Metro Detroit activists create COVID-19 Facebook support page

    Bridget Quinn, Justin Onwenu and Lauren Schandevel | Justin Onwenu photo

    Amid the COVID-19 crisis, a group of Michigan community activists and organizers have formed a Facebook page to help people find vital resources and share stories.  

    Metro Detroit COVID Support Facebook Group was formed in March and is led by Bridget Quinn, Justin Onwenu and Lauren Schandevel. Schandevel created the group page and asked Onwenu, Quinn and others to help her to grow and moderate it.

    “I started this group as a way to consolidate the resources that were emerging from the COVID-19 crisis and we wanted a place for people to exchange resources and volunteer to help each other. It has been about getting people connected with the wider community outside of their day-to-day social networks,” said Schandevel, Macomb County organizer for We the People Michigan.

    Justin Onwenu

    Onwenu, a Sierra Club organizer and environmental justice activist, said they “wanted to connect people to resources and to identify needs in our communities. Lauren, Bridget and I are all friends and wanted to make sure the group reflected the diversity of the region in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland [counties].”

    As of Saturday afternoon, Michigan has reported 14,225 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 540 deaths related to the virus. Southeast Michigan has been disproportionately impacted. 

    Detroit alone has posted 3,550 cases and 117 deaths and the rest of Wayne County has 2,546 cases and 106 deaths. Macomb County has 1,560 cases and 65 deaths and Oakland has 2,540 cases and 136 deaths. 

    The focus of the group, organizers said, is to promote solidarity nationally, but especially in Michigan.

    “We’re often divided by race, class, geography and other factors,” Onwenu said. “This moment has shown us the importance of coming together.”

    Doctors, enviros want water shutoff moratorium extended after COVID-19 pandemic

    The group page has attracted more than 7,300 members in less than one month. Posts and threads center on social distancing and public policy challenges and societal inequities like water shutoffs, education technology gaps, how seniors are treated, and poverty.  

    “Folks are capable and excited to come together for each other across communities,” Onwenu said.

    The page also helps to link people with vital resources such as food distribution, shelter opportunities, funding sources, testing sites, and clarification on government-related directives.

    “Facebook has definitely been a great tool for us,” said Quinn, an artist and organizer with the Area Wilds Exploration. “It’s been really neat to see people connect with complete strangers. We all have our own social networks, but this page has been great about bringing people together.” 

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.