Recording the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Black Arkansans is the goal of a new project by the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock.
Tuesday the museum will begin collecting video, audio and written commentary to document the experience of Black people in the state. Christina Shutt, the museum’s director, says the staff began collecting newspaper articles and other artifacts when the pandemic began, but wanted to expand their efforts.
“Our goal is that in the long term this will become a larger archive as we’re all giving our individual experiences, it will become a larger snapshot of what life was like during this rather unique time in history,” Shutt said.
The “COVID in Black: The African American Experience in Arkansas,” project will also include stories of the protests and demonstrations about systemic racism during this period.
“I think I’ve heard the phrase used more than once about there’s COVID-19, and also COVID 1619, referring to the ongoing racism in the country and the systemic injustice. I think we’ve seen a lot more people tying those two things together,” Shutt said. “1619 was the date the first enslaved Africans arrived on the eastern shores.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is mounting evidence the pandemic is having a greater negative impact on racial and ethnic minorities. Data from the CDC indicates Black people are over twice as likely to die from contracting COVID-19 as non-Hispanic white people.
The “COVID in Black” project is being funded by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council. The Cultural Center plans to begin sharing the collected stories and artifacts next year.