Annual Donna M. Loring Lecture to address COVID-19 racial health disparities on

Throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic, Maine has experienced the worst COVID-19 racial disparity in the country, and Black and African American Mainers have been impacted at an egregiously disproportionate rate.

While public discourse focuses on people with “underlying health conditions” as being at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, this hides the realities of systemic racism and economic inequality at the core of such conditions.

The Maine Women Writers Collection at the University of New England will address these health disparities and inequities at its annual Donna M. Loring Lecture on Tuesday, Oct. 27, in the panel discussion, “Racial Health Disparities and COVID-19 in Maine: Shining a Light on Systemic Inequality.”

During the event, which will be live streamed, health advocates and leaders from Maine’s Black, immigrant, Indigenous and Latinx communities will discuss how the pandemic has highlighted the systemic inequities in food access, health care, housing, and income in Maine and the United States.

Panelists will also discuss ways that health professionals can better serve these communities by understanding the myriad challenges their patients face in an unequal society.

“This year’s event exemplifies UNE’s intellectual leadership in the region in two important ways: it provides an opportunity to advance the community’s knowledge about the systemic racism and structural inequities that shape this pandemic and health care more generally, and it honors and amplifies our guest speakers, from whose expertise and hands-on experience we have much to learn,” said Jennifer Tuttle, Ph.D., Dorothy M. Healy Professor of Literature and Health and director of the Maine Women Writers Collection.

The annual Donna M. Loring Lecture addresses current or historic Native American or aboriginal issues and indigenous rights, as well as women’s issues, civil rights, and issues of fairness and equality as they overlap with the concerns of tribal peoples.

The event is named in honor of Donna Loring, senior advisor on Tribal Affairs to Maine Gov. Janet Mills.

Throughout her career in public service, Loring has worked to raise public awareness and dismantle institutional discrimination against Wabanaki people. In 2009, she entrusted UNE and the Maine Women Writers Collection with her personal, professional, and literary papers and worked with the University to institute the lecture series, a valuable asset to UNE’s educational mission to grapple with and work to counteract the wounds of colonization.

Loring will speak at the event, which will be livestreamed from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27 at une.edu/live. A Q&A session will follow the panel; to post questions for the session, please register online.

Additional featured speakers include:

  • Crystal Cron, president of Presente! Maine
  • Fatuma Hussein, executive director, Immigrant Resource Center of Maine
  • Rachel Talbot Ross, Maine State Representative; chair, Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Maine Tribal Populations
  • Lisa Sockabasin, director of programs & external affairs, Wabanaki Public Health

This event is free and open to the public.

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