BET to host benefit for local United Way agencies serving African Americans

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Shardaya Fuquay is sure most people would be surprised by how many children living in Detroit lack even a pencil in their homes.

That's why Fuquay is including school supplies with the art therapy kits she's distributing to families living in some of the impoverished Detroit neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19. Her work is part of her business, Journey to Healing, that supports families coping with grief and trauma. She has been able to continue operating during the pandemic as a result of an $8,000 grant from United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

It's the work of Fuquay and other social service agencies providing vital services to Detroit's African American community that will benefit from a special fundraising show at 8 p.m. Wednesday by Black Entertainment Television.

BET has selected the United Way for Southeastern Michigan as one of six United Ways across the country to benefit from the relief fund for African American communities disproportionately impacted by the virus pandemic.

"Because of the United Way funding, we are serving 250 children in the inner city experiencing grief and trauma and loss — which we know is very prevalent in Michigan right now," said Fuquay.

Statistics from the COVID-19 outbreak has shown that African Americans have been disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus. While not all states have revealed the race and ethnic backgrounds of those who have died from the virus, 40 percent of the deaths in Michigan have been African Americans even though they represent 13.6% of the state's population, according to state officials.  

Detroit is the epicenter of the state's COVID-19 outbreak, with 7,904 total cases and 728 deaths as of Tuesday, state data shows. 

The BET fundraising will take place during the internationally-aired show, Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort. It is expected to reach over 90 million viewers and include luminaries such as Grammy Award-Winning singer and actress Kelly Rowland, TV personality Terrence J, actress Regina Hall and actor Anthony Anderson.

The show also will feature celebrity guest appearances and performances from DJ Khaled, Charlie Wilson, Chance the Rapper, Kirk Franklin, Fantasia and Melvin Crispell III.

Funds from the BET COVID-19 Relief Fund will support several social services agencies served by United Way for Southeastern Michigan including Focus: HOPE, the Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS), ACCESS, Forgotten Harvest, Franklin-Wright Settlements and Neighborhood Service Organization.

“We are so grateful to BET for holding this relief telethon that will benefit organizations serving people of color in Detroit and in five other communities across the country," said Dr. Darienne Hudson, president and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan. "As the pandemic continues to impact everyone, it’s even more important to make sure vulnerable populations are supported. Everyone can make a difference. It’s important to mobilize our collective power during this crisis.”

Besides Detroit, community-based programs of United Ways in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York City will benefit.