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The Journal – Summer 2020 – The Price of Inequality
Brandon McCray, a beloved preacher and gospel musician, died from COVID-19 in a hospital this spring as his family looked on via Zoom. He is one of more than 60 Black Kansans to lose their lives to COVID-19 in the pandemic, which has disproportionately claimed Black lives in Kansas. His story illuminates how health inequities run so much deeper than a virus.
On March 20, Brandon McCray took his saxophone to the Miracle Temple Church of God in Christ in Kansas City, Kansas. The beloved preacher and gospel musician had been invited to play at the church’s Spring Workers’ Meeting.
By April 19, the 52-year-old McCray lay dying in the intensive care unit at the University of Kansas Health System. Friends and relatives surrounded him virtually on Zoom, offering words of love and comfort and bearing witness as he took his last breath. It is possible, according to his half-brother, that McCray was one of the nine people whose deaths are attributed to a COVID-19 outbreak at the weeklong Spring Workers’ Meeting. But it’s hard to know for sure.
What is known is that McCray is just one example of a disturbing trend in Wyandotte County. Black people die there at a far greater rate from COVID-19 than any other racial or ethnic group. Statewide, more than 60 Black Kansans have died from COVID-19 and Black people die at a rate nearly four times that of white people. In this Journal cover, reporter Mark Wiebe tells McCray’s story, explores the underlying social conditions contributing to a high death rate among Black Kansans and outlines how Wyandotte County officials are attempting to respond to the problem.
Also featured in the edition:
- The Journal investigates medical debt collection in Johnson County with the help of tips shared by the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica.
- A photo essay featuring images from Black Lives Matters protests in Kansas.
- How a regional push to address climate change in the Kansas City region continues to unfold despite the pandemic.
- Humboldt, a town revitalized by a can-do attitude, looks to bounce back again.