Featured Image: Georgetown Harbor/Marina.com
A Georgetown-based organization finds itself uniquely positioned to deal with a crucial aspect of the coronavirus pandemic: its unequal impact on marginalized communities. For weeks, experts have been reporting that COVID-19 is affecting people of color at a higher rate. According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control,
African Americans account for 41% of the positive COVID-19 cases in the state.
Stepping up to address that disparity is the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce. Founded by Georgetown businesswoman Marilyn Hemingway in 2018, the organization promotes entrepreneurship in the coastal African-American community, offering resources and information that help the community thrive and overcome challenges. Today that means dealing with a pandemic that is hitting the community hard, physically, and financially.
“We’re in the business of helping our Gullah communities grow economically and this is even more crucial during the coronavirus pandemic,” Hemingway recently told the Charleston Chronicle.
The Gullah Geechee community stretches along coastal areas and the sea islands of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida — from Pender County, North Carolina, to St. John’s County, Florida.
Through weekly, online forums available through the Chamber’s Facebook page, Hemingway interviews a variety of guests offering advice to small businesses trying to stay afloat, gain access to assistance, as well as health and wellness tips.
Hemingway has also taken a strong stand on environmental and energy issues and has been a frequent voice advocating for the sale of Santee Cooper. In a letter published by FITSNews, she wrote,
“We know that Santee Cooper’s reform plan places an unfair burden on a marginalized community that can least afford to fix the problem. Problems created by a Board of Directors and management that does not reflect the demographics of the state.” Hemingway recently submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for Santee Cooper’s record on diversity management programs and has launched a petition advocating for a sale of Santee Cooper.
Hemingway’s online talk shows, called “The Gathering Place, feature guests talking about a range of issues from telemedicine, health insurance to aid for struggling businesses, and are held every Sunday and Wednesday at 4.p.m.