Gov. Gretchen Whitmer creates Black Leadership Advisory Council and declares racism a public health crisis

Michigan Governor Gretchen announced on Wednesday the creation of the Black Leadership Advisory Council and declared racism as a public health crisis while detailing plans to address it within state government.

Gov. Whitmer spoke on Wednesday about COVID-19 in Michigan, saying that Black people were more likely to die from the virus than white people.

"This pandemic has confirmed and highlighted the deadly nature of these pre-existing inequities caused by racism. COVID-19 is four times as likely to take the life of Black Michigander than a white one," Whitmer said.

The governor said her executive directive to create the Black Leadership Advisory Council will confront systemic racism in the state.

“Since I was sworn in as governor, I have made it a top priority to include more people of color, more women, and more members of the LGBTQ+ community at the table. We’ve been able to build a more inclusive state government, but there is more work to do. That’s why today, I am proud to create the Black Leadership Advisory Council of Michigan,” said Governor Whitmer. “We must confront systemic racism head-on so we can create a more equitable and just Michigan. This is not about one party or person. I hope we can continue to work towards building a more inclusive and unbiased state that works for everyone.” 

The Black Leadership Advisory Council will be within the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and will consist of 16 voting members representing Black leadership in economics, public policy, health and wellness, technology, the environment, agriculture, arts and culture, and more.

The Black Leadership Advisory council will be included among a set of diverse ethnic commissions within the state of Michigan. Although African Americans are the largest racial minority in the state, this Council is the first of its kind in Michigan to elevate Black leaders and representatives. 

The council will work in an advisory capacity to the governor and develop, review, and recommend policies and actions designed to eradicate and prevent discrimination and racial inequity in Michigan. The council will take on this challenge by doing the following:

  • Identifying state laws, or gaps in state law, that create or perpetuate inequities, with the goal of promoting economic growth and wealth equity for the Black community. 
  • Collaborating with the governor’s office and the Black community to promote legislation and regulation that ensures equitable treatment of all Michiganders, and seeks to remedy structural inequities in this state. 
  • Serving as a resource for community groups on issues, programs, sources of funding, and compliance requirements within state government in order to benefit and advance the interests of the Black community. 
  • Promoting the cultural arts within the Black community through coordinated efforts, advocacy, and collaboration with state government. 
  • Providing other information or advice or taking other actions as requested by the governor.  

The other directive, declaring racism a public health crisis, requires data documenting differences in health outcomes among racial and ethnic groups in Michigan to be collected, analyzed, and made publicly available to help leaders implement equitable policies. Additionally, departments must understand how racial disparities in societal, environmental, and behavioral factors intersect to affect access to resources like good jobs, access to healthy and affordable food and housing, equitable transportation options, and quality public education.  

The Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities will work in partnership with departments to develop a plan that details how Michigan will eliminate the root causes of the inequities that cause disparities in health outcomes for our residents. 

“These past several months have been difficult for all of us, but they have been especially tough for Black and Brown people who for generations have battled the harms caused by a system steeped in persistent inequalities. These are the same inequities that have motivated so many Americans of every background to confront the legacy of systemic racism that has been a stain on our state and nation from the beginning,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “That is why, today, we take the much-needed and long-overdue step of recognizing racism as a public health crisis. It is only after we have fully defined the injustice that we can begin to take steps to replace it with a greater system of justice that enables all Michiganders to pursue their fullest dreams and potential.” 

To apply to the Black Leadership Advisory Council visit and click “Black Leaders Advisory Council” from the drop menu of the application. Applications are due by Wednesday, August 19th.  

The speech comes one day after Whitmer issued a directive ordering state departments and agencies to take necessary steps to enforce all COVID-19 executive orders to slow or stop the spread of the virus.

Just this week, Michigan State Senator Tom Barrett tested positive for the virus, prompting the cancellation of Senate sessions this week and concerns about who could have been exposed. 

On Tuesday, 150 COVID-19 cases were linked to teens who were attending parties in South Lyon and Fenton in Southeast Michigan.

The clusters are around at least six parties held in July and include the 150 cases - and counting - among 15- to 19-year-olds, according to health officials in Oakland, Genesee and Livingston counties. They're linked to indoor and outdoor graduation parties and prom-type parties.

RELATED: 3 Michigan counties reporting steep increase in COVID-19 cases among 15-19 year olds