COVID-19.
More importantly, numbers nationally, statewide, and county wide proved that COVID-19 impacted people of color and people with comorbidities at higher rates. Let’s not forget that often time the environment in which one lives also plays a part. In Wichita, specifically black Wichita, we see food deserts, high infant mortality, asthma issues, etc. We were likely going to catch the brunt of whatever this might be.
Working together, the entire Alliance, not just the cherry picked individuals in the Eagle story, organized PPE collection and distribution, made demands of Sedgwick County on funding to support mental health, small business, PPE, and initially access to testing. We were successful.
When Sedgwick County later funded the black alliance efforts in regard to a unique grassroots cultural information campaign and mental health support, we began the amazing work of informing not just black Wichita, but all Wichitans. Continuing to supply masks to churches, organizations, and individuals and later changing behaviors through our campaign with local actors and popular individuals in black Wichita to encourage: Masking – Social Distancing – Keeping hands clean and/or sanitized – And later vaccine information.
This work not only saved lives, but helped keep local businesses open during one of the toughest times to do business in recent history.
You can still find signs around Wichita that encourage wearing a mask, fighting covid, etc.
At the heart of this work were two very qualified professionals. Both were on our communications team. One ran the actual effort, Ms. Hardwell. The other, Ms. Johnson, created the website and helped with communicating to our community.
Questioning their qualifications is disrespectful in lieu of a highly successful 2020 campaign that I am sure everyone watching today likely saw. We were even told that some black wichitans made the decision to get the vaccine due to our town hall end of year that encouraged being informed by local black and trusted doctors.
The entire Black Alliance effort is built upon trust within our community.
Danielle’s role was similar to mine. We helped to convene the Alliance and each member was a volunteer, serving to protect our community.
Going forward, this is the exact work, plus some, which the Health Literacy Grant seeks to do. The work of the Wichita Black Alliance, now backed by the City of Wichita & Sedgwick County, will expand to Native, Latino, and Asian Wichitans. The continued questioning of Danielle’s qualifications and work is utterly ridiculous as her work speaks for itself within our community. Danielle has been working toward change since she was a teenager.
These marginalized groups now have the opportunity to be informed, connected, and have access to the latest data to keep themselves safe. In fact, the hope is that these networks continue beyond the next two years to help make more progress within our community.
We can’t question these young ladies professional abilities because they’ve already proven their ability to do the work, and the author of the article even admitted they did this work before.
The Wichita City Council adopted a new Ethics Policy (Council Policy 39) in 2021. Nothing that I have done as a member of the Wichita City Council violates that policy and this was also explained to the author of this hit piece.
Any allegations that we misled the federal government for this opportunity are unfounded. Health and Human Services (HHS) award the City of Wichita the grant based upon that actual work of the Wichita Black Alliance, not any specific numbers referenced in the article. What was presented to HHS was the entirety of the work and numbers from beginning to end, and the dates were cited in the application.
This entire slanderous attempt to defame the character of four professionals and myself fails to highlight the full picture of what occurred, the real work going forward, nor the fact that no policy has been violated and that these professionals are qualified and have already executed this work in 2020 and are overly qualified based upon that experience to do it again.
The timing of this hit piece, six days prior to the election online and five days prior via print media, have all of the signs of ugly side of politics. Council Member Jeff Blubaugh and local shock jock John Whitmer have seemingly conspired to influence the District 1 election for partisan and racial reasons. Council Member Blubaugh was the loudest voice against this kind of behavior and the only member of the Council to vote against the non-discrimination ordinance. I wonder why?
It is disgusting that these tactics continue into 2021, but no surprise to those of us doing the work. Unfortunately, three black women are catching the shrapnel of slanderous attempt at my character and have to work harder yet again due to the passive acts of white privilege.”